Photo: IgorDutina (iStock)

Many Italian tourists flock to the city of Bologna to order authentic spaghetti bolognese. Only trouble is, according to the mayor of Bologna, the dish isn’t actually from there. The part in dispute: the spaghetti.

Mayor Virginio Merola tells The Telegraph, “It is strange to be famous all over the world for a dish that isn’t ours… Of course we are happy that it draws attention to our city, but we would prefer to be known for the quality food that is part of our culinary tradition.” Those more authentic Bologna pasta traditions include tagliatelle, tortellini, and lasagna. Grimacing waiters try to explain to tourist customers that “that the dish they are referring to is locally called tagliatelle al ragu, or tagliatelle Bolognese, a flat, handmade egg dough pasta covered in a slow-cooked meat sauce that also has bits of celery, carrots, onions, tomato sauce, slowly simmered with wine.” 

There’s little disagreement that Emilia-Romagna, the Northern Italian region where Bologna is located, is where ragù originated. In the book Pasta, Pane, Vino, author Matt Goulding writes that Bologna, long one of Europe’s richest city because of trade and agriculture, was a natural place for gourmands to flaunt their wealth. A sauce made of expensive cuts of meats, cheese, and wine made sense. Goulding also claims the first published recipe for ragù alla Bolognese appeared in 1891 from a wealthy businessman named Pellegrino Artusi:

Not satisfied with the panoply of meats and cooking fats, Artusi recommended goosing the dish with porcini, chicken livers, sliced truffles, and a glass of heavy cream.

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Tagliatelle makes sense, not spaghetti. You need that a thick and sturdy pasta where the bits of meat and sauce could adhere. So much of pasta is about matching the texture of the noodle to the sauce—think of it like sandwiching a cheeseburger with saltine crackers. Similar composition, yes, but wrong vehicle.

Mayor Merolo is now collecting errant versions of spaghetti bolognese from around the world for new food museum in the city. FICO Eataly World, the world’s largest food theme park, will feature an exhibit of incorrect “spaghetti bolognese” from around the world. It might not be correct, but that said, we’d still eat it.

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