Travel Bites: How To Cook Tagliatelle al Ragu.

By Posted in - Emilia-Romagna & Italy & Travel Blog on September 4th, 2013 Traditional Bolognese ragu.

The Hungarians call it bolognai spagetti, the British refer to it as spag bol, and in the United States, we say spaghetti Bolognese. This simple plate of spaghetti and meat sauce has gained worldwide popularity, except in Italy where there is no such thing, in part because Bolognese ragù is customarily served with fresh tagliatelle, a flat porous noodle from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy that is ideal for thick sauces.

It’s no secret that spaghetti Bolognese is loved the world over. In fact, a 2009 BBC survey revealed that 65% of Britons said they can make the recipe by heart. I can only imagine that the number would be about the same for the United States, where spaghetti doused with meat sauce rivals beer in popularity at colleges. However, true Bolognese ragù is meatier than its tomato-laced imposters and always contains a combination of finely chopped carrots, celery and onion. So then how did the beloved Italian dish of Tagliatelle al Ragù get so butchered by the world?

Tagliatelle Bolognese Recipe being prepared by Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio. To understand, one may only have to look at how recipes can change from one town to the next in Emilia-Romagna.”In Modena, where I grew up, the mortadella filling that is stuffed into tortellini is pre-cooked before being folded up into the pasta,” Chef Ivan Poletti says. “But just 30 kilometers away in Bologna and Ferrara, the filling is fresh when it is wrapped up.” Now, just think about how much change can occur in 4,000 miles. Boloney anyone?

Bolognese ragù is in Poletti’s DNA–he grew up eating his grandmother’s sauce, which she cooked every Sunday over a wood fire for Tagliatelle al Ragù. Poletti now shares his version of his family’s sauce with diners at Bologna’s Cantina Bentivoglio, an acclaimed jazz club and restaurant in the city’s Old Town district.

With the help of our good friend Nicholas Montemaggi of Emilia-Romagna Tourism, we were able to get Poletti’s recipe for Bolognese ragù for our story on Men’s Health: Cook Real Bolognese Ragù. However, we also wanted to share the recipe here along with Poletti’s recipe for homemade tagliatelle, so you can try the traditional Bolognese dish for yourself. I made the sauce a few weeks back for Beth’s family and everyone really enjoyed it. Because I didn’t have the time to make fresh tagliatelle, I substituted in fettuccine, which worked pretty well. The biggest thing to remember is that the sauce needs to simmer over low heat for at least three hours.

Traditional Bolognese Ragù
(Serves 6 as a first course)
Recipe by Chef Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio

What you’ll need:bologneseragu_collage_pics

½ cup, plus 2 Tbsp of olive oil
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced carrots
½ cup diced onions
10.5 ounces lean beef, minced
½ cup minced parma ham
1/3 cup minced bacon
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 cup of red wine
3 Tbsp of tomato sauce
1 Tbsp of tomato paste

How to make it:

1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, onions, and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables turn a golden color, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the beef, ham, bacon, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beef caramelizes, about 6 minutes.

3. Gradually add the wine, stirring continuously, allowing it to evaporate as you mix it in. Next, add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and just enough water to cover the meat. Stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower the heat to low. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld and deepen, about 3 hours.

4. To prepare the pasta, transfer ragu to a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Transfer the cooked and drained pasta to the sauté pan and mix quickly with a fork, being careful not to break any of the pasta. When well mixed, immediately transfer the portions to plates and top with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 servings.

Tagliatelle Bolognese Recipe being prepared by Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio.

Rolling-pin homemade sheet of pasta
(Serves 6 as a first course)
Recipe by Chef Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio

What you’ll need:
3 ¾ cups 00 flour
6 eggs

How to make it:

1. Place the flour in the center of a cutting board so that it looks like a volcano with a crater.

2. Break the eggs into the middle of the flour crater. Mix it first with a fork and then by hand, working the dough to obtain a mixture that is not too elastic or too hard.

3. Shape the dough like a ball and cover it with a moist cotton tea-towel. Leave the mixture rest for about one hour.

4. On the cutting board, roll out the pasta, turning and flattening so you obtain a semi-circular shape about 1/3 inch thick. If necessary alter the humidity (and therefore the elasticity) of the sheet of pasta with a bit of flour. You can also roll the pasta in sheets with a pasta machine.

Preparing the tagliatelle:

Tagliatelle recipe being prepared by Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio.   Homemade tagliatelle being cooked by Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio

1. Cut the flattened pasta into strips about 19½ inches wide and roll each strip in, sprinkling it a small amount of flour so that you have a tube 2 ¾ to 3 ¼ inches wide.

2. Cut each tube into strips of pasta about .6 centimeters wide. Place these on the cutting board and then wrap 8 to 10 into a form resembling a “nest”. Each one of these is a serving.

3. You can cook the tagliatelle immediately or keep them for a future occasion by drying the nests on a tray covered with a light paper towel on your counter top. The pasta can then be kept for a few days.

4. Cook the tagliatelle in an abundant amount of boiling salted water until it’s al dente and rises to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. As the pasta is cooking, stir it once or twice to keep it from sticking together. Makes 6 servings.

Bolognese ragu simmering at Cantina Bentivoglio in Bologna, Italy   A serving of homemade tagliatelle at Cantina Bentivoglio in Bologna, Italy.

