While the dish has been a staple for millions of diners around the world for decades, Italians claimed the original reciope has become so corrupted it is in urgent need of culinary rescue. Here is an authentic recipe, approved by Italian chefs, for traditional spaghetti bolognese.
2 tbsp olive oil
6 rashers of streaky ‘pancetta’ bacon, chopped (from Waterall obviously)
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, chopped
Stick of celery
1kg lean minced beef
2 large glasses of red wine
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
800g-1kg dried tagliatelle
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry the bacon until golden over a medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, frying until softened. Increase the heat and add the minced beef. Fry it until it has browned. Pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third. Reduce the temperature and stir in the tomatoes and celery.
Cover with a lid and simmer over a gentle heat for 1-1½ hours until it’s rich and thickened, stirring occasionally.
Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain and divide between plates. Sprinkle a little parmesan over the pasta before adding a good ladleful of the sauce. Finish with a further scattering of cheese and a twist of black pepper.
What do Italian chefs think of our bolognese imitations?
Gourmands insist that the popular dish’s apparent simplicity is deceptive, and throw their arms up in dismay when they see chicken or turkey used as a substitute for the key ingredient, minced beef.
In an attempt to restore the integrity of the dish known to millions of British diners as “spag bol”, nearly 450 chefs in Italian restaurants in 50 countries cooked spaghetti bolognese on Sunday with authentic ingredients including pancetta, carrots, celery, onions, tomato paste and a dash of wine.
They had to conform to a recipe set down in 1982 by the chamber of commerce in Bologna – the home of bolognese.
Most people, particularly foreigners, get the recipe wrong from the very start, purists insist. Instead of spaghetti, they say it is tagliatelle that should be cooked to go with the rich meat and tomato sauce, making it “tag bol” rather than “spag bol”.
“Along with lasagne, spaghetti bolognese is the most abused Italian dish. There are some crazy versions out there,” said Massimo Bottura, a bolognese “virtuoso” who runs a restaurant in Modena. The worst he had ever eaten was in Bangkok. “It was terrible,” he told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Abominations such as turkey mince, American meatballs, butter and cream have no part in a true spaghetti bolognese and need to be stamped out, say the guardians of Italy’s culinary heritage.
“Abroad, when they offer spaghetti bolognese, it’s often something that has nothing at all to do with the original,” said Alfredo Tomaselli, the owner of Dal Bolognese, in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, who counts among his past customers George Clooney.
It is not only spaghetti bolognese that is subject to abuse in the kitchens of the world. Other Italian dishes that have gained worldwide popularity, such as spaghetti carbonara, Neapolitan pizza, pesto and the creamy dessert tiramisu, have also been compromised, often with results that are close to inedible.
“It is always the great classic recipes that get most twisted around,” said Alessandro Circiello, of the Italian Federation of Chefs.