Il Ragù alla Bolognese

Tagliatelle al Ragù at a restaurant in Bologna

While I was studying in Bologna this past summer, I stumbled upon an Italian cookbook called “Sfida al Mattarello:  I segreti della sfoglia bolognese.”  I’m no expert in the Italian language, but I believe that more or less translates to “Challenge by the Rolling Pin:  The secrets of Bolognese pasta.”  It was written by Margherita and Valeria Simili, better known as Sorelle Simili, twins born in Bologna famous for their expertise in traditional Bolognese cooking.  Even though it is written in Italian, my fluency in Spanish along with an online dictionary was enough to figure out what the recipe more or less said.

Their detailed recipe micromanages every step giving the impression that this is harder to make than it actually is.  This reinforces my anecdotal observation that for Italians, cooking is as much a ritual as it is a process.  However, if Sorelle Simili tells me that I absolutely have to pour the wine at the edge of the pan so that it is warm by the time it gets to the meat in the center because we do not want cold wine to touch the meat while it cooks, I listen even if it makes absolutely no sense to me.

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Alla Bolognese

A shot of espresso at Bar Romano in Piazza Maggiore in Bologna

This past June, I spent two weeks studying international commercial arbitration at the University of Bologna.  It was an excellent opportunity to go back to Europe (as you probably saw in my post on Madrid) and eat some amazing Italian food.

Bologna is famous for its handmade pasta, in particular, its stuffed pasta.  It is said that in Bologna, they eat “la grassa.”  It literally means fat or rich.  In other words, they eat very well.  The pasta itself is made using only fresh eggs and type 0 flour (vs. 00 flour), which in other regions is often used for pizza preparation.  They mix the eggs together in a “fountain” of flour, slowly incorporate the flour, set the dough aside for about half an hour, and then carefully roll it out into sheets before cutting it.  I bought a book by Sorelle Simili, two elderly Italian women well known in the art of handmade pasta in Emilia Romagna (the larger region of which Bologna is a part), in the hopes of perfecting the technique this summer.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find time for it!  I still have about a month of summer left, though.  Whatever I learn from the experience, I will recount here.

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