Spaghetti bolognese (or bolognaise sauce) are probably the most popular not-bolognese pasta. Everybody knows them, lots of people from around the world eat them but here in Bologna a few restaurants offer this dish and they're seen by locals as tourist places to stay away from. So I decided to put them on trial, a joke to discover the origins of this dishes and to determine if has the right to exist. Always remembering that food is nothing but objective and things can change very fast in people taste.
The charges: they're not from Bologna, Bolognesi don't eat them!
I can bet my Radiohead's vinyls collection (ok, maybe a small part of it) that you can't find any one from Bologna, or even an italian, that eats spaghetti with ragù (the so called bolognaise sauce). Bologna is the home of egg pasta, and we only eat tagliatelle with ragù (we even have the apostles of tagliatella, an association with the aim to promote the "queen of pasta").
But why tagliatelle and not spaghetti? What is wrong with them?
Nothing really. But you have to imagine that Bologna, less than 100 years ago, was surrounded by countryside. Where now stand all the big companies of the packaging valley and motorcycles producers like Ducati or Lamborghini there were just farms and fields. Most of Bolognese families worked there as farmers or breeders so they needed rich and nourishing meals. The chickens and the eggs didn't lack so here's where our love for egg pasta was born.
Spaghetti, and in general all dried pasta, has all a different story and need something very important that Bologna doesn't have much (but the south of Italy have): the sun and the wind. Which the south if Italy has instead.
Take Gragnano for example. It's a small village near Naples famous for the quality of its water that since 1500. Pasta was put to dry directly on the streets and Gragnano became one of the most famous city for the production of wheat pasta.
So your honor here in Bologna we eat spaghetti, we do love them, but in different recipes taken from the south of Italy like carbonara and matriciana from Rome or norma or with sardines from Sicily. Our cuisine is different, has other traditions that we don't drop so we ask that spaghetti bolognese are cut into small pieces and thrown into broth!
The defense: a lot of people around the world eat and love them
Your honor, the accusation was really hard and made its point but even if Bologna denies them, people around the globe eat spaghetti bolognese so they absolutely exists and worth to live.
For example when the popular British chef Rick Stein visited Bologna he immediately asked to eat this dish. My friend sfogline, the artisans of fresh egg pasta one you can meet during our food tours in Bologna, explained him the thesis of the accusation: it’s not a traditional bolognese dish but still in the past Bologna’s people ate spaghetti with onion and tuna.
Also Bologna has the oldest university in the world with La Sorbonne in Paris and what’s the most popular dish between students? The one that saves a lot of lunches after lessons or at 2pm after a party? Yes, spaghetti. With a tin of tuna usually, but even with ragù if necessary.
Your honor I bet you were a student too, so don’t be too hard on them. Spaghetti bolognese also bring the name of Bologna around the world like “Bologna's sausage” (even if we call it mortadella and it’s sacred for us) and help to make Bologna the city of food.
Based on the proofs that we got we can certainly say that spaghetti bolognese are not a bolognese dish.
But their efforts in bringing the name of Bologna famous worldwide is important: people can be curious and maybe discover where is Bologna and why it worth to be visited. I'll never eat spaghetti bolognese and I don't recommend restaurants who serve them, but let them live their life in peace and don't be too hard on them. It's only pasta by the way.
Any objections from the jury? What do you think about this controversial dish?
The judge will be happy to review his verdict.
[photos: Rossella Neiadin, Cathy Danh]