Italians never eat spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is, right after pizza, the most popular Italian dish in Germany and many other nations.

But did you know that spaghetti bolognese is never served in Italy?

In 2015, British BBC reporter Michael Portillo made his way to Bologna, the capital of Italy’s food-loving region of Emilia Romagna, where the world’s most famous pasta sauce was once invented. Portillo wanted to find the best spaghetti bolognese in town, that was his seemingly simple mission. But the Brit failed miserably. Because whoever he spoke to in Bologna – the answer was always the same: “Gli spaghetti bolognese non esistono” (Eng: “Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist”).

Spaghetti bolognese? Doesn’t exist in Italy

No, the Italians didn’t want to play a bad joke with the BBC reporter at that moment. In fact, you won’t find a dish called spaghetti bolognese on the menu in any restaurant in Bologna, nor in the rest of the country – at most in touristy places. Although there is indeed a ragù alla bolognese, as the ragout made from minced meat, tomatoes and many other ingredients is correctly called, it is traditionally never served with the long durum wheat pasta. “You eat the ragout with all sorts of pasta, but not with spaghetti,” confirms Giorgia Zabbini from the Bologna city administration when asked by TRAVELBOOK.

Which pasta do you eat with Bolognese?

The creamy sauce is mainly served with tagliatelle, the flat tagliatelle with egg from Emilia Romagna. It is also used to prepare lasagne al forno, but never with pure durum wheat pasta. “The ragout has to connect to the pasta, it has to stick to it, and spaghetti is totally unsuitable for that,” explains Giorgia Zabbini.

The Italian Benedetta Albiani also confirms this when asked by TRAVELBOOK: “I asked my grandmothers especially, because Italian grandmothers are the best informed when it comes to food. For us, food is serious business. What is known in Germany as ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ does not exist here. We use fettuccine or tagliatelle with ragú and not spaghetti because they are thicker. They are better for absorbing the sauce and binding the meat with the sauce. With spaghetti, on the other hand, the sauce would just slide off.”

How did the spaghetti get mixed with the ragout?

In Germany, however, many people’s favorite dish is spaghetti Bolognese, and in Great Britain, Australia and the USA, too, the variant with the long, thin pasta made from pure durum wheat is eaten almost exclusively. But how did this idiosyncratic twist on the original recipe come about? Allegedly, it was US and English soldiers who passed through Emilia Romagna during World War II and fell in love with the tagliatelle al ragù that was served to them there. As the Italian cooking site Italia a Tavola reports, the soldiers asked for the pasta with minced meat sauce in the local Italian restaurants after their return home, and they were served spaghetti instead of tagliatelle. In this way, the actually non-existent dish is said to have spread in the USA and north of Italy, and later also in Australia.

The original recipe for Bolognese

Garlic, basil, ketchup: Italian moms and chefs would probably throw up their hands over their heads if they knew what is mixed into the supposed Bolognese sauce in this country – and that you can buy it in jars or even packs with powder mixtures in the supermarket . Of course, only fresh ingredients are used in the original recipe, and the ragout has to be cooked for a particularly long time so that it becomes nice and creamy and the flavors fully develop.

Ragù alla bolognese was probably invented during the Renaissance, but it was not until 1982 that the Accademia Italiana della Cucina – an association that wants to preserve knowledge of Italian cuisine and table culture and pass it on to future generations – handed over the recipe to the Chamber of Commerce of Register Bologna. However, the chicken liver originally used is now left out by many, and the Accademia Italiana della Cucina website also has an “updated recipe” without liver.

Recipe for Ragù alla bolognese like in Italy

Ingredients for 6 people
300 grams of chopped beef
150 g pancetta (pork bacon)
50 grams of carrot
50 g celery sticks
50 grams of onion
300g of crushed or peeled tomatoes
1/2 glass of dry red wine
1/2 glass whole milk
some vegetable broth
olive oil or butter
possibly a dash of cream (depending on the pasta used)

Preparation of ragù alla bolognese

Dice the bacon, chop finely and sweat in a large pan.
Add 3 tablespoons of oil or 50 grams of butter and slowly soften the finely chopped vegetables (onion, celery and carrot).
Add the ground beef, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until nicely browned and sizzling.
Deglaze with red wine and keep stirring until it has completely evaporated. Then add the crushed or peeled tomatoes and simmer covered for about two hours at low temperature. If necessary, add a little broth in between.
Stir in the milk just before the end to take the acidity out of the tomatoes. Only at the very end season with salt and pepper.
The Accademia Italiana della Cucina recommends: “At the end, when the ragout is ready, you usually add a little cream if you’re using dried pasta. With fresh tagliatelle, you leave out the cream.”

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