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.



branny October 6, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I’ve been waiting on this recipe to come up! Authentic or not, it looks good. I like the addition of red wine.

Jenn October 6, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Thanks Branny!!

Kim - Cook It Allergy Free October 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm

How funny. While I was recently looking up the recipe for my grandma’s authentic bolognese sauce, I decided to compare it to many on line. It was crazy how different hers was from many of the ones I found on blogs and recipe sites. Hers does use very little tomato and she does use milk!!
And I love this whole conversation about the different hashtags for the gluten free community. I tend to use #gf or #gfree most often only because I am usually running out of characters. I wish we could all agree on one so that we were all in one place! Hmm… maybe you will start a movement. Maybe we should take a vote and then agree to use the winner! LOL
Great post, Jenn!

Jenn October 6, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Oh wow, I’d love to see her authentic recipe! I bet it tastes amazing with milk and adds a nice richness to the flavor.
Yes, I am running out of characters all the time too, 140 is already a tight requirement. Maybe I should put up a vote!

Rosa October 6, 2010 at 11:49 pm

A lovely recipe nonetheless! At home, I also always ate a similar “Bolognese Sauce” (neither was it the real thing).



Jenn October 6, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Thanks Rosa! Hmmm so maybe this isn’t just an American hybrid…I will have to come up with a fancier name :)

Ali @ His Birdie's Nest October 6, 2010 at 11:54 pm

I’m new to being gluten free (2 weeks) and I’ve found Twitter and the blogging community to be a HUGE help! It wasn’t until the other day when you asked the hashtag question did I even realize I should be searching hashtag for more GF blogs and recipes… HELLO, Allison! haha I voted for #gf because it’s the shortest, so to me, it seemed the most logical. I can see what people are saying about it also meaning girlfriend. But in searching #gf tags I’ve only run across 3 or 4 people referring to their girlfriend instead of gluten free. Anyway, it’s my favorite :)

This recipe sounds delicious, I cannot wait to try it :)

Jenn October 6, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Ooh another vote for #gf! Hmm maybe it depends on what time one looks at the stream – I’m at least 6 hrs ahead of N. American folk so maybe I see a different set of tweets… I hope you enjoy the “bolognese”!

Kira October 7, 2010 at 12:24 am

Having just made an eggplant bolognese, I found myself wondering what exactly constituted a bolognese. Thanks for this helpful information!

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 12:28 am

Your welcome! BTW I love the idea of using eggplant with bolognese, it goes so well with all of the flavors!

Prerna@IndianSimmer October 7, 2010 at 12:25 am

Hey, I never ate anything bolognese so I would never know what’s real n whats not. All I am bothered about is it should taste good and look like a bolognese. And this one DOES!
So this is my REAL bolognese :-)

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 12:29 am

Ha I like your definition! Thanks!!

Magic of Spice October 7, 2010 at 1:48 am

Well it may not be completely authentic bolognese, but it sure does look good…I think “American ragù” would be a great name :)

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 8:31 am


Cherine October 7, 2010 at 8:53 am

Your bolognese look soooo good!!

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 9:36 am

Thanks so much!

turkey's for life October 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

Like you, I always play about with recipes to make them suit my taste and also, like you, I agree that it’s really important to remember correct recipes, names and origins of food. However, we’re in Turkey and things get a little clouded over here – are the recipes, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Greek? Turkey has lost its claim on so many dishes because other countries have marketed and exported them more effectively. Fortunately, the blogging world seems to be highlighting and protecting original and authentic recipes. Thank you internet! :)

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Yes, the internet is awesome for finding great original versions of recipes!

Kim October 7, 2010 at 1:29 pm


This looks amazing!! I love that it has red wine in it. I am going to give this a try and hope the family enjoys – they are picky. If not, that is more for me! 😉


Jenn October 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Thanks Kim! Enjoy!

Rachel October 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I use #gfree as my hashtag. Whenever I try to follow #gf I see so many crude tweets about people’s girlfriends I can’t appreciate the stream. For the most part I’ve just started following lists of gluten free people. Once in a while a new gluten free foodie will get introduced with a retweet and I’ll start following them too.

Sauce looks very yummy by the way. Thanks for sharing!

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Oh now that’s a great idea! Instead of following a mess of several hashtags (and I def. have come across some rather unsavory tweets following the #gf twitter stream), why don’t we just have one large global gluten free list?? I think that’s genius!

