“La Dotta” (The Learned) is one of Bologna’s given nicknames. As host to the oldest university in the western world, The University of Bologna, it has long been considered the epicenter of higher learning in Italy. With a roster of students that include Dante Alighieri, Thomas Becket, Albrecht Dürer, the label given the town is befit.
Bologna "La Grassa" (The Fat)
Another name given to Bologna is, “La Grassa” (The Fat) which refers to the town’s culinary prowess. Bologna is in the region of Emilia-Romagna, which is widely considered the purveyor of the best product. Towns such as Modena with their balsamic vinegar, and Parma with their hams and cheeses, lead the way.
Bologna is the capital of Emilia- Romagna
However, it is the capital Bologna, that serves as headquarters for all these delicious food products and dishes. It is this reason that Bologna must be visited. Delving into Bologna's food anthropology is as educational as any historical topic. The roster of dishes equals, if not surpasses, the luminaries that attended the university. Not the least of which, the emblematic “Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese”. It is this dish, I believe, that best defines this specific moniker in a country rich in food history.
Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese - A sophisticated history
This ragu recipe has been butchered the world over and is generally regarded as a simple humble dish. Contrary to this belief, Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese actually has a sophisticated history. The recipe has been traced back to the 16th century when it was enjoyed by the nobility. In its nascent stages, the recipe called for beef and cream, which was not a common offering to the peasant class.
Tomatoes were introduced to Italy in the late 16th Century
The recipe evolved as tomatoes came into play in the late 16th century when the Conquistadors brought the seeds back from their ventures in Peru. Again, advantage nobles, as they were given as gifts to the wealthy “Italians” by the Spaniards.
Having Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese in Bologna is an epiphany
Thankfully, the dish has become much more attainable. However, the approach to making the dish still has a reverence, especially to the Town of Bologna’s residents. Sacred almost when they speak of it and the way it is prepared. This dish may have become more common, but what this dish is not, is the sloppy, sauce laden, meat sauce over spaghetti that is ubiquitous in the States. Having Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese in Bologna is an epiphany for most who have never had the pleasure previous.
Don't use Spaghetti with Ragu Alla Bolognese
With most everything Italian, there is the detail to the process, and one of those is the choice of pasta. Don’t use spaghetti! The pasta of choice is Tagliatelle. The sauce is substantial, and it needs a pasta that can stand up to it.
What is Tagliatelle?
So, what is tagliatelle? According to the pasta makers, Barilla, tagliatelle was “inspired by the hair of Lucrezia Borgia, and was dedicated to her by a poetic chef on the occasion of her wedding to Alfonso d’Este.” Tagliatelle is made of slim strips of flat sheets of egg pasta dough, about 5mm wide. The Bolognese (the people) feel the shape, size and porous surface is perfect for mopping up the ragu. The “eggy” flavor of tagliatelle marries so well with the ingredients in the sauce.
Here's our interpretation of this classic Italian pasta dish:Print
Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese in Bologna, a History & Recipe
Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese - let's transport to Bologna and have a great pasta dish from Italy. This is not the most authentic recipe but it is our interpretation for this classic dish.
- 1 pounds of Tagliatelle Egg Pasta
- 1 pound of minced veal (beef and/or pork can serve as substitute)
- 4 ounces of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of good butter
- 1 medium sweet onion (mince)
- 1 stalk of celery (mince)
- 1 medium carrot (mince)
- 1 garlic clove (mince)
- 4 ounce of white wine
- 4 ounces of beef or chicken broth
- 2 ounces of tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of Coarse Salt
- Grana Padano Cheese
- Put dutch oven or large pot over low heat.
- Introduce olive oil and butter to pot.
- When butter is melted, toss pre-minced onions, and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes)
- Add garlic, celery, and carrots (all pre-minced) and cook for 10minutes.
- Bring fire/heat to medium and add veal with tablespoon of black pepper and tablespoon of salt.
- Cook until brown (approximately 10 minutes).
- Add wine and let alcohol cook out (approximately 5 minutes).
- Bring heat back to low and add tomato paste.
- Keep stirring for about 10 minutes.
- Add stock and let sit over low heat for 20-30 minutes (the longer the better but make sure sauce isn't totally evaporated).
- During last phase, add tablespoon of corse salt to water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add pasta and cook 2 minutes under proposed cooking time.
- Keep some pasta water to the side when finished.
- Toss sauce and pasta in a pan and add a bit of pasta sauce to help separate pasta and also bind sauce.
- Serve with shaved or grated Grana Padano cheese.
Keywords: Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese, Bolognese, Simple pasta,
Things to do in Bologna
Needless to say, along with visiting the University and other destination sites (such as the famous statue of Neptune) having this dish is one of the things to do in Bologna. A must at that. If you can’t get yourself to Bologna anytime soon, follow the below Dish Our Town rendition of this classic recipe and transport yourself to this vibrant town through making a dish of Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese.
Where to Have Tagliatelle alla Bolognese in the World:
For my money, of all the Bologna restaurants, the acclaimed “Al Pappagallo” is the place to have it (at least for the first time). This place has made it for years, and though popular, it’s not overrated. Don’t overlook the succulent lamb chops as a second dish.
How about making your own pasta while visiting? Here's a list of cooking classes in Bologna.
Worth trying if you are there for more than one night is “Ristorante Vicolo Colombina”, located in a small alley a few steps from Piazza Maggiore, in the heart of the old city. Outside of the Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese, there is a guinea fowl pasta dish that my daughter recommends highly. On a warm night, sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere.
Where to have Tagliatelle alla Bolognese in New York City:
Nowhere, unless you want to book a table at my apartment. Rent an Airbnb, purchase your ingredients at DiPalo Specialty market in Little Italy or Eataly (World Trade Center is preferable).
Where to stay in Bologna:
The Hotel Metropolitan. It was located right in the city center of Bologna and is walking distance to all the best restaurants including Al Pappagallo. Well-appointed rooms, modern bathroom, breakfast included. Hospitable staff with many good recommendations, so no need for a Bologna guide.
Where to eat in Bologna:
Other than the aforementioned, there are more casual eateries we recommend. Eataly Ambasciatore (not to be confused with Eataly World) is housed in a beautiful bookstore and offers many fine local dishes at a good price.
Caffe Delle Sette Chiese (the 7 churches) is not only a site to be visited, it also has a fantastic restaurant within and makes for a great respite from a day of sightseeing.
Lastly, there is Mercato di Mezzo, which has many food stalls, our favorite being "Pescheria".
Things to do in Bologna:
Neptune fountain stands in the aptly named Piazza del Neptunno. It's one of Italy's most iconic fountains and for the town of Bologna symbolizes a time in which it was a Papal State. This supposed gift was responsible for several buildings having been torn down to make room for it. Now it stands there in splendor for all to adore.
The 2 towers of Bologna, are remnants of medieval structures that were one prominent in Bologna. One can imagine a Gotham City of the 12th and 13th centuries. A landmark that cannot be missed.
University Library of Bologna has a catalog as deep as it is old. It is simply awesome. Makes one want to read more.
Here are some more things to do in Bologna, as recommended by Bacon is Magic.
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