What’s in a Name? A Not-so-Italian Bolognese

by Jenn on October 6, 2010

in Budget,Dairy Free,Diabetic Friendly,Dips and Sauces,Gluten Free,Meats,Wine


Bolognese, or at least the bolognese I grew up with, is my mom’s pasta sauce (and no, this is not something she calls “California Style“).  I love her sauce – she would make about 20 servings at a time, and then freeze it so we could pull it out and use it whenever we wanted.  Perfect on top of pasta, with veggies, in lasagna, oh so many many delicious plates can be made with a simple bolognese sauce…I’ve played with her recipe a lot, and found that I tend to like it using fresh tomatoes, and adding in some wine – it’s still rich and tomatoey, I just like the flavor and texture a bit better this way.  I hope she doesn’t mind :)

After reading a bit about bolognese, I’m pretty sure what I grew up with and this sauce are definitely not a traditional bolognese sauce.  According to Wikipedia (obviously a most trusted source in all things culinary), authentic bolognese doesn’t actually have that much tomato in it.  Not only that, but a traditional ragù from Bologna is made with milk!  Actually, this sauce looks to be a pretty interesting hybrid of ragù alla napoletana and ragù alla bolognese.  Maybe I should call this an American ragù?  Seems more fitting than trying to pass it off as an authentic bolognese.  And just to go against tradition a bit more, I happen to like mine served alongside some creamy polenta.

Why does it matter what I call it?  Maybe it doesn’t.  But to me, nomenclature is important, and calling things by their rightful names is part of what gives them meaning.  Now that I know what a bolognese sauce is (or someone please correct me if Wikipedia got it wrong!), if we all started calling just any meat-based pasta sauce bolognese, might we one day forget the original?  I think it’s paramount in the world of food to stay true to correct names, especially given that food is such a source of identity and culture.  Actually, I think this not just about food, but about many things in life.

Speaking of identities, gluten free identity is also important.  Twitter has been an invaluable medium for so many of us learning about gluten free foods and issues, and yet there does not seem to be agreement on exactly how to refer to gluten free tastiness there.  I did a little survey, and it turns out there are several different hashtags that are most commonly used to refer to gluten free things.  Five actually: #gf #gfree #glutenfree #gluten and #celiac. The gluten free community is split up between at least five hashtags!

I used all 5 today in one tweet, it took up 38 characters!  I often see people using multiple hash tags to refer to gluten free (myself included), and it seems necessary simply because everyone has their own conventions.  Maybe there was an official one being used at one time, but at least at the moment it does not seem to be that way.  If you follow only #glutenfree, you may miss what everyone is saying who tags with any of the others and lose out on some valuable info.  Now that I’ve learned this, I follow all five.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus as to what is best for the gluten free community to call themselves on twitter.  Based on my very informal and totally unscientific survey, there are advantages and disadvantages to each.  I’m not sure what should be chosen, but I think we should all work together to try to agree on one when referring to gluten free food.

Gluten Free Twitter Hashtags – Pros/Cons:

  • #gf
    • Pro – Short!  This little hashtag takes up a mere 3 characters, and “GF” is often used elsewhere on the web to denote something gluten free.  I personally use GF a lot as an abbreviation for gluten free…
    • Con – Is also used to mean “girlfriend” on twitter.  This means a fair portion of tweets in this stream are not about gluten free goodness.  However, a quick glance shows the gluten free folk are putting forth a good effort of overtaking this hash tag.
  • #gfree
    • Pro – Still short, and a bit clearer descriptor than “#gf”
    • Con – Seems to be associated with a particular person, and so usage may connote an endorsement of that person and not necessarily general gluten free stuffs.  Seems to be one of the least used.
  • #glutenfree
    • Pro – Super clear.  We all know what this hashtag means.
    • Con – Getting kinda long… this one is tough for those of us who are a bit more verbose (who, me?? ha!).
  • #gluten
    • Pro – Still clear we’re talking about gluten issues.  Still relatively short.
    • Con – Not quite clear if talking about gluten or gluten free.  It doesn’t feel right to tag an amazing quinoa & veggie dish as “#gluten” when there is none present…. Also seems to be one of the least used (maybe for this reason?)
  • #celiac
    • Pro – Short, and anything suitable for celiacs should be gluten free
    • ConCeliac is more than simply a gluten free diet, it is an autoimmune condition.  I’d argue we should leave “#celiac” for references specific to the disease.  There are plenty of gluten intolerant/gluten free folk out there who are not celiac, and may not know to look up this hashtag.

Did I forget any?? Any reasons for or against one or the other that I missed? I think my vote is for using #gf.  #gf is the shortest, and seems to be the most frequently used.  I’m not sure we can all agree on just one to use, but what is clear to me is that until this week I have been missing out on lots of great gluten free info by not following all five of these hashtags.  Maybe you are too!

I love the solidarity and support that the online gluten free community offers, and besides everyone’s awesome blogs, Twitter is one of the great mediums where that happens.  I have made some fantastic relationships with gluten free friends on Twitter, and learned a ton of great information.  The more we communicate and become a strong cooperative global community, the better informed everyone will be about exactly what it means to be gluten free, and how to enjoy delicious food when avoiding gluten.  Names are important.  They are important when it comes to the food on our plates, as well as our own identities, individually and as a larger group, even in a broader community.  Let’s make sure we can all find each other when we are reaching out to the world!

So while you’re making your own pot of not-so-authentic-bolognese sauce, what hashtag will you be thinking about using when you tweet??

One other reminder: the deadline is quickly approaching for submitting to the GF Substitutions roundup! Questions? For details, just click on the logo in the sidebar or below.  Email me your submissions to jenncuisine at gmail dot com! New and old posts, failures or successes, are welcome as long as you made some type of substitution when creating a lovely gluten free dish (and you’re bound to make substitutions at some point in GF cooking, so I’m sure you have something to share!).

If you would like to use this badge, just copy/paste the code below into your post for the roundup!

Also submitted to – Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Gluten Free Wednesdays


2 tbs. olive oil
2 c. onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
3 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
Italian herbs
1 c. marinara sauce
up to 1 c. red wine
1 c. beef broth (if you need to, make sure that this is gluten free)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil on med-high heat.  When hot, sauté onions and garlic until softened.  Add ground meat to the pot, stirring just to help break up the meat a bit, and continue to sauté until fully cooked.
2. Keeping heat on medium high, add tomatoes, bell peppers, bay leaf, herbs, and sauce. Bring to a boil, and then add in the wine and broth.  I use a lot of wine because I love the flavor mixed with tomatoes.  If you don’t want as much wine taste, use less.  However, if you do use less than a cup, you may want to make up the difference with beef broth so that you are working with the same liquid amount.
3. Bring everything down to just a simmer, and let simmer covered for at least 3 hrs.  Give it a stir to check on it every hour or so, if for nothing else to help the aromas spread through your home and make yourself hungrier.  After the 3 hr mark, when the flavors really start to develop, then I would go ahead and add salt/pepper to taste.  In the end you want a nice thick, rich sauce.  Nothing soupy.  You can go longer if you want by adding water if things start to dry out a bit (I still lose steam even when my lids are on my pots).  I cooked my sauce a good six hours.