Genovese Sauce is a red sauce based on simmered onions and beef, served with pasta.
But, the red in it is not supposed to come from tomato: purists say that absolutely no tomato is allowed, in any form. Instead, the reddish colour comes from the long, slow cooking of the onion with the beef. The sauce needs long simmering. You really have to start it in the morning.
The red colour is not the only mystery: despite the name, the sauce is unknown in Genoa. It is really only known in Naples.
The ingredients are onions, some form of meat (beef eye of round, or pork), celery, carrot, and white wine. Many people cheat and boost the flavour with bouillon cubes.
It is often made with enough meat that the meat can be taken out, sliced up and served as a separate course. That being said, on fast days for the Catholic church, it was made with no meat at all, and called “finta Genovese” (“fake Genovese.”)
Typical pastas for Genovese Sauce to be served with include ziti or mezzani.
Some say Genovese Sauce was invented in Napoli by two brothers from Genoa who had an osteria in Naples. Some say it was sold on the streets by people from Genoa. Still others say it was invented by a native Naples cook, whose last name was Genovese.
In 1837, the sauce was more a thickened meat stock sauce — as listed in “Cucina casarinola co la lengua napolitana” (“Home Cooking in the Neapolitan Language”) by Ippolito Cavalcanti. It contained contained only a small amount of onion for flavouring the meat, and was more of a demi-glace.
During the later 1800s, the proportions got reversed: the meat became the flavouring for the onions.