Bolognese is best in Britain

What’s the verdict? Italian or British bundle of bolognese?

This story first appeared on The Telegraph and was written by XANTHE CLAY.



I was brought up on spaghetti bolognese. Slippery tendrils of pasta wreathed in a great mound of meat and tomato sauce, which we didn’t know was called a ragu, was a regular supper.

For us children, curling the mince-freckled spaghetti – twice the length of today’s wimpy supermarket versions – around our forks was a dinner time game.

We competed first to make the neatest bundle, then to twist the pasta right up the handle of the fork.

Today Antonio Carluccio, in an programme with Jamie Oliver, has declared spag-bol to be un-Italian and he’s given us directions for the best sauce.

“You should do this,” he decrees, “Oil, onion, two types of meat – beef and pork – and you practically brown this, then you put the tomatoes, then a bit of wine, including tomato paste and then you cook it for three hours. That is it. Nothing else. Grate parmesan on the top and Bob’s your uncle.”

Carluccio is completely right – spaghetti bolognese isn’t an Italian dish, no more than chicken tikka masala is Indian.

Classic Lifestyle Carluccios

These are dishes adapted by immigrant chefs using the ingredients available in their new homeland – and adjusted to the please palates of its people. Isn’t that great?

Meat sauce doesn’t cling to spaghetti’s narrow form and texture well. But when my mother bought spaghetti from the Italian deli in bundles wrapped in dark blue sugar paper, there was no other pasta, any more than there were jars of Dolmio to fall back on in the 1970s.

The thing about food, similar to language, is that it evolves as it travels. And in the case of Italy, that journey can be as close, or as far, as the other side of the street. As far as the next village is a whole other world, gastronomically.

Spaghetti bolognese does not exist in Italy
– Antonio Carluccio

There are as many authentic recipes for ragu Bolognese, as there are authentic Italian chefs. A large proportion of people say that there should be no tomato in it at all (sorry Antonio) – after all tomatoes didn’t arrive in Italy until the mid sixteenth century, a long time after ragu was first made.

Some chefs put in just a touch of tomato purée but no fresh or tinned tomatoes.

While Carluccio doesn’t include milk in his off the cuff recipe, Marcella Hazan, the godmother of Italian cooking uses milk in her recipe – and a smidge of nutmeg.

Like most of the Italian chefs, I reckon the best bolognese is the one my mother makes. Which most definitely comes with spaghetti.

Get Antonio Carluccios recipe here.