Weekend Menu: Tagliatelle ala Bolognese & A Wild Turkey

This weekend show your solidarity with all those who love Italian cooking and make a pot of tagliatelle al ragu al Bolognese, or spaghetti bolognese. Sunday is the International Day of Italian Cuisine and who doesn’t want to celebrate that holiday?
Bowl of San Marzano Tomatoes

The dedicated chefs at ItChefs have declared this Sunday,
January 17, to be the International Day of Italian Cuisine  and the honored dish
this year is tagliatelle al Ragu al Bolognese. One of the missions of the
organization is to preserve and uphold the quality of Italian cuisine. Fair
enough, although the rest of their mission involves getting paid for their work
and was started by an Italian chef in Bali so I’ll let you work that out for


I see their point. Italian food in the States is usually
Americanized Italian and a far cry from what is served in Italy. But, in
authentic Italian tradition, of course its more complicated than that and as
soon as you start to learn about Italian cooking, you begin to realize that the
term “Italian cooking” is too generic to mean anything. A few basic things you
need to know: Italy didn’t become a unified country until around 1860 and even
though they do have a national anthem, they are deeply ambivalent about having
a ‘national’ identity.  First you
belong to your family, then your town, then your commune, then your region,
then Italy, so by the time you get to Italy, you have identify fatigue.  In terms of cooking, it means: you make
it like nonna, you share the same soil and weather with your town, you argue
about recipes with the neighbors on the next block and all mention of “Italian
cuisine” is reserved for the international press. Fork full of pasta


The ItChefs have declared war on “Italian cooking” by trying
to raise awareness of the regional differences and they strive for accuracy in
terminology.  For example:
spaghetti Bolognese, that dish enjoyed everywhere in the world, doesn’t exist
in the city of Bologna. That’s because the region is known for fresh egg pasta
like tagliatelle and dried spaghetti style pasta is a southern Italy food
product. That’s just the noodle and that’s fairly easy to explain. The ragu or
sauce is where there are true fighting words. Should the sauce be beef only,
just beef flank, can it include pork and do you get drummed out of the corps
altogether if you use veal? It took the Accademia della Italiana Cucina 38
years (!!!) to agree on a definition of this dish. I am giving you fair
warning, unless you have 38 years to devote to the conversation, be careful
about starting any conversation about the authentic version of a treasured
recipe because it will be a long night. Over the years, I’ve learned to seal my
mouth, look momentarily engaged and then wander off whenever the conversation
turns to the ‘right’ way to make a dish. 

 While I applaud their good intentions, it’s like closing the
barn door long after the horses have fled. Spaghetti Bolognese is now an
international dish with as many variations as a hamburger, so my suggestion is
make a pot of tagliatelle or spaghetti this Sunday, and enjoy yourself.

 With the whole delicious weekend in front of us, and Sunday
dinner planned, tonight’s mission is to get the brine ready for Saturday night’s
wild turkey. I’ll share more of those details once I get a little more intimate
with the bird.

 Well, Saturday and Sunday are taken care of, but the more
pressing issue of what’s for dinner tonight has yet to be resolved. Happy


  1. Andrew on January 15, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    It’s funny, but I don’t think of spaghetti Bolognese as an Italian-American dish at all. It’s most definitely an Italian-British dish (you know, “spag bol”), but if you go to red sauce joints in Sout’ Philly, you’re more likely to see sauces that derive from Neapolitan ragu.

    Anyway, thanks for the heads up! I’ll definitely cook up something Italian on Sunday… er, that is, something Laziale or Umbrian or Emilian or…

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