According to legend, it was the U.S. soldiers returning from the Second World War who started opening what would become the ubiquitous pizzerias that began to dot the urban American landscape during the 1960s and 70s.
There’s probably some truth to that. But it’s also true that pizza was immensely popular among southern Italian immigrants to north America long before America GIs left home to go fight in Europe. In fact, pizza first arrived in the U.S. in the late 19th century with the first wave of southern Italian immigration there.
This fact makes it all the more remarkable that tagliatelle alla bolognese enjoys nearly the same or, in some cases, even more prominence in the Italian-American culinary canon.
I write this because I can tell you from personal experience (and my research as a food historian specialized in Italian gastronomy) that tagliatelle alla bolognese only began to become a highly “visible” dish in the U.S. with the Italian dining renaissance that began to take shape in my country in the late 1980s and early 90s. It was during that time that many new Italian restaurants and restaurateurs began to focus on what they called “northern Italian cuisine” and to feature food products and dishes from Emilia.
It was also during that time that a number of high-profile food writers (and commercial and mainstream publishers) began to focus on Italian cuisine that diverged from the classic “red table cloth” canon.
Marcella Hazan was arguably the most famous among them. And her recipe for tagliatelle alla bolognese was not only one of the most controversial (for her addition of cream) but it was also one of the most popular.
It’s incredible to think that this humble however delicious dish has gained so much prominence in the American food canon in such a short span of time. But then again, who doesn’t love tagliatelle alla bolognese?