Does Spaghetti alla Bolognese exist?

spaghettibologneseIf you live in Bologna, you are probably familiar with the long-standing debate about the existence of this famous international dish.

Here, Umberto Faedi presents his version of the story.
In Bologna’s traditional and most celebrated recipe books, there is one recipe that you won’t find: Spaghetti alla Bolognese.

The recipe
The recipe is very simple. It starts with a good Bolognese ragù prepared with care and patience. Ideally, the sauce should have time to rest, or be prepared a day in advance. Spaghetti does not have a standard measurement—the average spaghetti size is fine. Cook the pasta to an al dente texture. After draining the cooking water, season the spaghetti generously with the ragù.

The Story

Neither canon nor convention could have predicted that this twist on one of Bologna’s signature dishes could have arrived here, in the city known as la grassa (the fat) and la dotta (the learned).

Bologna was nicknamed “la grassa” by French visitors to the city who wanted to live the life of joy and gluttony that could be enjoyed in the home of the world’s oldest university.

Known for the meat sauce, or ragù, that enhances its tagliatelle and lasagne pastas, as well as for mortadella, Bologna’s Spaghetti alla Bolognese has attracted attention from menus throughout the world. Despite this recognition, this dish is not included in recipe books and is even fiercely opposed by culinary purists. (The internet agrees–Spaghetti alla Bolognese returns more results in search.)

In response, a group of experienced enogastronomy and communication professionals and enthusiasts have created an association (Balla degli Spaghetti alla Bolognese) to take advantage of the popularity of this “non-traditional” Bolognese dish and use it as a vehicle to promote the culinary traditions and excellence of Bologna to the world.

The association has also been gifted with a written endorsement from scientist-poet Giorgio Celli, who enthusiastically joined the initiative. A number of restaurants in the city and province have followed suit, offering Spaghetti alla Bolognese in their menus to all customers, not just tourists.

Umberto Faedi
A journalist with a passion for history and enogastronomy, Faedi has served as the Managing Editor and Director of food and wine magazines. As a professional sommelier with a Master’s and diplomas, he founded and served as president of several cultural associations. He has authored several publications used in professional classes where he also teaches, organizes events, tastings and the selection of products. He collaborates with magazines, websites and blogs specialized in gastronomy and tourism. He is a certified Chevalier Sabreur of the historical French association Confrerie du Sabreur d’Or. He is a member of the EPULAE, the international academy for the education and promotion in wine and food culture and the sensory analysis of food, recognized by the Italian President of the Republic.