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White wine in ‘Bolognese’ is correct

British chef Mary Berry has been the unfortunate victim of a pathetically hysterical ‘Twitter outrage’ after suggesting using white wine in a ragú (or ‘Bolognese sauce’ to countless Brits) recipe.

The ‘controversial’ and ‘shocking’ moment from last night’s show where Mary Berry suggests using an ingredient in an Italian recipe that has been known to generations of Italians as being entirely correct and normal.

Berry, a household name in Britain for her numerous culinary television appearances and cookery books, suggested using white wine and double cream in a ‘ragú alla bolognese’ on her new BBC2 cookery show which aired last night (7 March).

The ‘controversy’, as the press has tediously dubbed it, centres on the fact that for years many people have used red wine when making the tomato sauce for their pasta.

The Telegraph reported that viewers (in fact just the one person whose tweet it was) were left “shocked and appalled” by Berry’s suggestion, while Piers Morgan on his ITV breakfast show has also waded in saying “his” recipe involves red wine and added: “You do not, Mary Berry, with the greatest of respect, ever put white wine in Bolognese.”

Unfortunately, this has led to other people on various social media channels thinking Morgan is correct.

This concocted storm in a teacup is a complete nonsense and ignores Berry’s own words on the show which were to add: “white or red, whatever you’ve got to hand – although I really prefer to add white.”

Despite the protestations of countless tens of ill-informed people on social media, Berry’s recipe is very short of being ‘controversial’ or even ‘wrong’.

In fact it is entirely correct. The ragú alla Bolognese is such a classic staple of regional cooking in Emilia-Romagna that in 1982 the recipe was set down in stone by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine).

As per the academy’s website the official recipe calls for:

“300g beef pulp (folder or belly or fesone shoulder or spindle) coarse milled, 150g of pork bacon, 50g of yellow carrot, 50g of celery, 50g of onion, 300g of tomato puree or tomatoes, ½ cup dry white wine, ½ cup whole milk, a little broth, olive oil or butter, salt, pepper, ½ cup liquid whipping cream (optional)”.

White wine is also proposed as the best option in a ragú by other Italian chefs such as Antonio Carluccio and was propounded by the lady credited with bringing Italian food to both US and UK kitchens in the 1970s and ‘80s, Marcella Hazan.

Hazan’s own recipe for ragú in ‘The Classic Italian Cook Book’ clearly calls for white wine not red.

Giorgio Locatelli has pointed out that there are many versions of ragú that change even from village to village within the same region. Ragú recipes even pre-date the arrival of tomatoes in Italy which didn’t happen until the 17th century (tomatoes came from the Americas and first arrived in Europe in Spain). His mother never used tomatoes in her ragú as a result.

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