Elegant yet without being ostentatious, Bologna is a haughty but gritty place, a beautifully colonnaded medieval city. It is Europe’s oldest university town (founded in 1088) and has been a haven for intellectuals and creative types since its inception.
It is a city of two halves; one side is for the bourgeoise – a hard-working, high-tech city located in the super rich Po Valley which is full of high-end restaurants, regal theatres and high value property, whereas the other side is a more honest, humble, obstinate and liberal city which is famous for its art, music, and its graffiti-embellished piazzas rife with musicians, hipsters, late night bars and clubs.
No small wonder Bologna has earned so many historical monikers. La Grassa (the fat one) celebrates a rich food legacy (ragù or bolognese sauce was first concocted here). La Dotta (the learned one) doffs a cap to the city university founded in 1088. La Rossa (the red one) alludes to the ubiquity of the terracotta medieval buildings adorned with miles of porticoes, as well as the city's long-standing penchant for left-wing politics.
Bologna also has been given the moniker ‘La Grassa’, meaning ‘the fat one’ due to its rich and celebrated food culture. Ragù alla Bolognese (or simply‘Ragù’)is a famous dish which originated from the tratorrias of Bologna, and first appeared in a cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi, published in 1891. Since then, the Ragù alla Bolognese has permutated into a range of forms and recipe variants, including the English classic mealtime stalwart: Spaghetti Bolognese.
A taste of Bologna
At the time of writing this article, the world is in shutdown due to Covid-19 restrictions, and it is not possible to travel. Therefore, I want to bring the taste of Bologna to you with this Ragù alla Bolognese recipe. It’s closely based on the original and should hopefully quell your gastronomic ‘FOMO’ at least for the time being!
Ragù alla Bolognese
Ingredients (serves 5-6)