Spaghetti Bolognese is, right after pizza, the most popular Italian dish in Germany and many other nations. But did you know that spaghetti bolognese is never served in Italy?
In 2015, British BBC reporter Michael Portillo made his way to Bologna, the capital of Italy’s food-loving region of Emilia Romagna, where the world’s most famous pasta sauce was once invented. Portillo wanted to find the best spaghetti bolognese in town , that was his seemingly simple mission. But the Brit failed miserably. Because whoever he spoke to in Bologna – the answer was always the same: “Gli spaghetti bolognese non esistono” (Eng: “Spaghetti Bolognese does not exist”).
Spaghetti bolognese? Doesn’t exist in Italy
No, the Italians didn’t want to play a bad joke with the BBC reporter at that moment. In fact, you won’t find a dish called spaghetti bolognese on the menu in any restaurant in Bologna, nor in the rest of the country – at most in touristy places. Although there is indeed a ragù alla bolognese, as the ragout made from minced meat, tomatoes and many other ingredients is correctly called, it is traditionally never served with the long durum wheat pasta. “You eat the ragout with all sorts of pasta, but not with spaghetti,” confirms Giorgia Zabbini from the Bologna city council when asked by TRAVELBOOK.
Which pasta do you eat with Bolognese?
The creamy sauce is mainly served with tagliatelle, the flat tagliatelle with egg from Emilia Romagna. It is also used to prepare lasagne al forno , but never with pure durum wheat pasta. “The ragout has to connect to the pasta, it has to stick to it, and spaghetti is totally unsuitable for that,” explains Giorgia Zabbini.
The Italian Benedetta Albiani also confirms this when asked by TRAVELBOOK: “I asked my grandmothers especially, because Italian grandmothers are the best informed when it comes to food. For us, food is ‘serious business’. What is known in Germany as ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ does not exist here. We use fettuccine or tagliatelle with ragú and not spaghetti because they are thicker. They are better for absorbing the sauce and binding the meat with the sauce. With spaghetti, on the other hand, the sauce would just slide off.”
Ragù alla bolognese is also used in lasagne
How did the spaghetti get mixed with the ragout?
In Germany, however, many people’s favorite dish is spaghetti Bolognese, and in Great Britain, Australia and the USA, too, the variant with the long, thin pasta made from pure durum wheat is eaten almost exclusively. But how did this idiosyncratic twist on the original recipe come about? Supposedly it was US and English soldiers who crossed Emilia Romagna during the Second World War and got caught in the tagliatelle al ragùlovers that were served to them there. As the Italian cooking site Italia a Tavola reports, the soldiers asked for the pasta with minced meat sauce in the local Italian restaurants after their return home, and they were served spaghetti instead of tagliatelle. In this way, the actually non-existent dish is said to have spread in the USA and north of Italy, and later also in Australia.