Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Mar 3, 2008 01:35 PM

Difference btwn marinara/bolognese/meat sauce

I am trying new restaurants in an attempt to get my picky DH to broaden his/our horizons. He likes good old meat sauce. Think about your American mama making her sauce with ground beef and tomato paste or sauce - that's what he likes. He cannot tolerate chunks of tomato in his sauce. He literally flicks them off his plate, and whines. So when I am looking at menus what should I be aware of? I think that marinara and bolognese are thinner, and have chunks but I'm not sure, since I never order something like that when I order at an Italian resto. And I am tired of taking him and listening to the whining.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think bolognese is thicker, actually, than meat sauce, traditionally doesn't have tomatoes in it, and is usually a more pink-ish (from the added cream). Marinara is usually chunkier, without meat. But these terms are often used loosely, at different restaurants.

    1. Marinara sauce is a plain tomato--no meat. It is usually just garlic, olive oil and tomato, sometimes with basil. Meat sauce (ragu) is a very broad term, so can be any sauce (typically tomato based) that has meat. Bolognese is a sauce that is orginially from Bologna, and the most revered in Italy--there is typically a little reduced cream that is added at the end, and milk, added bit by bit along with white wine, beef or chicken stock, very little tomato (paste), a soffritto of garlic, onion, celery and carrot,, fresh pancetta and ground chuck. It is essential that a Bolognese is cooked very slowly.

      2 Replies
      1. re: fayehess

        In fact a brass plaque with the official bolognese recipe--similar to what fayehess describes--can be found on a wall of the city hall in Bologna. I recall some ground veal and chicken livers in with the beef.

        1. re: cassis

          these posts are right on...a good bolognese should have a consistency somewhere in the neighborhood of a thick stew.