Beef, Pork, And Veal Make The Holy Trinity Of Meats For Richer Pasta

If you want to learn how to make perfect pasta, you can't do much better than grabbing some beef and pork and whipping up some Bolognese. The Italian classic is the quintessential meat sauce, and unlike the tomato-forward jarred varieties many people in the U.S. know, its taste and texture all come from how its unique combination of beef, pork, and veal is cooked. There is the gradual layering of flavors with a vegetable soffritto, wine, and milk, and there is the slow cooking process that draws out fat and gradually emulsifies it into a rich, silky sauce. Bolognese can be made with different combinations of meat, but the traditional version relies on that mix of beef, pork, and veal because of the specific attributes each brings to the sauce.

Balancing beef, pork, and veal in pasta shows an attention to everything meat can bring to a dish — not just flavor but also extra fat and a specific texture. Veal (meat from a young cow) is an exceptionally moist and tender meat and, while it's mild in flavor, it helps keep the sauce pleasantly soft. Pork brings most of the fat in the combo but it also brings an extra sweetness to the meaty flavor that pairs well with tomato, which is why it's frequently the go-to meat in Italian pasta dishes. Beef brings the biggest flavor but it also adds a more coarse texture that gives the sauce some bite.

Combining beef, pork, and veal creates a sauce that's complexly flavorful and luxurious

You can limit yourself to just two of the three meats and still get a good result, but nothing will reach the luxurious heights of combining all three. Veal is typically the one that gets dropped because of its price, but it also brings one big thing to pasta that the others are usually missing: gelatin. While a combo of beef and pork will be very flavorful, the high gelatin content of veal helps the sauce emulsify into a smooth, rich, and consistent texture. Without it, pasta sauce mixtures tend to break and have the fat separate out.

While the easiest and most natural way to combine these three meats for pasta is using ground versions of each, like in a Bolognese, you don't need to limit their special chemistry to only that. This combo's winning formula is also why it's the basis for the best Italian meatballs, and cooking your meatballs in the sauce will lend some of the veal's gelatin to a tomato sauce in addition to flavoring it with the beef and pork fat. It's also a great mix for an Italian-American Sunday gravy, where a veal shank can thicken the sauce while pork shoulder adds fat and beef stew meat adds flavor. It may take a few extra bucks, but if you want the best, richest pasta, these three are partners for a reason.