The Popularity of Spaghetti Bolognese

Date: May 9, 2016

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Spaghetti Bolognese is an Italian meat-based sauce or ragù, which is said to come from Bologna, that wonderful city of food located in Emilia Romagna. Curiously, spaghetti Bolognese is very popular outside of Italy, but is said to have never existed in Bologna itself.

Meat-based ragù, not meat balls, was always served in Bologna with local egg pasta like tagliatelle or lasagne. Spaghetti bolognese, on the other hand, is usually eaten with a wheat pasta or gluten-free pastas.

When the war ended, it’s possible that American and British soldiers who returned to Italy as tourists asked for spaghetti bolognese from the local Italian chefs who gave it to them, even though it was a foreign dish from America and Britain.

Former American soldiers came back to the U.S. with even more zest for the dish. Thus, a meat ragù dish, created by American chefs with spaghetti and ground meat became popularized in Italy by their Italian counterparts, leading to an even greater popularity in the United States and Britain.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Serves 4 to 6
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz bacon or pancetta, diced
1½ cups yellow onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, finely diced
½ cup celery, finely diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Pinch of saffron
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1½ lb 80 percent ground beef
1 lb pork sausage,
removed from its casing
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 28-oz cans plum tomatoes with juice (ideally, Marzano tomatoes)
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 lb spaghetti, domestic Ronzoni or imported De Cecco brands
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring until browned and the fat is rendered for 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring until soft for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, saffron, basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram, cinnamon, nutmeg and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the beef and sausage, and cook, stirring until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, until half of the liquid is reduced, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the plum tomatoes with their juices, the remaining tomato paste and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until thickened and flavorful, about 1½ hours.

5. Add cream, butter and parsley, and stir well; simmer for 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

6. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of salted water in a large soup pot to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Send comments to Chef Alan at azox@zoxkitchen.com. For details about past columns, catering or Chef Zox’s blog, please visit www.zoxkitchen.com.

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