It’s natural for people to be picky with their favorite foods. For instance, if you send a kid off to school with a jelly-less PB&J, you’re going end up with one ticked off kindergartener. That said, we’re also no longer schoolchildren, and the vast majority of us realize that riffing on the classics is part of culinary innovation.
Still, some people can be very protective of their food traditions – especially when it comes to regional cuisines, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that when the New York Times recently decided to resurface a recipe on its Facebook page for “Rigatoni With White Bolognese,” a few Italians considered it less of a “riff” and more of an outright insult.
As Italy’s The Local points out, colloquially, “Bolognese” now tends to get used for any kind of pasta sauce that includes minced meat. And the NYT’s recipe fits that bill. However, from there, Bolognese purists have plenty of problems with the dish. First, a true Bolognese must contain tomatoes, many Italians argued, meaning a “white Bolognese” is a bit of an oxymoron. “White ragù sauces do exist,” Monica Cesarato, a food blogger and instructor, told The Local. “What’s wrong is calling them ‘bolognese’ – it’s a simple as that.” Meanwhile, others chimed in that using Rigatoni doesn’t fit the Bolognese bill either: True Bolognese is made with Tagliatelle, they claim.
It’s worth noting that back in 1982, the Italian Academy of Cuisine filed a “true” ragu alla Bolognese recipe with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce, and unsurprisingly, it’s just as the purists describe – containing not just ground beef (as well as diced pancetta) but also five spoons of tomato sauce. Think of this recipe as kind of “The Constitution of Bolognese Sauce.” And then obviously let me remind you that even The Constitution has amendments.
Regardless, while we may think bickering of Bolognese seems silly, the controversy made headlines in a few different Italian news outlets including Dissapore and some strange site called L’Huffington Post. And let’s be honest: Discussing the merits of a New York Times social media post is probably a higher-minded endeavor than analyzing anything Kim Kardashian has ever Instagrammed.
However, what could be the most interesting tidbit is, as Munchies wrote, the recipe has apparently been lying around in the NYT archives since at least 2002. It raises the question: How many other recipes is the Times sitting on that could stir more figurative pots than literal ones?