The Ideal Beef Cut For Flavorful, Balanced Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese, the king of meaty red sauces, is the kind of classic dish that seems to epitomize Italian recipes. Comforting and simple at its core, it brings all the delights that a well-done Sunday sauce can to the realm of pasta. Even so, it can be a complicated recipe for a chef to land the dismount on. From tricky ingredient choices to perfecting the timing of the cooking, there are many pitfalls even a seasoned cook can fall into. Luckily, bolognese wisdom has been developed and passed down for hundreds of years, so we have several clues on how to make it just right. For instance, we know milk is crucial to creating a tender and flavorful bolognese and that a bit of sugar and wine helps balance all the flavors. But there's an important decision you need to make before you even begin your sauce: getting the right meat cut. 

The meat provides the savory backbone of the sauce, offering a flavorful counterpoint to the slightly sweet and acidic ingredients in the sauce. For that reason, not just any pound of ground will do. 

The magically marbled chuck cut

When it comes to beef, fat is often the secret to rich, meaty flavor, so a flavorful cut of beef is often marked by a lovely amount of marbling. But what exactly is marbling? For meat aficionados, marbling refers to the intramuscular fat veining the pieces of meat; the more marbling, the richer the flavor. This explains why the incredibly marbled wagyu beef from Japan is so highly prized. But you don't need an expensive cut like that to make a tasty bolognese. Instead, you can reach for one of the cheapest cuts: chuck. 

Beef chuck comprises the upper ribs, shoulder, and neck portion of the cow. It ranges in tenderness and flavor, so not just any piece of chuck will do. For bolognese, the neck section of the chuck, known as the chuck roll, will work best as it has plenty of generous marbling throughout. Like other cuts of chuck, this portion is incredibly flavorful, but otherwise can be quite tough and needs a long cook time to become tender. Luckily, bolognese sauce fits the bill as it is cooked low and slow like any other traditional Sunday sauce. Once you have your perfect cut of chuck roll, you're just a few hours away from making the best bolognese around.