This story is over 5 years old.

Italians Outraged Over New York Times’ Bastardized Bolognese Recipe

It’s unclear how the Italians just now came across the Times recipe, which was first published in 2002 and which many readers seem to like—nearly 600 people have voted it to be a five-star recipe.
A more traditional Bolognese sauce. Photo via Flickr user Su-Lin

It's always fun to riff a little in the kitchen, to take a classic and work around the edges until you have something new and delicious. Waffles and caviar? Sure! Surf and turf elk burger? Why not?

But rigatoni with white Bolognese? Oh, hell no.

Some outraged Italians recently stumbled upon the New York Times' recipe for rigatoni with tomato-free "white Bolognese," and let's just say they aren't feeling it, to put it lightly. As Italian news site The Local discovered, they have taken to the comment section to voice their frustrations with the blasphemous take on a beloved and world-renowned dish.


"No, no, no…." one comment titled "Sacrilege!!" began. "Call this recipe as you want but not 'Bolognese,' and do not let any Italian look at you during the preparation. Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

A real Bolognese has to have tomato, among other required ingredients—no tomato, no dice. There's actually an official version—the Bologna Chamber of Commerce ratified the official recipe with a "solemn decree of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina" in 1982. Some exasperated commenters had to summon their emergency reserves of patience to explain this.

"Our first instinct is to quarrel, but we love peace so," a comment from Giovanna and Valentina from Bologna read. "1) ragu alla Bolognese has tomato and no cream; 2) never mix cream and wine!!!!; 3) the ragu you are describing is terrible, please stop to invent recipes; 4) we have white ragu but it is not done like that. Our suggestion is to organize a trip to Bologna so you can understand our great cuisine. – Giovanna and Valentina."

WATCH: How to Make Lasagna with Matty Matheson

And it wasn't just people from Bologna speaking up—people from all over Italy chimed in. One confused commenter concluded that the white version must be for people who have some sort of tomato allergy. "I am Sicilian I am not from Bologna but it does not exist Bolognese ragù without tomato," Salvo wrote. "I suppose this is a recipe for people that are intolerant to the tomato. If you are not intollerant (sic) to the tomato please I recommend you to use the traditional recipe, which is delicious (BUONA) and absolutely unique."


All of this is to say nothing of the fact that the Times recipe calls for rigatoni, a major faux pas. A common mistake is that a Bolognese sauce is often served with spaghetti—in July, the airport in Bologna had to ask Ryanair to stop advertising flights to the city with enticements of "spaghetti Bolognese." Real Bolognese is served with tagliattelle or lasagna.

It's unclear how the Italians just now came across the Times recipe, which was first published in 2002 and which many readers seem to like—nearly 600 people have voted it to be a five-star recipe. Judging from the comments section, it appears to have stoked another fire of outrage about seven or eight months ago. Apparently, hell hath no fury like Italian home cooks scorned… even 14 years after the fact.

But Italians are no strangers to foreigners tampering with traditional Italian cuisine. To name just one example, just look at all the fake Parmesan out there. The Italians must feel as if they are battling against an ever-rising tide of watered-down, crap imitations of their food. Italian food is among the world's most beloved cuisines, but everyone always seems to mess it up.

RECIPE: Spinach Garganelli with Lamb Bolognese

Thankfully, Italian citizens are out there patrolling the Internet on the lookout for any unauthorized recipes. For sanity's sake, they've let some Italian creations go—Pizza Hut probably played no small role in that decision. But Italians, and particularly Bolognesi—have you seen this "jalapeño Bologna" or "bacon Bologna"? That's some real baloney.