Spaghetti with meatballs, pasta with a rich, meaty sauce—these indulgent comfort foods can trace themselves back to ragu alla bolognese: the ultimate Italian pasta dish, featuring a luscious, rich, meaty sauce. When we think of Italian cuisine, this is the plate that comes to mind, and for good reason! There exist now many variations of the classic bolognese, but when was it originated—and why? Let’s look back at the history of ragu alla bolognese.
The History of Bolognese
In the 1870s, Italy was first unified, having previously existed as a loosely organized group of city-states. It didn’t take long for the new country to solidify its cuisine: in 1891, a cookbook was published featuring the first mention of the Bolognese sauce. The author, one Pellegrino Artusi, had spent many years in Bologna, which might have served as an inspiration for the dish.
Of Bologna, he wrote that the climate, being somewhat less temperate than the rest of Italy, left the area more rugged than those to which he was used—but the food was still good. In the recipe, he called for ingredients he had worked with in his time exploring the Bologna countryside: lean veal, pancetta, carrots, and onions.
Everything was to be cut down very finely, sautéed in butter until it broke down even more, and finished with mushrooms and fresh cream for a rich, umami-laden taste and texture. The sauce was to be poured over a very simple flour-and-water tagliatelle and preferably enjoyed with a large glass of wine. Thus was born a simple yet incredibly popular home-cooked Italian recipe.
Since that nineteenth-century version was first originated, several other versions have become popular. Some chefs prefer to add more tomatoes, making a bolognese and marinara hybrid; others leave the vegetables and meat more whole, giving the dish the feel of a hearty stew. Regardless of how it is prepared, ragu alla bolognese is respected the world around for its decadence—and its simplicity; traditionally, only salt and pepper are used as seasonings to let the flavor of the ingredients really shine.
You might be wondering: Where can you get this traditional bolognese? For the best experience, you need to be sure that it was cooked in a reliable, authentic way. Visit Bricco Ristorante – a prestigious Italian restaurant for a truly indulgent experience—and try this historic Italian staple while you are there: the original ragu alla bolognese.