Did Our Beloved Mary Berry Just Ruin Bolognese?
While Americans fret over issues from healthcare to immigration to corruption, our friends across the pond have their own scandal involving a high-profile TV host drunk with power on a national stage: Mary Berry puts white wine and cream in her ragú Bolognese.
The soothing-voiced former judge from The Great British Bake Off is a darling of British (and by way of PBS, American) food television enthusiasts, and her sweet yet poignant critiques of contestant dishes on the hit baking series put other famously foul-mouthed TV chefs to shame. But Berry herself became the subject of criticism and outrage this week when the second episode of her new Mary Berry Everyday series premiered on BBC 2, leaving some fans “shocked and appalled.” Okay, that’s an overstatement (more on that later).
Titled “Hearty and Wholesome,” Berry tackled tarragon crusted sea bass, a quinoa and bulgur wheat salad and the much debated Bolognese ragú with pappardelle. While Berry does mention that the forthcoming recipe is “my delicious version” of the classic Italian dish, it starts traditionally enough with mirepoix and a mixture of ground beef and pork browning in a Dutch oven. Garlic? Check. Tomato paste? Check. Stock? Check? Stewed and pureed tomatoes? Double check.
But the next ingredients she stirs in caused a minor stir on social media. After a dash of fresh thyme (which has been contested by at least one chef), Berry remembers she must add wine. Her preference? White (though she offers red as an equally acceptable option). That sent some viewers all a-tizzy, who claimed it was near sinful to use anything but red.
After simmering the sauce in the oven for an hour, Berry then stirs in a bit of heavy cream and that addition caused more, albeit sparser, uproar. While she claims it enriches the flavor, some viewers saw it as yet another sacrilege.
But a cursory search of Twitter found only a handful of fans reacting negatively. So it appears this uproar is mostly manufactured. Additionally, a cursory search of Food & Wine’s recipe archives revealed something interesting: Berry’s recipe is right in line with ours. Most of the takes on the dish from chefs like Mario Batali and Andrew Carmellini include white wine, and some add cream, half and half or milk as well. And finally, the dish's official recipe – drawn up by the Italian Academy of Cooking at the request of the region's Chamber of Commerce – contains only beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, white wine and milk.
As there’s also some debate over whether the sauce comes from Italy at all, it seems that the inauthenticity of Berry’s recipe is relatively un-proveable. Berry mentions that spaghetti Bolognese, or “spag bol” as it’s commonly referred to, is actually Britain’s most popular meat dish. With millions of Brits whipping up a batch each year, there’s bound to be a few minor adjustments. As for sticklers for authentic Italian food? They’re better off sticking to dining in Italy.