Despite its name, Ragù alla genovese is eaten exclusively in Naples. This oniony meat sauce is hardly known outside of the area, in fact – unless a Neapolitan cook happens to move to another Italian region, bringing with him this rich pasta sauce.
The basic ingredients of the pasta sauce Ragù alla genovese are onion pureè, beef or pork, white wine, and parsley. The exact origins of the name are unknown, but it was probably first prepared in the late 1400s or early 1500s. As one story goes, Genovese merchants had relocated to Naples, as the two ports were (and still are) two principle Mediterranean ports in frequent contact. When the merchants left for home, the Genovese cooks remained behind. Whether these cooks were enchanted by Naples, or their employees lost all their money or they were thrown out on the street is unclear, but the result was the opening of a tavern in the area of Loggia di Genova and the invention of Ragù alla genovese in Napoli.
Ippolito Cavalcanti, the author of one of the most famous Italian cookbooks of the 19th century, titled Cucina casarinola co la lengua napolitana (“Home Cooking in the Neapolitan Language”), wrote perhaps the first written recipe for Ragù alla genovese in 1837. It is unlike any modern recipe and did not feature onions at all. Onions did not take the spotlight in this dish until the late 1800s, and meat, always an expensive addition, was used only for flavor. Today, recipes call for enough meat to make this sauce a second course. It is served with long, tubular macaroni or penne and accompanied with vegetables.
13/15 via Loggia di Genova
Mattozzi Europeo Ristorante
Via Marchese Campodisola 4
Open every day for lunch and dinner except for Sunday (open upon request)
Osteria della Mattonella
80132 Napoli (NA)
The Roccamonfina volcano sits 50 kilometers north of Naples, where its volcanic soils produce thick groves of chestnuts and various grape varieties. Among the wineries that produce Roccamonfina IGT are Villa Matilde; Poderi Foglia; Biondino; Masseria Felicia; Porto di Mola; Terra di Lavoro; and Vestini Campagnano. Roccomonfina wines can be rosso, bianco, rose and passito, with blends of Aglianico, Piedirosso, Greco di Tufo, Fiano, Falanghina and Primitivo. Two additional grape varieties used in Roccamonfina blends stand out as being almost completely unknown beyond the region: Abbuoto and Pallagrello.
Villa Matilde makes the full, fruity, red Cecubo Roccamonfina IGT. It is a blend of Primitivo, Piedirosso and Abbuoto, and its name derives from the ancient Roman wine called Caecubum or Caecuban, highly popular and prized in its day. This wine is Barrique-aged in Allier oak for 12 months, bottle-aged another 8, and has a shelf life of 10 years. Notes of plum are complemented with vanilla, chocolate, tobacco and liquorice.
The second relatively unknown grape of Greek origin, Pallagrello, has been confused for generations as Coda di Volpe. This grape is possibly the most obscure one that is covered in this series. It is one of the few grapes to have a sibling, that is, both a white and red variety of the same grape exists. Both Pallagrello Nero and Bianco make a fantastic wine that was once highly appreciated by the Bourbon King of Naples and Sicily. This wine can be found under the name “Concarosso” or “Concabianco,” because it was once an important grape in the wine “rosso di Conca,” produced in a part of Caserta known as Conca della Campagna. The Pallagrello Bianco of Roccamonfina produces a white wine with flavours of mature fruits and almond; and the Pallagrello Rosso of Roccamonfina is full of berry and prune flavours, with balanced acidity and a rich mouthfeel.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover the wines of the Roccamonfina IGT area.
Abbuoto Grape. Italian Wine Blog – Wine90. 18 May 2011.
Archaeological Varietals from the South. Wine Shop. 21 June 2005.
Davidson, Alan. Food Encyclopedia: Cavalcanti. Kitchen Daily. 2006.
Grout, James. Roman Vintages. Encyclopaedia Romana. 2011.
Naples at Table. About.com: Italian Food.
Pallagrello Nero. Montecastelli Selections, Ltd.
Piatti Tipici della Campania. La Bellezza d’Italia sul Web.
Region: Roccomonfina IGT. Vinopedia.
Villa Matilde. DiWineTaste. June 2003.