Spaghetti bolognese is a much-loved dish in many parts of the world. However, in Italy, the only place you'll find it is in restaurants that cater to tourists. The dish most of us non-Italians identify as spaghetti bolognese doesn't have any ties with Bologna, Emilia-Romagna's vibrant capital. Bologna is home to a treasure trove of authentic recipes and the locals are fiercely proud of their food culture. 

In fact, the mayor of Bologna recently launched a social awareness campaign to teach food lovers to choose tagliatelle al ragù, a traditional dish that really does originate there. It's a world away from some variations of Bolognese sauce. Golden ribbons of tagliatelle pasta are served with a rich ragù of onion, celery, carrot, a dash of wine and a careful mixture of meats that varies from kitchen to kitchen. Serve with a generous sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano (grated parmesan cheese), and you're good to go. Traditionally there are no garlic and herbs here, and (another controversy) many bolognese cooks add a dash of milk... But that's another story.

Back to spaghetti alla bolognese!
When we interviewed Margherita, one of our Cesarine hosts in Bologna, she told us that her favourite dish was... You've guessed it... spaghetti alla bolognese.
"All over the world, Bologna’s signature dish Tagliatelle al ragù is interpreted as “Spaghetti alla Bolognese”. Here in Bologna we’re very proud of our traditions, and have always done our best to serve only the real tagliatelle. Many people say “Spaghetti alla Bolognese doesn’t exist!” as a response to this mistake, but they in turn are mistaken… Spaghetti alla Bolognese is actually a traditional - but little known - dish here. It’s one of my favourites. It’s traditionally served on Fridays, which traditionally are days in which you shouldn’t consume meat, or on Christmas Eve." (You can read the rest of the interview here.)

So, spaghetti alla bolognese is not fake news after all! 

Margherita was kind enough to share her family recipe for the dish with you all. It's quick, simple and delicious. Once you've tried it, you'll never go back. Trust me!

Difficulty: easy
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Quantity: 4 people
Cost: low


400g spaghetti
180g good quality tuna (preserved in olive oil)
1 large onion
750g tomato passata (or tinned tomatoes)
Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste


1. Chop your onion finely, then sauté in a pan with the olive oil. 

2. While the chopped onions are softening, put on a large pot of water to boil. 

3. When the onion is translucent and golden, add the tuna, crumbling carefully with a fork and combining well with the onion. After a minute or so, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add a splash of water if needed. 

4. Leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes until it forms a rich sauce. 

5. When the sauce is nearly ready, check the water has reached a rolling boil, add a tablespoon of salt, and put the spaghetti on to cook for 8-10 minutes (check the package for exact cooking times). 

6. When the spaghetti is al dente (it is soft, but has a bite to it), take out some of the pasta water in a small cup and leave to the side. 

7. Drain the pasta, and then add it immediately to the tuna sauce. Turn on a low/medium heat under the sauce and stir the pasta in well. You can add a splash of the pasta water at this point, as the starch inside will help to bind the spaghetti and sauce. It’s now ready to enjoy! 

Learn to cook like the Bolognese do!

Bologna is legendary for its culinary heritage. Learning to make its best loved dishes is the perfect way to really understand the city's culture... The perfect way to remember your trip is by learning the finest local recipes and making them for yourself when you get home! 

Our dedicated masterclasses are just the ticket for food loving travellers! 

Some of our Masterclasses in Bologna

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