Pasta Bolognese – Ragu alla Bolognese

Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy

Bologna is simply a fabulously rich culinary city located in the  Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  It is also home to Pasta Bolognese! This city has the nickname “La Grassa” meaning “the fat,” due to the tremendous amount of culinary delights found in the city.

This is the land of, mortadella, Prosciutto di Parma, Grana Padano, balsamic vinegar, countless numbers of salami and sausages just to name a few of the culinary delights of the area.  Let us not forget the endless list of fresh egg pastas.  Such as tagliatelle, fettuccine, tortellini, and pappardelle, for starters.

For this post we are concentrating on one sauce, a meat-based sauce that holds the name of the city, yes a Bolognese sauce. Better known in Italy as “Ragù alla Bolognese.” If tomato sauce is the “King” of pasta sauces then Ragù alla Bolognese is most definitely the Queen!

This sauce is served traditionally with broad flat-shaped pasta.  But, one pasta, in particular, is considered to be the perfect accompaniment to this sauce. That pasta would be tagliatelle! When talking about Italy, and especially about Italian food, it’s all about regionalism and tradition.  Holding true to it is paramount! Especially, among Italian culinary circles in Italy, whose sole purpose is to make sure culinary traditions are followed and stay intact.

To serve this sauce with a dried semolina based pasta would be a big “no-no” and frowned upon by culinary traditionalists in Italy

So, in “La Grassa” bolognese sauce is held in high esteem as it even carries the name of the city it hails from, Bologna. As one could imagine there is a tremendous amount of pride and heritage connected to this dish and it is taken seriously. I can’t tell you the number of debates I’ve had with other chefs on what is considered to be a true Bolognese. 

Some examples of debate are: The kind of meats used, the ratio of each meat, the sofrito (the vegetable mix), the types herbs, the amount of time it should cook, to cover with a lid not cover with a lid, when to season, when to add wine, does one add milk, and should one finish with heavy cream or not?

This my friends is a time-honored sauce and is second in command in pasta land. It is far from just a meat sauce!

So calling a BOLOGNESE a meat sauce simply won’t cut it in traditional culinary circles.  Yes, it is made with meat, but there’s much more to it than that, as you’ll see in my recipe below. 

Hint: If ever you find yourself in Bologna or the Emila-Romagna region and see a sign in front of a restaurant that says “Spaghetti and meat sauce” in English none the lessor “Spaghetti all Bolognese,” run for the hills. It’s a tourist trap!

Now I share with you the Bolognese sauce the I’ve been making for eons! It is delicious and traditional, with a twist of cinnamon in the recipe.

The cinnamon creates a very subtle, yet tasty undertone. It is an ingredient that should be undetectable by the guests. Meaning, you don’t want people to say, WOW! There is cinnamon in here? You just want them to say WOW!  That was the most delicious BOLOGNESE sauce I ever had!

tagliatelle alla bolognese

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

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