HUNDREDS of Italian chefs cooked bolognese sauce in Rome last weekend to show the world how to make the classic recipe correctly.
While the dish has been a staple for millions around the world for decades, Italians claim the original recipe has become so corrupted it is in urgent need of rescue.
Foodies insist the popular dish's apparent simplicity is deceptive, and throw their arms up in dismay when they see chicken or turkey used as a substitute for the key ingredient, minced beef.
In an attempt to restore the dish's integrity, nearly 450 chefs in Italian restaurants across 50 countries cooked spaghetti bolognese with authentic ingredients, including pancetta, carrots, celery, onions, tomato paste and wine.
They had to conform to a 1982 recipe set down by the chamber of commerce in Bologna – the home of bolognese.
Purists insist most people get the recipe wrong from the very start. Instead of spaghetti, they use tagliatelle with the rich meat and tomato sauce, making it "tag bol" rather than "spag bol".
Restaurant owner and bolognese "virtuoso" Massimo Bottura said: "Along with lasagne, bolognese is the most abused Italian dish. There are some crazy versions out there."
The worst he had ever eaten was in Bangkok.
Turkey mince, American meatballs, butter and cream have no part in a true bolognese, say the guardians of Italy's culinary heritage.
"Abroad, when they offer the dish it often has nothing to do with the original," Dal Bolognese restaurant owner Alfredo Tomaselli said.
And it is not only spaghetti bolognese that is subject to abuse in the kitchens of the world.
Other Italian dishes that have gained worldwide popularity, such as spaghetti carbonara, Neapolitan pizza, pesto and the creamy dessert tiramisu have also been compromised, often with results that are close to inedible.
"It is always the great classic recipes that get most twisted around," said Alessandro Circiello of the Italian Chefs Federation. © The Telegraph
MAKE IT YOURSELF: THE PERFECT BOLOGNESE
2 tbsp olive oil
6 rashers of streaky "pancetta" bacon, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, chopped
Stick of celery
1kg lean minced beef
2 large glasses of red wine
2x400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
800g- 1kg dried taglia- telle
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Method1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry the bacon until golden over a medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, frying until softened. Increase the heat and add the minced beef. Fry until it has browned. Pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third. Reduce the temperature and stir in the tomatoes and celery.
2. Cover with a lid and simmer over a gentle heat for 1 to 1½ hours until it is rich and thickened, stirring occasionally.
3. Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling, salted water. Drain and divide between plates. Sprinkle a little parmesan over the pasta before adding a good ladleful of the sauce. Finish with a further scattering of cheese and a twist of black pepper.