If asked to name a famous Italian dish, the two that readily spring to mind are pizza and spaghetti Bolognese. But the Italians say that in Italy spaghetti Bolognese really doesn’t exist.
Spaghetti Bolognese is loved the world over with the Australians having voted it their most favorite meal of all. The Swedish call it och kottfarssas and the Danes og kodsovs but they both devour vast quantities. The British even have pet names of spag bol or even spag bog for it and the Japanese like nothing more than a spaghetti Bolognese sandwich.
But these dishes that appear around the world should really be prepared rather differently and be called the Tagliatelle al Ragů alla Bolognese. In Bologna, Italy fresh egg pasta is consumed and it is in the south of the country that dried spaghetti is popular. It is the wider, long ribbons of tagliatelle that is the pasta of choice with a ragu sauce in Bologna, the porous and rough texture of the pasta giving the sauce somewhere to adhere to. But it is not just the pasta that is wrong with this dish, the slimy tomato and meat sauce is also at fault. Stores from LA to Istanbul stock jars of thick tomato based sauces for adding to fatty ground beef when a true sauce from Bologna hardly contains any tomato at all.
Most people assume that just using ingredients that are associated with Italy such as olive oil and canned tomatoes will make an authentic dish. But it is the additional ingredients that are added in many countries that purists are most unhappy about. The Australians add a touch of vegemite for instance and nothing is thought about adding a few chopped mushrooms, a handful of peas or a good glug of Worcestershire sauce.
Last week 440 Italian chefs in 50 different countries cooked the Tagliatelle al Ragů alla Bolognese to methods laid down in a recipe patented by the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in 1982. With the tagliatelle having to conform to a 1972 recipe that orders it to be exactly 8mm or a third of an inch wide. The Italian Academy of Cuisine’s recipe copyrighted through the Bologna Chamber of Commerce appears below.
300 gr. beef cartella (thin skirt)
150 gr. pancetta, dried
50 gr. carrot
50 gr. celery stalk
50 gr. onion
5 spoons tomato sauce or 20 gr. triple tomato extract
1 cup whole milk
Half cup white or red wine, dry and not frizzante
Salt and pepper, to taste.
The pancetta, cut into little cubes and chopped with a mezzaluna chopping knife, is melted in a saucepan; the vegetables, once again well chopped with the mezzaluna, are then added and everything is left to stew softly. Next the ground beef is added and is left on the stovetop, while being stirred constantly, until it sputters. The wine and the tomato cut with a little broth are added and everything left to simmer for around two hours, adding little by little the milk and adjusting the salt and black pepper. Optional but advisable is the addition of the panna di cottura of a litre of whole milk at the end of the cooking.
Photos courtesy of wikimedia commons and flickr - dresden06, caprilemon and ed yourdon