“In heaven, after antipasti, the first course will be pasta.”
-Steve Albini, Singer-Songwriter
Shocking healthy-foodie news alert!
I learned that one of my favourite Italian dishes – ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’, is not actually an authentic Italian dish. It’s apparently an offshoot of an authentic Bologna dish called ‘tagliatelle al ragu’. Tagliettele is a round, flat pasta and the ragu is a very particular meat sauce that includes ground pork, ground beef or veal, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, garlic and wine. Some recipes call for pancetta for extra flavour.
Italians are unanimous on the fact that ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ is not an Italian dish because it’s very unlikely that a thinner pasta like spaghetti, which goes well with thinner tomato and olive oil based sauces, would have been combined with a thick meat sauce like a ragu. The thicker sauces are reserved for thicker pastas like tagliettele, pappardelle and fettuccine, to name a few. (For more details on which pastas go with with what sauces, click here.)
So how did Spaghetti Bolognese come to be? In Venice, a food tour and cooking class host named Monica Cesarato believes that the fallacy was likely invented during WWII when American and English soldiers passed through Bologna and tried the classic ‘tagliatelle al ragu’. They probably had difficulty saying “tagliatelle al ragu” so they just called it ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ assuming that the word ‘spaghetti’ is an all encompassing term for all the different pastas shapes – not knowing of course that the different shapes were designed specifically to hold different pasta sauces.
Because of this mix-up, Virginio Merola, the mayor of Bologna, believes that culinary crimes all over the world are being committed. On social media, he’s been jabbing at restaurants in Bologna for serving the dish to attract tourists. He’s also calling out foreign restaurants for tagging #spaghettibolognese as an authentic Italian dish.
Anyway you look at it, the combination of the right pasta with the right sauce will make for a delicious and nutritious dish. On the subject of the “right” pasta, here are 2 things to look out for:
- Organic durum wheat semolina: It’s what all Italians use and you get the added benefits of higher in fibre, protein, B vitamins, magnesium and iron. You can easily find this pasta at Italian specialty stores or in the organic/health food section of your grocery store.
- Cook your pasta ‘al dente’ : Slightly undercooked pasta will have a lower glycemic index than pasta that is cooked to a more soft texture.
Since learning the true way and ingredients of a real ‘tagliatelle al ragu’ I’ve provided a recipe sourced from renowned Chef Antonio Carluccio and from the website Eataly. I’ve also provided the myriad of health health benefits you get from each ingredient. Click here for the recipe.
Always remember tasty food and healthy food are not mutually exclusive.