Several years ago, chef Antonio Carluccio told a crowd at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that Britain’s beloved spaghetti Bolognese—their dear spag bol—wasn’t even Italian. “There was spaghetti Bolognese, which does not exist in Italy,” he said. “In Italy, it is tagliatelle Bolognese, with freshly made tagliatelle, and Bolognese without any herbs whatsoever.”
Although Carluccio seemed to take issue with the oregano and basil and parsley that Britons tend to stir into their sauces, the actual mayor of Bologna is taking it one step further. According to The Local, Virginio Merola (who must be very, very busy) has been ranting on Twitter about the pasta dish, ripping a page out of the Outraged White Dude playbook and calling it “fake news.”
“Dear citizens, I’m collecting photos of #spaghetti Bolognese around the #world, speaking of fake news,” he wrote in Italian. “This comes from #London. If you can send me yours, thanks.” He attached a photo of a signboard from a restaurant advertising its “Specialty of House [sic],” which was the cursed entree.
He received more than 20 responses and photos, including a jarred “homogenized spaghetti bolognese” from England, a kids’ version in a squeezy pouch from Copenhagen, and premade packages of spag bol from Utrecht, Belgium.
It’s not that Bolognese sauce isn’t a thing: The problem is that Italians don’t typically serve it over spaghetti, opting for wider tagliatelle instead. According to The Telegraph, the Accademia Italiana della Cucina once wrote its own recipe for bolognese sauce at the request of Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce. That recipe—which didn’t include any garlic, oregano or basil—was even officially notarized on October 17, 1982. (What simple times the early 1980s were.)
Unfortunately for Merola, cookbook author Piero Valdiserra told The Guardian that spaghetti Bolognese, or spaghetti al ragù, had existed in Italy for more than 500 years—and dude brought receipts. As he researched his book, Spaghetti Alla Bolognese: L’altra Faccia Del Tipico (Spaghetti Bolognese: The Other Side of Tradition), he learned that dried spaghetti had been eaten in and around Bologna since at least the 16th century. And sure, they ate tagliatelle too, but since it was a fresh pasta, it was usually only on the plates of the wealthiest residents.
“As far as I am concerned, I remember myself, my friends, my relative and families, consuming spaghetti al ragù forever, so it is not only a matter of documents, but also family history,” he said.
So it’s not accurate to call spaghetti Bolognese “fake news.” It might only show up in Italian restaurants that cater to British tourists, or on menus in restaurants in England, but it does exist. Deal with it, Virginio.