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Bolognese Ragù From the Recipe Submitted on 17 October 1982

Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese


The Right Recipe

A quick look at the recipes available online for Italy's globally famous Spaghetti Bolognese reveals a truly amazing variety of options.

Sadly most of them are wrong.

Over the years an array of differing foods have sneaked their way into the ingredients list, choices added as one supermarket after another has included an item from its own overstocked shelves in their recipe card promotion.

Mushrooms have never been part of the recipe.

The true recipe or at least the version submitted to the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in 1982 is beautifully simple and easy to make. The pasta that is always used for this dish in the city of its birth in Bologna Italy is always Tagliatelle.

Polenta with a tomato chopped vegetables and beef and pork based meat based sauce common in Abruzzo Italy.

Polenta with a tomato chopped vegetables and beef and pork based meat based sauce common in Abruzzo Italy.

A Global Favorite

The plate is irresistible to children and adults with its salty with sweet and tomato with cheese flavor combination.

This dish is now a global favorite and still a gastronomic staple with the people of Bologna because it makes the most of the cheap ingredients available, it feeds many, is quick to prepare and can be left to cook or simmer slowly with minimal supervision.

In Italy, the original Passata or purée is still often made by hand by laboriously peeling tomatoes and removing the seeds by hand, but many now use a can of concentrated paste instead.

Italians almost never use a glass jar pre-prepared version of the sauce as doing so is considered lazy or worse signifying someone of limited ability in the kitchen.

The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine dining

The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine dining

Italian Cook Book Paperback – Pellegrino Artusi (English Translation)

A Short History Of This Dish

Italy for a number of profound cultural reasons has a unique rapport with food. The role of communal dining for example particularly in relation to family eating around a table, the ability to grow one owns food fresh in the mild Mediterranean climate, the role of religious belief and the blessing of Easter morning traditional breakfast all emphasise this special relationship.

Bologna the sacred city that claims to be the place of this dishes birth is an ancient city famous in Italy for the ability of its citizens to enjoy life with one of the oldest universities in Europe. Geographically, it is a landlocked part of the country where the people are famously independent, pragmatic, quick-witted and resourceful.

Interestingly Ragù is also often eaten with Polenta. This is a cooked carbohydrate made from various ground up cereals that was first made by the Sumer the first urban civilisation in southern Mesopotamia and much later on by the Romans.

The simple truth is the origins of this recipe are obscure in fact this dish is so old that the sauce is never referred to as Bolognese sauce but referred to simply as Ragù meaning meat sauce so it is reasonable to speculate that it is the result of hundreds of years of traditional regional cuisine and was born from combining locally available ingredients. The original sauce was probably a saved by-product of boiled meat or broth that was accompanied with boiled vegetables like chicory and eaten with bread or Polenta.

The Duca Leonardo Di Scincia da Sermoneta is recorded in 1622 in Emilia Romagna as having to distribute Ragù and Polenta as alms following a famine.

Tomatoes and Maize arrived after Columbus and his journey to South America with the help of Hernan Cortes.

In the 18th century Alberto Alvisi, a cook responsible for cooking for an Imola based Cardinal mentions ragù for maccheroni.

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Following Italian Unification, in 1871 many writers and businessmen in the 1900's began to focus their resources and efforts on patriotic themes. Perhaps Italy's greatest gourmet and bon viveur, Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911) a native of Emilia-Romagna, undertook a gastronomic tour at this time and travelled around Italy sampling many different regional dishes.

Following many adventures, including narrowly avoiding contracting the disease Cholera, in a restaurant, he was inspired to write a cookbook that outlined basic hygiene principles and codified as such, numerous Italian dishes. The book called in Italian: La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene " meaning, The Science of Cooking and the Art of Fine Dining, published in 1910 is still hugely influential and contains one of the first written down versions of this Ragù recipe.

During the Second World War when food was rationed, and the need for cheap food was greater a number of alternative recipe preparations with ground meat appeared, notably the popular Sloppy Joes in the USA.

In the 1980's The Italian Academy of Cuisine viewing the growing culinary cuffuffle and fearing the loss of the true identity of this globally popular dish, decided to submit the recipe and register it as a legal document: "to guarantee the respect and continuity of Bologna cuisine".

Some Ingredients

Pancetta Ideally cubed.

Pancetta Ideally cubed.

Beef, Pork, Milk and Wine.

Ingredients, add salt and pepper.

Ingredients, add salt and pepper.

Soffritto finely chopped carrot celery onion ready to be fried with oil.

Soffritto finely chopped carrot celery onion ready to be fried with oil.

Ragu evaporating the added wine with frying vegetables.

Ragu evaporating the added wine with frying vegetables.

Passatta the final ingredient.

Passatta the final ingredient.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

2 hours

2 hours 15 min

Serves 6


  • 300 gr. beef cartella, (thin skirt) outside skirt steak the cartella di manzo
  • 150 gr. pancetta, dried and finely cubed
  • 50 gr. carrot, Finely chopped
  • 50 gr. celery stalk, Finely chopped
  • 50 gr. onion, Finely chopped
  • 300 gr. Passata tomato, Tomato purée
  • 1 cup whole milk, Thick creamy milk or whipping cream
  • Half cup white or red wine, dry and non fizzy
  • Salt and pepper. to taste.

Mezzaluna half moon knife

Herb rocker knife

Herb rocker knife

Translation note

This is an as close as possible translation of the current recipe of the true Ragu' alla Bolognese deposited on the 17th October 1982 by the Bologna delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine at the Bologna Chamber of Commerce, Italy.

The original recipe specifies "panna liquida da montare" which would roughly translate as liquid cream (used to make) whipped cream.


  1. First finely dice around 20 cms, of Italian pork belly (Pancetta), and then cut into smaller pieces preferably using a rocking herb chopper style knife. Fry till the fat is dissolved using a thick aluminum pan or terra cotta cooking vessel.
  2. Add 3 spoons of extra virgin olive oil or 50 grams of butter and finely chopped, celery, onion, and carrot and fry and simmer. Add the beef mince and stir well until it sizzles.
  3. Add the wine and gently stir until it completely evaporates. Add the tomatoes (Passata) sauce then cover with a lid and let it boil gently for around 2 hours adding, when necessary some broth (Brodo).
  4. Towards the end add the milk to balance the acidity of the tomatoes sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. At the end, when the Ragu' is ready, (according to the strict interpretation of the Bolognese recipe), add more, full cream milk, if you're cooking for normal pre-bought dry tagliatelle pasta.

Bologna Chamber of Commerce

Accademia Italiana della Cucina

Spaghetti alla Chitarra

Meatballs with Spaghetti

Meatballs with Spaghetti

Spaghetti with Meatballs

Spaghetti alla Chitarra or Spaghetti with Meatballs is a similar dish with versions made in Puglia and also being popular near the coast in Abruzzo that uses small meatballs the size of an olive cooked in a tomato sauce.

© 2017 Adele Barattelli

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