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Why Neapolitan Pasta May Be the Best Pasta in the World

We ate pizza almost every day in Naples Italy – except on the days when we ate another local favorite, Neapolitan Pasta. Read on to see why the pasta in Napoli is so special and then watch our video for the rest of the story.

Neapolitan Pasta at Tandem Ragu in Naples Italy

Everybody knows that Naples has the best pizza in the world and is the epicenter for espresso-style coffee, but it’s a lesser-known fact that Neapolitan cuisine is more than just pizza pies. Naples is a city where food surprises await in every nook and cranny of its gloriously grungy, graffiti-decorated cobblestone alleys.

The food fun starts with fried street treats and ends with flaky sfogliatella pastries. We love all of the food in this southern Italian city, but Neapolitan pasta holds a special place in our hearts – not to mention our stomachs.

Discover our Naples food favorites.

Unlike Margherita pizza, pasta was definitely not invented in Naples. However, many believe that dry semolina pasta was perfected in Campania’s capital city before becoming a food staple of Italy.

Even today, noodles are an important staple in the Neapolitan diet, with pasta served at most meals – always cooked al dente (firm – literally translated ‘to the tooth’) and then topped with a number of different sauces including savory, hearty, meaty Neapolitan ragù. And what a ragù it is!

Blessed with juicy tomatoes grown on nearby volcanic soil, chefs and nonnas (Italian grandmothers) alike make flavorful tomato sauce and gravy in Naples.

Tomatoes in Naples Italy
As found at a local market, these tomatoes are fresh from the vine and ready for sale in Naples.

Tomatoes entered Neapolitan cuisine during the 18th century. The industry of preserving tomatoes originated in 19th-century Naples, resulting in the export of the city’s famous “pelati” (peeled tomatoes) and the “concentrato” (tomato paste) to all parts of the world.

Cooks traditionally use various methods to prepare home-made tomato preserves which are either bottled into tomato purée or canned whole. The famous “conserva” (sun dried concentrated juice) tomato is cooked for a long time and becomes dark red with a velvety texture.

Learn how to make Pasta alla Genovese and Pasta alla Puttanesca, two classic Napoli pasta dishes.

Neapolitan Pasta Time Video

Curious about Neapolitan pasta? Click here to watch us eat a pasta meal in Naples Italy.

Cooking Pasta at Home in Naples

Homemade Neapolitan Pasta
We made this Neapolitan Pasta in our apartment using ingredients that we purchased at a local Naples market.

Since we lived like locals in Naples for a full month, we had the luxury of a kitchen in our apartment which gave us the ability to cook pasta at home. Sometimes cooking can be a hardship, but not cooking pasta in Naples. Seriously, it’s fun to cook pasta when the ingredients are so plentiful and delicious.

To make Neopolitan Pasta, it all starts with buying the noodles at the local market. These markets don’t display the noodles on shelves; instead, many shops in Naples have entire rooms dedicated to pasta of all shapes and sizes.

With such great selection, you might think that noodles in Naples are expensive. Think again – a typical box of dry pasta costs well under a Euro.

Tomato Cart in Naples Italy
Tomatoes abound in Naples!

And then there’s the ragù. If we can agree that a solid ragù starts with good tomatoes, then it’s fair to say that Neapolitan ragù is the ultimate ragù based on the city’s proximity to Mount Vesuvius.

However, without sounding counterintuitive and a bit scandalous, we preferred to skip the luscious red tomatoes for sale at local markets and instead bought jarred Passata at our neighborhood Naples grocery store.

These glass-jarred, pureed tomatoes have all the flavor from the mighty Vesuvius slopes, but they’re also super easy to use in a kitchen since the juicy tomatoes are already puréed and ready for the sauce pot.

Homemade Neapolitan Pasta
Yep, we made this pasta at home too.

In Naples, a bowl of noodles and ragù could be enough, but why stop there.

Sprinkle on some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or add a bit of ricotta fresca or ricotta salata. Better yet, mix in locally produced sausage or fresh seafood.

And don’t forget to add basil. When grown in Naples, this leafy green herb provides a romantic, colorful touch to any bowl of Neapolitan Pasta.

Eating Pasta in Naples Restaurants

As easy as it is to cook in Naples, sometimes it’s enjoyable to dine in restaurants for a different atmosphere and experience. Plus, dining out provides an opportunity to try different types of food including the many variations of Neapolitan Pasta that you can only find in Naples.

Pasta al Cartoccio in Naples Italy
This Pasta called Pasta al Cartoccio literally means pasta cooked in parchment and can be found at Ristorante Bellini in Naples.

During our first trip to Naples, we ate fusilli on Via dei Tribunali. We took it further on our second visit by eating pasta at several spots like Osteria Mattozzi near our apartment, Ristorante Bellini famous for their seafood pasta, cooked al cartoccio with seafood in parchment, and ultra-casual Spiedo d’Oro.

However, we ate our favorite Neapolitan pasta at Tandem Ragu.

Alfresco Dining in Naples Italy
We found that there’s little better than eating great Neapolitan specialties while soaking in the colorful Napoli streetscape.

Tandem Ragu is the perfect spot to eat traditional Neapolitan pasta topped with slow cooked ragù. Here, chefs embrace the city’s abundance of local ingredients, and the flavors shine through in every dish.

Portions are generous and you will want to lick the plate before it’s cleared. At least that’s what we wanted to do after our Friday al fresco afternoon meal.

During this meal, we dipped bread in a Scarpette, a delectable version of ragù, forked up ragù topped ziti and scarfed down braciole. And, of course, we washed it all down with a carafe of the reddest Aglianico red wine from Campania (Naples’ home region.)

Pasta Lunch at Tandem Ragu in Naples Italy
We ate this typical Neapolitan Pasta lunch at Tandem Ragu in Naples Italy.

Eating Neapolitan Pasta at an outdoor patio, with a view of the day to day happenings in the Central Historico, is especially appealing. Scooters wiz past alfresco tables. Napoli residents stroll by or just pass the time in front the huge, green, ancient doors that look upon the diners just across the way along Via Paladino Giovanni.

The ancient stone structures of Naples surround you. At the right time of day, the sun bursts through the clouds onto the age-old cobblestones and buildings that have endured the many years of war and volcanic eruptions.

Pro Tip
Be sure to plan ahead for your meal at Tandem Ragu. The restaurant is both intimate and popular, making advance reservations a must.

Osteria Mattozzi is located at Piazzetta Arcangelo Scacchi, 9/19, 80138 Napoli, Italy.
Ristorante Bellini is located at Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, 80, 80138 Napoli, Italy.
Spiedo d’Oro is located at Via Pasquale Scura, 52, 80134 Napoli, Italy.

Tandem Ragu is located at Via Paladino Giovanni, 51, 80134 Napoli, Italy.

Planning Checklist

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Hungry for Pizza in Naples?

Check out our Naples Pizza Guide with all the best pizzerias in one of the great Italian food cities. It’s a highlight of eating in Italy.

About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.


We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Original Publication Date: May 17, 2017

Mark James

Saturday 20th of May 2017

The pasta with too much sauce and meatballs in it looks like nothing I have ever seen while living in Italy.

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Saturday 20th of May 2017

Also - The pasta was something we cooked at home while living in Naples. We're Americans. What can we say?

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Saturday 20th of May 2017

Where did you live? Italy is a big country.


Friday 19th of May 2017

Looks so Yummy !!!! I'll give a try.

Larisse Espinueva

Thursday 18th of May 2017

That pasta looks so amazing! I've been cooking that for a while now but I'm still yearning to be able to try the real thing. :) Thanks for sharing!