What an adventure this has been!
From our naivety in recreating the spag bol experience, through to the official “authentic” bolognese (and the very different, but equally “authentic” historic alternatives), then coming full circle to the “legitimate” spaghetti bolognese recipes, this has been one hell of a voyage of discovery.
The amount we have learned about Italian ingredients, cuisine, culture and class has been astonishing, and all from a single dish!
I applaud the bolognese heroes, pantomime villains, restaurateurs, nonnas and anyone else who has made this dish what it is today.
Without bolognese - and especially without the ambiguity, misunderstanding and confusion that surrounds it - the world would be a far less interesting place in which to live.
There have been highlights.
The discovery of outside skirt of beef (aka harami, aka cartello di manzo) was an eye opener and I thank the Italians (via the Japanese) for bringing this to my attention.
Tomatoes and butter. Such a simple mix and one that has somehow evaded me as an Italian flavour for too long. It really is a delicious combination.
The careful alchemy of citric acid, sugar and tomatoes. Hats off to those Dolmio scientists and mixologists, you’ve created a tomato taste more tomatoey than tomatoes themselves.
Special commendation also goes to spaghetti. Under such intense scrutiny, you really have come out on top as the King of Pastas. So perfect, so convenient and so world beating.
There have been lowlights.
Italians really don’t like change, unless it happened in the distant past. Your food is amongst the best in the world and got there through evolution and outside influence. Let it grow because no one wins from culinary dogmatism.
Prime cuts of meat and cream have no place in a ragù. Leave this combination to the French, the best bolognese will be built from austere cuts and a creamless sauce.
And finally, vague cooking instructions do us no favours. If you want the world to get your food right, please meet us in the middle with a coherent and clear set of instructions.
So we’re in the final furlong, but there’s a couple of loose ends I still feel we need to tie up.
The first loose end relates to simple advice.
It’s taken a lot of words to get to our level of understanding of the bolognese story, but I’d like to leave visitors with a cheat-sheet that helps those who don’t care for the analysis to quickly pick a bolognese that suits their needs. I’ve created this decision tree to help you navigate the minefield of bolognese choices.
The second loose end, and our final act, concerns my own chapter in the bolognese story.
Up to this point I’ve been fairly passive in these bolognese creations. I’ve been a recipe consumer rather than a recipe creator. After all I’ve learned, though, I think it is time to offer my own creation in “the bolognese style”.
The pontificating, experimentation and recipe will follow.
Raise the curtain please, for the final act!