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Emilia Sloan and her brother Christian tuck into some spaghetti bolognese. Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Just because kids love it, don't think spaghetti bolognaise is child's play.

Italy's culinary gift to the world is controversial fare; purists, like Sydney chef Nino Zoccali, prefer fresh tagliatelle with their ragu.

Certainly, the meat-based bolognaise sauce originated in Bologna, northern Italy - where else? - but spaghetti is from the south, which makes for star-crossed eating at the best of times.

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To set the record straight, Bologna's Chamber of Commerce asked the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (the Italian Academy of Cooking) for an official bolognaise recipe in 1982.

Three decades on, it has more twists and turns than Berlusconi's love affairs, though a mixture of pork and beef mince (sometimes veal) is the basis of most versions. And yes, it's served with tagliatelle. Maybe we should call it tag bol instead of spag bol?

Even the spelling divides nations - bolognese is an Italian word, while the French word, bolognaise, is what most Australians know it as.

Every chef has a version - Maggie Beer, like Elizabeth David, adds chicken livers and George Calombaris uses nutmeg and cinnamon.

"When done properly, it is simply one of the greatest things in the world to eat," Zoccali says.

"In Australia we are used to eating bolognaise sauce with spaghetti, but this is not how they eat it in Bologna.

"Try it with some fresh or dried egg pasta (fettuccine or tagliatelle) and you will see how much better the dish is when using these types of pasta."