Head of Administration Vincenzo Cappelletti and Chef Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio

Vincenzo Cappelletti holds a plate of tagliatelle Bolognese ragu at Cantina Bentivoglio in Bologna, Italy.   Chef Ivan Poletti of Cantina Bentivoglio.

Two parting scenes from one of our favorite Italian restaurants…

Vincenzo Cappelletti at Cantina Bentivoglio in Bologna, Italy.   Cantina Bentivoglio Restaurant in Bologna, Itay.

Know Before You Go

Cantina Bentivoglio

Via Mascarella, 4/b, 40126 Bologna, Italy
+39 051 265416

View Larger Map

Fun Facts
  • Wine has always been hallmark of Cantina Bentivoglio–60 years ago the restaurant was a wine warehouse and tavern. Its cellar now features a magnificent collection of Italian wines as well as top selections from France, California, Australia and New Zealand vineyards.
  • In 1989, the restaurant’s jazz club opened in the 16th century wine cellars of Palazzo Bentivoglio.
  • Cappelletti and Poletti both agree that nobody makes Bolognese ragù quite like their their grandmothers.
  • Wynton Marsalis’ performance at Cantina Bentivoglio tops Cappelletti’s list of favorite shows at the jazz club.

For more stories from Emilia-Romagna, check out:

Peace, Thrills and Hijinks on the Trebbia River
Soul Searching in Emilia-Romagna with #BlogVille
Emilia-Romagna in 10 Snaps: An Instagram Session
Under the Porticos of Bologna: The Starter Series

Want more Italy? Follow travelers as they journey through Emilia-Romagna this summer with #BlogVille on Twitter.

*This is story is part of Blog Ville, a campaign created and managed by iambassador in partnership with the Emilia-Romagna Tourism Board. As always, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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(17) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Leyla Giray -

    September 4, 2013 at 11:02 am

    This looks absolutely delicious and I plan on trying it. Just curious about how the beef will caramelize, since it tends to sweat liquid when fried… but it sounds utterly yummy. Off to the shops I go!

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures -

    September 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    That pasta looks AMAZING!!!! I’d skip the meat though. 😉

    • Randy Kalp -

      September 9, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Yeah, I need to work on a vegetarian version so Beth can try it out. Nowadays, that shouldn’t be too hard. If I come up with a veg. recipe, I’ll let you know.

  • Steph -

    September 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I love this! I love Italian cooking, I loved Bologna, I love ragu, I basically just love everything about this article. Definitely going to give it a try.

    • Randy Kalp -

      September 9, 2013 at 8:39 am

      Haha! I couldn’t have said it better myself. The ragu is actually pretty easy to make. Just remember to give the sauce enough time to simmer and have enough water in the skillet as it simmers to keep the ragu from burning like Leyla suggested.

  • Corinne -

    September 6, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Great article and recipe! I can’t wait to try this. YUM!

    • Randy Kalp -

      September 9, 2013 at 8:41 am

      Thanks Corinne! I think you’ll really enjoy the dish. It’s a perfect weekend sauce.

  • Leyla Giray -

    September 7, 2013 at 12:38 am

    OK – Saturday at the farm. I’m going to make the sauce, minus the parma ham, which my local French rural shop doesn’t seem to have in stock – and Jambon de Savoie would be sacrilegious as a replacement. Not does celery seem to grace the shelves. Never mind. I have everything else. And no, I’m not making my own pasta. I have some perfectly acceptable linguine calling me. Stay tuned!

    • Leyla Giray -

      September 7, 2013 at 10:44 am

      And in reply to myself I have to say this was exquisite! All I would do is make sure you add a bit of water during the simmer because if you have a gas stove it will only go so low and you might burn the sauce – so keep an eye on it and if the liquid evaporates just add a bit more water. That was GOOD!

      • Randy Kalp -

        September 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

        So happy to hear you enjoyed the sauce! I agree with you about the simmer. I actually had to add more water to mine, because I didn’t “cover” the meat with water the first time I made it. Instead, I just added a little bit at first and after about 30 minutes Beth was like “something doesn’t look right here.” After I added in some more water, everything was good though.

  • LandLopers Picks of the Week -

    September 7, 2013 at 5:04 am

    […]  Travel Bites: How To Cook Tagliatelle al Ragu […]

  • Pete @ -

    September 9, 2013 at 6:09 am

    One of my favorite cities and meals. Looks delicious!

    • Randy Kalp -

      September 9, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Oh yeah, we fell in love with Bologna too. We’d definitely like to get back to the city for an extended stay.

  • Gary Lynch -

    September 15, 2013 at 4:40 am

    For your totally incorrect information, the British call it spaghetti Bolognese too. Don’t know where that phrase from, but maybe you should be more careful next time. Great recipe all the same, thanks.

  • Maria Bain -

    October 2, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Well that’s my dinner tonight sorted thank you! Unfortunatly I think I will have to buy pre-made tagliatelle. When I have more time this weekend I may venture to make everything from scratch. Pleased that you only need 1 cup of red wine in the recipe..

    Can I ask you how you got the opportunity to take those amazing photographs in the kitchen?

  • Raffaella -

    October 7, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Yum yum, reads and looks delicious! When you pass in the Maremma area of Tuscany, you might want to try to prepare traditional ‘tortelli maremmani’ 🙂 … or you can try at home with the recipe on our blog, buon appetito!

  • Jeremy -

    April 6, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Now that’s what pasta SHOULD look like!