Heather October 7, 2010 at 6:36 pm

This looks very, very tasty. :)

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 7:12 pm


Carol, Simply...Gluten-free October 7, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Since I put my two cents in on twitter regarding the has tags already let me just say this – I so agree with you about having met many amazing people on twitter and the level of communication it provides. I have now met people in person who I originally met through twitter and I have yet to be disappointed, quite the opposite. It is kind of amazing to meet someone face to face for the first time that you have been communicating with over time. I guess it is like a quicker, shorter version of being pen pals. And I too love our community!

PS the recipe? Amazing!

Jenn October 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Thanks Carol! I love your analogy to pen pals, that’s exactly what I feel like twitter is! Love meeting other great GF folks from twitter!

InTolerantChef October 8, 2010 at 11:52 am

I don’t know how to twitter or how to use face book either! I have enough issues trying to blog. Perhaps when my preteen is up to that sort of stuff she can teach her old mum… Here’s another point for you though, coeliac is how we spell it in Australia, have you tried that spelling?

Jenn October 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Oh that’s a very good point! I just added that one to follow now too…

Brenda Deans October 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm

I have invited some new friends to a casual Italian meal. I was delighted when they accepted, but they have mentioned that one of them is on a gluten-free diet. I know she’s a fabulous cook and this is the first time it has been mentioned. So, I’m going to have to do a bit of research to find out just what she can and cannot eat. A bit of a challenge and I hope I can come up with something to keep the rest of us happy!
Apropos this interesting thread, one of the courses was/is going to be an authentic Bolognese sauce. Like most of us, I had my favourite tomato-based ‘ragu’ and it was not until I was in Rome and Tuscany last year that I came across the ragu which is made with ‘milk’. Oh my! It was wonderful and I’ll never look back. I will continue to make a basic tomato ragu, but the authentic Bolognese sauce is far superior IMO.
From the ingredients I think I’m still going to be able to make this, but I’ll have to search for some gluten-free pasta in this small Canadian city!
What an unexpected delightful surprise to find your ‘blog’ when searching for more information on gluten-free meals.
I’m English, (Canadian too now), and we used the spelling coeliac in England, but in Canada and the States it is spelled celiac, and that’s how I routinely spell it now. (My husband is a physician and I routinely do the typing!).

Jenn October 12, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Yes, I think now that I know what an authentic Bolognese is, I will have to make it the correct way sometime (or go to Bologna and try some!). Good luck finding pasta, if you can get a decent flour mix you can also make your own, it just will require more eggs and be a bit more fragile than regular wheat-based pasta….

gfe--gluten free easily October 14, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Hi Jenn–Sorry I’ve been away so long … gosh, it’s hard to keep up, especially while being away at BlogHer Food. Anyway, love this sauce whatever you call it 😉 and I’m crazy about Twitter. It’s the best few minutes of each day connecting with some really terrific folks. I was so skeptical before I joined in and now it’s my favorite way to interact with folks. Short and sweet, and so many amazing, caring, and fun folks on Twitter. I got to meet some of my Twitter buddies at the IFBC and BHF and that was just wonderful! Hope to meet you soon, too! Great post and discussion. I do use the hash tags and usually go with whatever I can fit in, but I don’t search on them often. I just follow the gf list I’ve set up for the most part if I’m looking for that subject area.


Jenn October 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Yes yes, I hope to meet you as well!! Now I just need to find the conference that all of my blogging friends are going to so I can see everyone, or maybe I can convince y’all to go to the same one as me. Unfortunately I will probably only be able to attend one next year, it’s not cheap traveling halfway across the world :)

Heather Jacobsen April 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm

How funny! I just made bolognese sauce (with spaghetti squash) two nights ago and tweeted about it. Someone asked for the recipe, which I did not have since I went by memory. And then I was browsing foodgawker today for “gluten-free, dairy-free” and your Bolognese was the first recipe that came up!

In the traditional style they also use a little bacon and some do heavy cream instead of milk. But yours sounds delicious. I did not use any milk in mine and it was just fine! I would love for you to share this on Stuffed Pepper!

Also, its funny that your mom uses the term “California Style”. My mom uses that term, too. It must be something fad that went around at some point when we were kids. :) (Following your link now for the explanation).

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