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Although I’m not Italian, tagliatelle al ragu (bolognese) is a much-loved dish in my household because of its simplicity and flavorful taste. When I was first introduced to the dish, I could not believe how easy it was to make, and it has become a go-to staple meal whenever I’m hosting a dinner party or catching up with friends. It’s also a recipe that I enjoy making with my nieces and nephews.
This pasta dish is close to my heart and the hearts of many, but surprisingly, many people don’t know the immersive history behind this must-learn meal. To learn more about how tagliatelle bolognese defined pasta as we know it today, you must first understand the history of this two-part recipe involving delectable pasta and scrumptious tomato sauce.
First, let’s get the nitty-gritty details of the recipe out of the way. Tagliatelle al ragu (bolognese) has many variations regarding ingredients. Yet, most people agree that this dish consists of carrots, parsley, onion, tomato puree, red or white wine, fresh milk, olive oil, minced beef, unsmoked pancetta, salt and pepper, and of course, fresh tagliatelle.
Most of these ingredients are easy to come by and can be picked up at a local grocery store, but if you want to be traditional about it, you need to make the tagliatelle yourself from scratch.
To make this tasty pasta, you need only flour and eggs, but you can make a variation and include minced vegetables or vegetable juice in the dough. The entire process is simple, and the pasta doesn’t take very long to make, so if you have the time, you might want to try making your own.
The tagliatelle al ragu (bolognese) dish is a specialty of northern Italy – specifically, the Emilia-Romagna region. This dish has two components: long fresh egg pasta and a meat sauce.
Traditionally, this dish is made by hand, not with a pasta machine or store-bought pasta and sauce. This is because many home and professional chefs believe it tastes better when made on a wooden surface with a wooden rolling pin.
When the egg pasta is rolled with a wooden rolling pin, the wood imparts graininess to the pasta’s surface, allowing the juices of the sauce to cling to it and absorb it better. Additionally, this pasta ‘tagliatelle’ is named after the Italian verb ‘tagliare,’ which means ‘to cut’ because the dough is folded several times and cut into strips.
Moreover, the most used condiment for tagliatelle is a slow-cooked tomato-based meat sauce called ragu alla bolognese, but it wasn’t always meat-based. Let’s look into the history of this dish next.
The History Of The Ragu (Bolognese)
Interestingly, the Italian ‘Ragu’ is linked to the French equivalent ‘ragout,’ with both terms referencing stews of slow-cooked vegetables and meat over low heat. A ragu, part of the tagliatelle al ragu (bolognese) recipe, can trace its history back to the popular French medieval tradition of the XII-XIV.
This traditional meal consisted of meat and vegetables stewed slowly and was a dish for the rich or poor, depending on what spices, garnishes, and cuts of meat were used. During medieval times, a traditional Ragu was not cooked with tomatoes.
Over time, this dish made its way to the Neapolitan court and the Vatican in Italy, but it was still cooked with vegetables and different types of meat without tomatoes.
WORDS: Jason Collins.
IMAGE CREDIT: Ketut Subiyanto.