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You will know everything about Bolognese Sauce

The small and big story of “ragù alla bolognese”

It is certainly one of the most famous sauces in the world, Bolognese sauce, from the eponymous city of Bologna in Emilia-Romagna.

But in reality, as its Italian name suggests, the "ragù alla bolognese" was not actually a sauce as such but rather a stew whose definition is "a dish composed of pieces of meat and vegetables cooked in a sauce”.

And it is indeed originally a dish which is composed of meat in general beef but for the recipe which was deposited on October 17, 1982 at the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna by the Bolognese delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine we also have pork in the form of pancetta. On the vegetable side we have a trio first of all the onion, the celery branch, carrot and then only the tomato. In general, from one recipe to another, the vegetable portion (onion, celery stalk and carrot) represents 50% of the weight of the meat, with a majority distribution for the onion

French roots?

We must delve into history: the "ragù alla bolognese" has its origins in the Middle Ages in France, where in the 12th century the stew was cooked, this famous dish composed of pieces of meat and vegetables cooked in a sauce for hours and hours. What today we would call low temperature cooking…

Two historical events will introduce the stew in Italy.

On the one hand Charles of Anjou having defeated Frederick II of Hohenstaufen becomes king of Sicily in 1266. After a policy of taxation of the very important population, this one rises and drives out the king 1282 who takes refuge in Naples. The court of Anjou and then of the Bourbons introduced the stew to Naples in Italy. And on the other hand the French cardinals in the Vatican. But in both cases we are still at the stage of the dish and not the sauce.

It was in 1776 that the Neapolitan Chef Vincenzo CORRADO is reputed to have served Macaroni format pasta with a veal and parmesan ragout, thus the Neapolitan Macaroni was born, a recipe which was transcribed in 1790 in the collection in 6 volumes “L'apicio moderni or the art of preparing all types of food” by Francesco LEONARDI. Importantly, it was in his second revised edition that he introduced the tomato into the recipe. Thus was born the recipe that will go around the world: meat, trio of vegetables onion, celery-stalk and carrot, with the addition of tomato.

The diffusion is done slowly in Italy of this dish with multiple variants, in Bologna during this time a version is created with a variant of Macaroni Bolognese with veal, pork pancetta, meat broth and the trio of vegetables celery, carrot and onion. This recipe will be described in 1891 by Pellegrino ARTUSI in his book "Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well" ("La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiare bene"). Not only in this version there were no tomatoes but in addition he suggested that we could improve the recipe with in particular cream, mushrooms, liver. And it was he again who suggested replacing Macaroni with Tagliatelle and Bolognese Lasagna.

It was at the end of the 18th century that Alberto ALVISI, cook of Cardinal Barnaba CHIARAMONTI, bishop of Imola and future Pope PIE VII, who mentioned Bolognese sauce as a condiment for pasta.

At the end of the First World War, there was no Maccaroni and this format was replaced by homemade egg tagliatelle. Finally, it was after the Second World War that beef was used for the recipe.

Why tomato in such small quantities?

Let's remember, the sauce was originally a dish in itself without tomatoes, dating from the Middle Ages and for good reason, the tomato was brought back from South America to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors at the Spanish court at the beginning of the XVI century, it would seem that it reached Italy on October 31, 1548 in Pisa when Cosimo DE MEDICI received a basket of tomatoes via received from the Florentine estate of Torre del Gallo a basket of tomatoes born from seeds given to his wife, Eleonora di Toledo, by his father, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples.

It is from this moment that it spreads slowly in Italy. The tomato being a fruit and not a vegetable at the base again.

The tomato was an ingredient to improve the basic stew recipe, so it should remain a minority ingredient.

How did this sauce conquer the whole world?

Italian immigrants from the beginning of the end of the 19th and 20th centuries took this recipe with them, which from North America to Australia allowed it to be disseminated at a time when the globalization of products had not yet existed. food.

Indeed, meat, onion, celery and carrot are ingredients that can be found everywhere and it was therefore easy to reproduce the Mamma recipe on the other side of the world.

Spaghetti bolognese…

Spaghetsti bolognese are actually an American invention! Indeed it was Julia Lovejoy CUNIBERTI when her book “Practical Italian recipes for American kitchens” was published in 1917 (for the benefit of the families of Italian soldiers of the First World War) who took up certain recipes from the book by Pellegrino ARTUSI and in particular Neapolitan Macaroni recipe. This recipe was renamed Macaroni Bolognese and Julia Lovejoy CUNIBERTI suggested using Spaghetti as the pasta format. Thus were born Spaghetti Bolognese, a pasta format totally unsuitable for this sauce since the sauce cannot adhere to the Spaghetti.


A French soul, an Italian design and deeply cosmopolitan spirit.

The most suitable format for what is now a sauce, are therefore Macaroni like the original recipe, which could be replaced by similar formats such as Sedani, Penne Rigate or even with Egg Tagliatelle as the Bolognese tradition or Lasagna.

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