• Pride and prejudice; the Bolognese dilemma

    "Welcome to the land of the Bolognese sauce" one man excitedly exclaimed as I entered a local Italian restaurant. For all the years of living in England, and dissecting the myth that Spaghetti Bolognese wasn't in fact Italian, it seems my work is far from over.

    It had me thinking though, should Italy now start taking credit for this dish?

    Ragu alla Bolognese and a Neapolitan twist

    The Bolognese sauce that you know has got nothing to do with the Bolognese sauce that
    probably inspired the dish. 

    Firstly, the sauce is better known as Ragu alla Bolognese. Ragu comes from the French language (ragout) which is a sauce based on meat thickened with either tomatoes/onions/milk. As tomatoes were sparse in the region at the time, it seems that milk and onions were used more in the preparation, giving more of a bechamel sauce than anything else.

    Secondly, the pasta associated with the region of Emilia Romagna, and in particular Bologna is tagliatelle. 

    And finally, spaghetti is a traditional dry pasta, and tomatoes hail from the same region, Campania. So the combination of a dry pasta and "main" ingredient from one region, with the preparation method of slow cooking meat into a sauce from another region has given us this whole dish. 

    It's a question of pride and prejudice 

    My cousin recently visited England, and at one Italian restaurant he ordered Spaghetti Bolognese. I warned him, I pleaded with him "don't do it, but if you do, don't judge it". He enjoyed it, his comments however; "well, you wouldn't eat something like that in Italy, but for over here it's nice".

    And there is maybe the problem. My cousin was suffering "il signor Darcy-ism", far too proud to say that something which didn't seem Italian on the surface, but was Italian in ingredients, preparation and essence, was essentially nice.

    Maybe that's the problem with Italian food mentality sometimes. If it's nice, if the heritage is Italian, then rather turning a nose to it, embrace it. Amazing that now I can research on Google Italy "Spaghetti alla Bolognese" recipes. Yes, all Italian ingredients, no Worcestershire sauce in sight.

    I mean, it's not as if I am claiming Dr Oetke pizza should be considered nice, or the real Italian thing.

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