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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Many feel that Bologna is the culinary capital of Italy, and therefore, the culinary capital of the world. Bologna is a funky, vibrant town with a Vespa in every household and an osteria at every turn. It has centuries old architecture, miles of arcade-lined sidewalks, and an impassioned citizenry who love life and excel in food. About midway through my first meal in town, I pulled out my calendar and tried to figure out how I could squeeze in another few days in Bologna later in the year. It was about halfway through his first street-side gelato that my son considered a permanent move. The people of Bologna live their lives with passion. It’s in the food, it’s in the table chatter, and it’s on the street— passion. I love that. In Bologna, we never ate in a restaurant that had been open less than 35 years. It wasn’t the plan, it just happened that way. The average tenure for an American independent restaurant is less than four years, and 90% are closed after five years. Here in a town that knows and loves food, most places are staying open for decades. It’s the passion. While in Bologna, I arranged to film and prepare Bolognese Tagliatelle with a Bolognese chef in his kitchen. We filmed the segment and everything went well, everything except that the cameraperson— my wife— forgot to turn on the video camera. Italians typically use wide flat noodles such as tagliatelle or pappardelle with meat sauce. Tomato is a secondary component to the meat. In America we typically flip that and we use spaghetti while the tomato sauce is prominent. This recipe is a happy medium between the two— less tomato and spaghetti.


1 lb. Dry spaghetti
1 gallon Water
¼ cup Kosher salt
1 ½ cups Marinara (recipe xxx)
2 Tbl Reserved pasta water
4 cups Bolognese (about ½ cup per person)
Grated Parmigianino Reggiano as needed


Cook spaghetti using the directions on the package.

Heat Bolognese in a 2 quart sauce pot and hold hot. Separately, heat marinara in a 1 quart sauce pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add reserved pasta water and hot spaghetti and combine thoroughly.

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