They are the most famous Italian dish in the world, and in reality they do not exist. The “spaghetti bolognese” eaten in New York, London or Sydney have nothing to do with those offered in Italy and are perhaps the most classic example of Italian soundingof which a book traces history and clichés, proposing to exploit them for tourism marketing.
Bolognese have always denied them with disdain, even if this is the most requested Italian dish abroad. A dish that doesn’t exist, according to the Petronian culinary tradition, even if it appears, for the benefit of tourists, in the menus of many trattorias in the Emilian capital.
The ragù goes well with tagliatelle and lasagnas, but not with spaghetti: they’re only tolerated in home cooking, especially if prepared for children. So how does one explain their luck with foreigners, a luck that pushes over 41 million English-speaking sites to provide the most unlikely recipes? A mystery that also fascinated the BBC, which long ago sent an envoy under the Two Towers to interrogate the Bolognese. Who, of course, reiterated the concept: that dish does not exist.
The peasant recipe hypothesis
The journalist and writer Piero Valdiserra has dedicated a book to the “mysterious” dish: in “Spaghetti Bolognese: the other side of the typical” (Edi House Editions, Bologna, 2016, 80 pages),he sketches the existence of a recipe that would resemble spaghetti seasoned with meat sauce. It would be a recipe of the peasant tradition, originated in the countryside of the Bologna province and discovered by the lawyer Gianluigi Mazzoni and the chef Stefano Boselli, who also registered it. A recovery dish cooked with a mixture of celery, carrot, onion and bacon to which the housewives added tomato paste, a few spoonfuls of ragù left over from Sunday or holidays and a few boiled vegetables (usually peas, depending on availability and seasons). Thus spaghetti Bolognese became a single dish, cheap, fragrant and, with the addition of vegetables, even lighter than traditional tagliatelle with ragù.
A commercial proposal
Besides chasing the recipe and proposing it, in the book Valdiserra launches a marketing idea: to use the fame of this dish to promote food and wine tourism in Emilia. Why – the author who passed away a few months ago asks himself – don’t we offer excellent quality spaghetti in the restaurants of the city, cooked to perfection and enriched with a classic meat sauce (perhaps embellished with a nice sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano)? Taking advantage of the fame of “spaghetti bolognese”, the many authentic delicacies of the Emilian cuisine could be made known to foreign visitors. Supporting the author’s thesis are renowned chefs such as Bruno Barbieri and Max Poggi.
To carry on his cause, Valdiserra also created a group of supporters called “Balla of spaghetti bolognese”, deliberately playing on the double meaning of the word “balla”: lie, but also, in Bolognese dialect, goliardic group, company of friends.
Now that the discoverer (or inventor) of the recipe cannot continue his work, will someone collect his witness? Meanwhile, each of us can try to season spaghetti with meat sauce and grated Parmigiano Reggiano and judge the flavor, perhaps becoming another fan of the famous “Spaghetti Bolognese”.