I have no idea why this amazingly flavorful Genovese-style meat sauce isn't way more popular than it is. It's quite simply one of the best pasta sauces you'll ever taste, thanks to a very slow cooking process, and massive amounts of onions.

Recipe Summary

prep:
30 mins
cook:
9 hrs 30 mins
total:
10 hrs
Servings:
8
Yield:
8 servings
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Ingredients

8
Original recipe yields 8 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook pancetta until most of fat is rendered out, about 6 minutes. Remove cooked pancetta with a slotted spoon and save.

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  • Raise heat to high and transfer meat to the pot. Season with salt. Cook and stir until liquid releases from beef and begins to evaporate, and meat browns, 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Reduce heat to medium-high. Add celery, carrots, reserved cooked pancetta, salt and pepper. Cook and stir about 5 minutes. Add a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste, bay leaf, and white wine. Cook and stir, scraping up the brownings from the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sliced onions. Reduce heat to medium. Cover pot and cook 30 minutes without stirring. After 30 minutes, stir onions and meat until well mixed. Cover again, and cook another 30 minutes. Stir.

  • Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered 8 to 10 hours, stirring occasionally. Skim off fat as mixture cooks. If sauce seems to reduce too much, add water or broth as needed to maintain a sauce-like consistency. Cook until beef and onions seem to melt into each other.

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook rigatoni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until just barely al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

  • Add rigatoni to the sauce and cook until heated through. Serve topped with a pinch of marjoram and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Chef's Note:

This recipe makes enough sauce for 2 pounds of dry rigatoni. But you can use just the amount you need and refrigerate or freeze the rest.

To serve, heat as much sauce as you need in a skillet. Cook rigatoni until barely al dente. Drain. Add to sauce and simmer until pasta is cooked through and hot. Season with fresh marjoram, a pinch of cayenne, and a dusting of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Nutrition Facts

891 calories; protein 38.9g 78% DV; carbohydrates 116.8g 38% DV; fat 29.5g 45% DV; cholesterol 79.9mg 27% DV; sodium 1022.2mg 41% DV. Full Nutrition

Reviews (67)

Read More Reviews

Most helpful positive review

Rating: 5 stars
07/07/2016
Chef John, Wow! I made this to your exact specifications, and I must say this was without a doubt one of the most delicious meals I have had the pleasure to enjoy in a while. I've actually made this twice now. Definitely one of my favorites and my family loves it too. Thank you! For yet another one of your fantastic recipes. Read More
(25)

Most helpful critical review

Rating: 3 stars
11/22/2016
Not feeling the love that other reviewers had for this dish! The onions made my house stink. Read More
(2)
83 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 59
  • 4 star values: 17
  • 3 star values: 6
  • 2 star values: 1
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 5 stars
07/07/2016
Chef John, Wow! I made this to your exact specifications, and I must say this was without a doubt one of the most delicious meals I have had the pleasure to enjoy in a while. I've actually made this twice now. Definitely one of my favorites and my family loves it too. Thank you! For yet another one of your fantastic recipes. Read More
(25)
Rating: 5 stars
11/04/2016
Cooked the basic recipe the day before, then stored in our slow cooker overnight in the beer fridge. The next AM, turned slow cooker on low before leaving for work. Turned out great, thank you! Read More
(21)
Rating: 5 stars
01/16/2018
Outstanding! This is so delicious. I was a little concerned when I saw all the onions but they do cook down and provide the most amazing flavor. I didn't have fresh marjoram so added a little dry and left out cayenne (I just forgot it). Will totally make this again. Recommendation: don't serve the sauce over the pasta, it doesn't coat it well. Stir the pasta in as instructed. Read More
(20)
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Rating: 5 stars
08/31/2017
First of all, I really like slow cooking. This is probably one of the best pasta recipes that I have ever made. I'm also laughing, because my 13 year old grandson, who says he hates onions, had no clue that onions were in the recipe. He had 3 helpings. (Oh, to be 13 again. I wish I could have 3 helpings; even 1/2 of a helping worries me.) I did add chianti versus white wine , as I felt it makes it a tad hardier. I also prefer the mini rigatonis, but that is just me. Minis are the perfect bite. Read More
(16)
Rating: 5 stars
01/04/2019
Made this today and didn't get to eat dinner until after 8:00PM because I didn't get started as early as I wanted. However that's my fault, since I knew what I was getting into before I started. I'd say all the simmering is worth it though as it results in a very deep and unique flavor. I'd liken it to kind of a sweet and savory stew over pasta. Quite rich actually. It's pretty easy to make, with 90% of the actual work being in the preparation. After browning the meat and adding the aromatics, you basically leave it alone, save for a few stirs here and there. I wouldn't give it the rave reviews as some others have, but it's good. I'll probably make it again, but more as a change-up than as a staple. **EDIT** Just wanted to come back and say that the leftovers are absolutely delicious and far better flavor than the the initial meal. Really pleased with this sauce even a week after making. **EDIT2** It has been a few months since I made this, and now I am absolutely craving it!! I don't think I realized how much I liked it. Now bumping this from 4 to 5 stars. I cook for one and I had so many leftovers. It froze really well. I put it in the freezer in single portion containers and then just made some fresh pasta whenever I wanted to have a meal. Either the flavor just grew on me, or the longer it sits after preparation, the more the flavor improves. Such a unique taste that I can't wait to have again. Read More
(13)
Rating: 5 stars
03/09/2018
Followed almost exactly (didn't use red onion just 3lbs white and 3 lbs yellow). Turned out really well. Quite a bit of work that 1st hour but then transferred it to slow cooker for the 8-10 hour slow cook. House smelled great! Maybe because I finished it in the slow cooker I never had to add any liquid. Will definitely make this again. Might bump up the pancetta to more like 10oz because my family loves it. Read More
(9)
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Rating: 5 stars
07/25/2016
Kind a lot of work but definitely worth it. Also makes for a lot of portions so the time spent pays off itself. I wasn't really sure what to expect in the beginning but the result is really good. Very savory meat sauce with a nice onion flavor which is not at all overwhelming. Read More
(7)
Rating: 5 stars
04/02/2017
Tremendous!!! Made it exactly the way Chef John said and it was terrific! I did have to add water/broth a few times to make the sauce to my liking but it was awesome! Waiting for a special occasion to make it again to "impress the guests"! Thanks Chef John! Read More
(7)
Rating: 5 stars
02/07/2018
The flavor of the dish was really great in the end. I did run in to time issues so I transferred to my slow cooker using the pressure option to break down the meat chunks a little faster. I didn't make any changes to the recipe but I would recommend adding a good amount of broth/water (maybe a cup or two) after cooking down the onions as there really isn't that much liquid in the recipe. The meat stuck to the pan a few times because there wasn't enough liquid. I don't know exact quantity but added broth/water every 15-20 minutes in the cooking process. There is no direction how to cut the meat but best to cut in to small cubes so it will break down more easily. Read More
(5)
Rating: 3 stars
11/22/2016
Not feeling the love that other reviewers had for this dish! The onions made my house stink. Read More
(2)