Sunday, June 16 2024

As you all know, cooking is a serious topic in Italy.

This is precisely why certain recipes are “patented.”

This is the case with Bolognese.

At the Bologna Chamber of Commerce, a recipe had been filed in 1982.

Now the reference recipe changes, with small variations that I will try to illustrate in this article.

Like all the recipes on my blog, I remind you that I was born and live in Italy.

Therefore, the recipes are authentic to the Italian tradition and have no unforeseen variations.





Originating as a meat dish in Renaissance France, the recipe for Ragù traveled as far as the Neapolitan Bourbon court and then spread throughout the Italian peninsula.

It was the time when royalty set trends in fashion, customs and even gastronomic art.

Today Ragù Bolognese, is one of the best known and most famous recipes in the world, very famous at home, has spread abroad along the routes of Italian emigrants who brought with them the flavors of their homeland, boasting countless international variations, such as Spaghetti Bolognese: an American transposition of the original recipe prepared with ingredients and according to local taste (often mixing insights from different parts of Italy).

But where did Ragù originate and where did its two most famous versions (the Neapolitan one the Bolognese one) come from?

It is common usage to trace the origin of the term Ragù to its French counterpart “ragout,” a term once used to define stews of meat and vegetables cooked over low heat for a long time.

The ancient ancestor of what we now call Ragout was in fact a preparation from the medieval French folk tradition of the 12th-14th centuries, which consisted of stewing pieces of meat, vegetables or even fish over low heat and in broth. It could be either a rich or a poor dish, depending on the cuts of meat, spices and garnishes that were used and, of course, did not involve the use of tomatoes.

From France to Italy, this type of preparation spread through the kitchens of the Neapolitan Bourbon court and the cardinal kitchens of the Vatican, but it is still a method of cooking meat with considerable variations and ingredients.

In 1773 Vincenzo Corrado in his “Il cuoco galante” describes for the first time a dish in its own right that we could call a kind of first Ragù, but the ingredients are not yet defined (veal, sweetbreads, shrimps or eggs) and the cooking is still done in broth with vegetables and herbs. It can be used to flavor other dishes or as a filling, but there is no sign of pasta or tomato yet.

But by now the recipe has become part of Italian gastronomy and spreads throughout the country, finding modifications and new ingredients such as the use of tomato, which first appears in “Maccheorni alla Napolitana,” contained within Francesco Leonardi’s 1790 cookbook “L’Apicio moderno”.
But Ragù though famous is still considered a meat dish in gravy, which is how Puccini also recalls it, who in his Bohème still mentions it with this meaning.

The final transformation occurred at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century when almost all gastronomic authors opted for the substitution of tagliatelle instead of macaroni (a variant already suggested by Artusi) and the constant inclusion of tomato.
To complete the ingredients of Ragù will finally arrive fresh pork, but only after World War II, as reported by the famous “Il Cucchiaio d’Argento,” proposing a recipe that has remained substantially unchanged until today.

Recipe, or it would be better to say recipes in the plural, which, however, do not correspond in all respects to the crystallization of Ragù deposited in 1982 at the Bologna Chamber of Commerce by the Bologna Delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine, and which we report below.
But perhaps that is also the beauty of Italian cuisine, which is of a widespread and open family setting and can vary from home to home.






  • 14 oz of coarsely ground beef
  • 5 oz of fresh sliced pork belly
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 2/5 cup of red or white wine
  • 1 cup of tomato puree (passata di pomodoro)
  • 1 tbsp of double tomato concentrate paste
  • 1 cup of whole milk (optional)
  • 1 cup of meat or vegetable broth (or stock cube)
  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste



In a (very good quality, heavy) nonstick or aluminum or enameled cast-iron casserole (the crock pot was once widely used) 10 inches in diameter, melt the ground or chopped fresh pork belly with 3 tablespoons of oil.

Then, add the finely chopped herbs (carrot, onion, celery) on the cutting board (do not use the mixer) and wilt the chopped slowly over medium-low heat, always turning with a wooden spoon (the onion should definitely not take on a burnt taste).

Raise the heat and add the ground meat and, always stirring thoroughly, cook it for about 10 minutes until it “sizzles.”

Pour in the wine and let it evaporate and withdraw completely, until it no longer smells like wine, and then add the concentrate and tomato puree (passata).

While continuing to stir well, pour in a cup of boiling broth (but you can also simply use water) and cook slowly, with the pot covered, for about 2 hours (even 3 hours depending on your preferences and the meats used), adding hot broth as needed.

Halfway through cooking, according to an advisable ancient tradition, the milk can be added, which must be allowed to recede completely.

Finally, when the cooking is completed, adjust the salt and pepper.

The ragout should turn out a nice dark orange color, enveloping and creamy.



Traditionally in Bologna, “cartella,” i.e., beef diaphragm, was used, which is difficult to find today. In its absence, or in addition, collagen-rich front cuts such as muscle, shoulder, underbelly, belly, and brisket are preferred.
Mixtures can be made.
According to a modern technique of procedure, the meats are browned well separately, alone, and then mixed with the mixture of odors also already browned.

1) Mixed meats: beef (about 60 percent) and pork (about 40 percent) (loin or capocollo);
2) Knife chopped meats;
3) Stretched or rolled pork belly instead of fresh pork belly;
4) A scent of nutmeg;

1) Veal meat;
2) Smoked pork belly;
3) Pork only;
4) Garlic, rosemary, parsley, other flavorings or spices;
5) Brandy (as a substitute for wine);
6) Flour (for thickening).

1) Chicken livers, hearts and sweetbreads;
2) Skinned and crumbled pork sausage;
3) Blanched peas added at the end of cooking;
4) Soaked dried porcini mushrooms.


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