I was curious to find out exactly what fettuccine Alfredo is. I’ve frequently heard it mentioned in American TV shows and movies, but I’ve never found anyone in Italy who has heard of it. So I did a little research and came up with this.
Fettuccine dressed with butter and parmesan has been eaten for hundreds of years in Italy. The story goes that in 1914 Alfredo di Lelio
had the bright idea to add a lot more butter. Apparently he thought it might help his heavily pregnant wife keep her lunch down. Just what you need when you’re feeling queasy, half a pound of butter ;-) With the help of a bit of nifty PR (courtesy of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford), the dish became popular in the US. Alfredo’s restaurant still exists in Rome and enjoys a great deal of custom from American tourists. Alfredo’s now also has three restaurants in the states. Over the years American chefs have amended the recipe to include cream.
This is the original recipe from Alfredo’s restaurant. The recipe is for 4 portions, but it’s sooo heavy, I reckon 6 would be nearer the mark.
By the way, it does taste very nice, but I think I can feel my arteries hardening as I type :-)
In truth there probably isn’t one authentic recipe for Ragu alla Bolognese, but this one is close enough. There are however countless inauthentic ones. It bears little or no resemblance to the dish known as Bolognese or Bolognaise found outside of Italy. It is also never served with Spaghetti!
On October 17, 1982, the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, “after having carried out long and laborious investigations and conducted studies and research”, announced the following recipe to be the official one. I’m sure that every family in Emilia Romagna has their own version though. Serves 4.
A ragu Bolognese style is a meat sauce that is slow simmered for at least an hour to develop a complex flavor and proper thickness. Cooking the ragu in a heavy-duty enamel or similar pot will hold the heat steady and help to give a velvety texture to the ragu. Bolognese ragu is a classic sauce for lasagne and tagliatelle. The sauce also freezes beautifully.
Bolognese sauce (ragù alla bolognese in Italian) is a meat- and tomato-based pasta sauce originating in Bologna, Italy. It is typically made by simmering ground meat in tomato sauce, white wine, and stock for a long time (often upward of four hours), so that the meat softens and begins to break down into the liquid medium. The original sauce is not done with minced meat; instead, whole meat, usually beef or veal, is chopped with a knife.
Spaghetti alla Bolognese, or spaghetti bolognese which is sometimes further shortened to spag bol, is a dish invented outside of Italy consisting of spaghetti with a meat sauce. In Italy, this sauce is generally not served with spaghetti because it tends to fall off the pasta and stay on the plate. Instead, the people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous meat sauce with tagliatelle (‘tagliatelle alla bolognese). Outside the traditional use, this sauce can be served with tubular pasta or represent the stuffing for lasagna or cannelloni.
While “Bolognese” is undoubtedly the most popular ragù in this country, it is also the most misunderstood.
The ragù you get by that name is usually a characterless tomato sauce with pea-like bits of ground beef floating in it, bearing little resemblance to anything you’d find in Bologna.
And not, in any sense, a ragù.
True ragù alla Bolognese contains no tomato sauce — just enough fresh or canned tomato to add a hint of sweetness and another layer of flavor to a subtle, complex mix. Like all ragùs, Bolognese is characterized by its long, slow cooking, which in this case starts with simmering the meat in milk (to mellow the acidity of the raw tomatoes added later) and wine (some use white, others red), after which the tomatoes are added. The whole lot is cooked together for about two hours
Lagane con pure di fave. From Puglia. This is another example of la cucina povera or peasant food. It uses very frugal ingredients but the results are delicious. These dishes have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance recently in Italy. Rightly so in my opinion. Serves 5
500 grams tagliatelle (preferably fresh) (known locally as lagane)
Put the beans into a saucepan and cover with twice the depth of water. Add salt (the original recipe called for a tablespoon!) and cook over a medium heat, without stirring, until the beans are very soft. Mash with a wooden spoon.
Fry the onion in plenty of olive oil until they are starting to caramelize.
Cook the tagliatelle al dente, drain and mix with the puree.
Transfer to a serving dish, pour over the onions and their cooking oil and serve immediately.
Minestra di ceci from Matera. A few weeks ago some friends and I visited the beautiful town of Matera in Basilicata. After a very pleasant morning sightseeing we visited a restaurant that had been recommended in the ‘Slow Food’ guide – ‘Le Botteghe’ in Piazza San Pietro Barisano. Wonderful simple food. This is my attempt to recreate one of their specialities.
Polpettine al Sugo. A lot of people mistakenly think that this dish was invented in the USA, but although it’s not nearly as common here as it seems to be in the states, it is Italian through and through. It tastes even better heated up the next day. I served it with linguine(a bit of a crime: ragu should be served with a ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle) the first day and polenta the second, but it goes with pretty much every kind of pasta.
Mix together the beef, sausage, the breadcrumbs moistened in a little water, garlic and parsley in a bowl. I find it easiest to use my hands. When it is well mixed, season with salt and pepper and mix in the egg.
Form into small meatballs, about the size of a marble.
Fry the meatballs in plenty of olive oil until they are evenly browned. Drain on Kitchen towels.
Drain the excess oil from the pan, add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes over a medium heat.
Add the passata and basil, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the meatballs and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Serve with your favourite pasta or with polenta.
Now I’ve been here a while I realise that I’ve been very English and got things a bit wrong. :hangs his head in shame: The recipe above is still authentic, but the Italians don’t serve the meatballs with the pasta. They are eaten as the secondo.
Maryann puts it better than I can(see comments):
I think why most people say spaghetti and meatballs originated in American is that they eat it all on the same plate, in the same course. In my family, first the macaroni, then the meat from the sauce.
Prepare the artichokes in the usual way. Slice thinly.
Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan. Fry the whole cloves of garlic until they are well coloured and then remove them from the pan. Drain the artichokes well and add to the pan. Fry for 5 or 6 minutes until they start to colour.
Remove the artichokes and put to one side. Add the anchovies and break them up with a wooden spoon. When the anchovies have completely dissolved, return the artichokes to the pan. Add the wine and stock. Reduce the liquid to half over a high heat. Remove from the heat, seasons with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.
Cook the tagliatelle. Drain and toss with the butter (optional). Add to the pan with the artichokes, mix well and serve immediately.