Vegan Bolognese and Polenta Lasagna: Italians react to New York Times recipes

Retakes of traditional Italian recipes provoke reaction from Italy.

First there was the Smoky Tomato Carbonara, with the addition of cherry tomatoes for a "bright tang," that led to an outcry among Italians around the world.

Now The New York Times has provoked the Italian community further, with not one but two retakes of classic dishes from the Bel Paese.

The American newspaper published a recipe for "Vegan Bolognese with Mushrooms and Walnuts" which, promised author Alex Weibel, "tastes as rich as the original," despite containing ingredients such as soy sauce and Marmite.

However, perhaps sensing a potential backlash, the article warned readers that "some may balk at this version of Bolognese because it bypasses the meat and dairy."

And balk they did. "As an Italian, call it what it is, but it is most certainly not Bolognese!" - wrote one - "Please do not co-opt time honored traditional recipes with alternatives that have zilch to do with what to Italians is sacred!" 

More than one person commented: "You had me up until 'Marmite'."

Some politely asked The New York Times to delete the recipe. Others were more severe:

"Do you continue to abuse the Bolognese term? First of all, we native Bolognese do not put mushrooms in the sauce, then there is only one recipe. What you troglodytes eat is typical American trash food."

It doesn't stop there however. After the Smoky Tomato Carbonara and the Vegan Bolognese, The New York Times rolled out the 'Polenta Lasagna' with its "dense, creamy texture and a sweet corn flavor.”

On Twitter the recipe for 'Polenta Lasagna With Spinach and Herby Ricotta', by Melissa Clark, was introduced: "This hearty variation on the usual lasagna uses layers of Parmesan-topped baked polenta in place of pasta."

Reactions on Twitter included multiple use of the hand-over-eyes emoji, with one Italian commenting: "But why using a wrong name? Lasagna is a specific thing done with pasta, ragù, Parmigiano. If you change the basic please change the name. What do you think if a name a simple meatball, hamburger. STOP #VIOLENCEforITALIANCOOKING."

News of the recipes was reported in Italy today by several newspapers, generating a range of responses, from disdain to irony. Comments (translated from Italian) under a post on the topic by newspaper La Repubblica include:

"With the tomato carbonara they attacked Rome and central Italy. With polenta lasagna, Bologna and northern Italy. We await the attack on the South / Islands and we have a declaration of war :)"

Another wrote: "All we are missing now is marshmallow parmigiana."


For traditional Italian food recipes, minus soy sauce and Marmite, see our recipe pages. Photo Shutterstock.