Il Talismano della Felicita, Italy, Translation Notes

Direct Translation: Ragu alla Bolognese

For six people: 300 grams meat- 50 grams butter- 100 grams of pancetta  – a onion- a carrot – a celery stalk – a cup of broth or milk – a teaspoon of tomato paste – salt – pepper – liver – chicken gizzards and hearts – prosciutto – dried mushrooms – half a cup of cream – white truffles

This renowned stewed sauce called ragu in Bologna, a condiment or  a filling for lasagna, requires a special process. Calculate 300 grams of meat for six people. If you so desire, combine meat, pork or veal together, but together these meats should weigh 300 grams and the meat should be the most salient ingredient. Grind this meat and put it in a pan with 50 grams of butter. Add 100 grams of cut up pancetta into small pieces, a onion, a yellow carrot, and a celery stick. If you would like, you can also grind the pancetta and vegetables. Add a clove and put the pan on the fire, sauteP1100650eing it until the meat and the vegetables are of a very dark golden color. Cover the meat with a cup of broth or water which you will put in twice. Add a large teaspoon (not more!) of tomato paste, mix the ingredients, season with salt and pepper, cover the meat again with water, put over low heat, and let it simmer. There is a more refined Bolognese tradition  that recommends to add milk instead of broth or water. This is a question of taste. It is true, the addition of milk give the sauce a greater finesse. To this ragu you can add chicken liver, beef liver, pieces of prosciutto, dry mushrooms, etc. In this case, it becomes the “great condiment” alla bolognese. The chicken gizzards, hearts, livers and the rest (already partly cooked) are added at the end of cooking the ragu, which should stew for another half hour. This bolognese sauce is effectively completed with half a cup of cream and with white truffles.

Translation notes:

“Questa rinomata salsa composta che si chiama a Bologna ragu” 

Whenever you translate Italian, it’s hard to bring Italy’s poetic passion for food out. The more I look at these recipes the more it becomes clear to me that this has to do with the construct of romance languages. In romance languages,  adjectives are placed in a specific order and cannot be placed sequentially as they can in English. In other words, it is not  “renowned sauce mixed that is called in Bologna ragu.” In English “renowned” and “mixed” are placed on the same side of the noun. This is where the subtlety of romance languages really becomes interesting. In romance languages, adjectives are placed based on importance. The adjective that appears before the noun is usually considered the most important, while the less important adjective is placed behind. Thus in this sentence, “renowned” is more important than “mixed.” Additionally, in English we rarely use the word “that.” Although perhaps excessive, it seems to add a bit of poetry to the sentence. The Italian sentence adds 3 words that the English language omits. This may not seem like much, however when reading these recipes it makes a large amount of difference. Adding these 3 words makes the recipe seem more verbose and enthusiastic than our language allows.

diminuite il fuoco e lasciate cuocere pian piano – I have had a hard time translating “il fuoco” when writing these posts. When looking at American recipes, we hardly use the word “the flame” for cooking. Most recipes refer to “high heat”, “medium heat” and “low heat”, these italian recipes constantly refer to “il fuoco” (the flame.) Since most Italians use gas stoves, this seems very natural. However, since Americans often use electrical stoves this doesn’t work. In other words, instead of referring to the size of the flame for us the amount of heat is more important.

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