What Is Bolognese Sauce and Is There Bologna in It?

If you love pasta as much as I love pasta, then you’ve probably had several doctors tell you that you have a troubling amount of pasta sauce in your blood. You also probably have an unnatural love for bolognese! But what is bolognese sauce? Well, if you really loved pasta as much as I do, you would already know. But you don’t, so I win. Don’t worry though, I’ll answer all your bolognese questions, like how do you pronounce bolognese? Does bolognese have dairy? Can you get a blood transfusion with bolognese? And what’s in bolognese sauce?

What is bolognese sauce? 

Bolognese sauce is a ragù, or meat based, sauce that typically contains ground meat, a soffritto of carrots, celery, and onions, tomatoes or tomato paste, white wine, and milk. There is no bologna in the sauce, but, like the meat, its name is associated with the Italian city of Bologna. 

How do you pronounce bolognese? 

Boh-luh-nez! The main thing is you don’t have to hit that “g” or the “e” on the end.

What is in bolognese sauce? 

There are a lot of recipes out there and a lot of different opinions. What sets a ragù alla Bolognese apart from a typical Neapolitan ragù? For the most part, bolognese is not a tomato based sauce. It has a base of carrots, celery, and onions that are sweated, sautéed, and simmered along with pancetta and whatever ground meat is being used. Beef, veal, or pork are popular options. Cook this mix slowly with some white wine, milk, and a dash or tomato paste, or some tomatoes for a classic bolognese. Bolognese is usually served over a flat thick noodle like tagliatelle. Outside of Italy, another dish called spaghetti bolognese has become popular. This dish is basically ground beef, garlic, wine, and herbs served over spaghetti noodles

I’m usually like, “Hey live and let live,” but not the people of Bologna, Italy. This imposter bolognese offended them so much that the Bologna Chamber of Commerce registered the official ragù alla Bolognese recipe in 1982. This bolognese sauce has chopped beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato sauce or peeled tomatoes, dry white wine, whole milk, chicken broth, olive oil or butter, salt, and pepper. This recipe is fairly close to an early recipe found in a 1891 cookbook that used veal and no tomato sauce. Even among Italian purists, there is some variety and debate as to the inclusion of dairy and garlic.

Does bolognese have dairy? 

Typically, bolognese sauce contains milk. But it doesn’t have to! Yes, most traditional bolognese recipes will include some whole milk. But there are a handful of Italian nonnas who passed down delicious bolognese recipes while saying they could get the meat plenty tender without using any dairy. If you want to make bolognese at home, there are plenty of dairy-free recipes out there. And if you’re looking through a menu at a restaurant and want to try that bolognese but don’t want any dairy-associated tummy trouble, just ask your server. And if you’re buying the best bolognese sauce from the grocery store (as recommended by Sporked) just be sure to check the label. 

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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