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Feb 14, 2013 12:37 PM

Bolognese vs marinara sauce?

Perhaps my Google skills have degraded, but I can't seem to find out what the difference between bolognese and marinara sauce is. Just a question of interest as I started going to a local Italian deli and they have Bologense, Marinara sauce and meat marinara sauce. What is difference between the meat marinara sauce and the Bolognese?

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  1. Bolognese is primarily a meat sauce, with just a bit of tomato for flavor. For instance, my favorite Bolognese recipe from Mario Batali calls for just 3 oz of tomato paste to 2 lbs of meat. The rest of the liquid in the sauce is wine and milk.

    Marinara sauce IS, at it's simplest, a tomato sauce. You can make a very fine marinara with nothing but tomatoes, a little olive oil and garlic, IMO - and I'm sure there are plenty of people who would say you don't even need the garlic. You can add meat to it, but you need to call it something else (at the very least, marinara sauce with meat), because if you say "marinara sauce," people are going to expect a basic tomato-only sauce.

    12 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      I have several jars of both, if I were to serve sauce on the side of lasagna would you go with the marinara or the Bolognese? I imagine it's personal preference the lasagna involves a Bolognese sauce, but just wondering.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        Probably neither - if you're serving lasagna Bolognese, you don't need more sauce (unless you didn't use enough when making the lasagna). I have had lasagna Bolognese served on a pool of bechamel, which I thought was a nice touch, but I can't really imagine putting more Bolognese on top of lasagna Bolognese. If you are serving it to people who prefer a very tomato-y lasagna, I suppose you could serve the marinara on the side...but again, I wouldn't.

        If you're doing an American-style lasagna, I'd go with the marinara, but again, only if the lasagna was dry for some reason. All the cheese in an American-style lasagna would overwhelm a Bolognese sauce, IMO.

        ETA: Part of the reason I'm having such a hard time picturing a Bolognese sauce served "on the side" is because good Bolognese is REALLY thick and meaty - it's almost the consistency of ground beef taco meat. It would really be like serving a side of meat, not sauce.

        1. re: biondanonima

          I see, your description gives me more of an idea of the difference. The lasagna is plenty moist for most, but my SO is a sauce all over lasagna kind of person so I thought I'd take the time to prep either for him.

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            If it's out of a jar, I suspect the difference is that the marinara is vegetarian, and the Bolognese contains meat - I wouldn't expect a traditional home-made style Bolognese sauce in pre-made form, and I've often seen the term used for a tomato sauce that contains ground meat.

            Home-made bolognese tends to be very, very dense - it's more like you toss it with the pasta rather than pouring it over.

            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

              I wouldn't expect a traditional home-made sauce, in a jar

              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                It's actually from a local Italian deli who makes all of their sauces and jars them in house. From a glance at the ingredients it seems to contain similar ingredients to the marinara sauce with the inclusion of beef and cream. I haven't opened the jar yet, but will check out the texture differences when we finally get to them. In case I wanted to open them to try them out, I assume most tomato sauce freezes well?

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Yes, marinara and bolognese both freeze very well. Chefj is right, though - I doubt the Bolognese will be as thick as a typical homemade version would be. C Oliver's comparison to sloppy joe is very apt - in fact, mine is usually even thicker/drier than sloppy joe.

            2. re: biondanonima

              I got the suggestion the first time I made Hazan's Bolognese sauce to cook it til it was the consistency (not the taste, god forbid!) of Sloppy Joe.

              1. re: c oliver

                OK, now I'm getting the idea. While we called it marinara sauce, I think the sauce we always had when I was a kid with spaghetti which was simmered all day and quite thick was Bolognese. It doesn't look that thick through the jar, I'm sure it'll still be tasty.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Making marinara from scratch is practically as easy as opening a jar. Bolognese, however, takes hours. But I make a 4X or 5X recipe and freeze. Google, if you wish, for her recipe. It's so worth it.

          2. re: biondanonima

            Well ragù is the generic name for any sort of meat sauce (Bolognese sauce's full name being ragù alla Bolognese), so I usually just refer to marinara with meat in it as ragù.

            The names don't mean anything to most people anyways; I often have to refer to marinara as spaghetti sauce s people know what I am talking about.

            1. re: Bryson

              Coincidence that you mentioned ragu today...I have a lb of ground lamb to be used and was pondering a lamb ragu.

          3. The simplest answer:

            1. Marina sauce: plain tomato sauce with no meat.

            2. Marina sauce with meat: the above sauce added to sauteed ground beef/pork.

            3. Bolognese sauce: a more complex meat sauce that usually involves dairy, wine, stock etc along with the tomato and meat. There's no "100% authentic" bolognese sauce and recipes wildly vary. Most seem to start with a mirepoix (sauteed carrots, onions and celery) to which a ham product is added followed with ground beef/pork and sometimes even liver, then tomato paste is added, then cooked down with some wine and stock before finishing off with some dairy. It's a much richer (and tasty) sauce than a plain marina with ground meat added to it.

              1. One other difference between Bolognese and marinara: Bolognese can be simmered for a good four hours; marinara generally doesn't need to cook for more than an hour, if that.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  PK, I would add that, IMO, Bolognese MUST be simmered that long.

                2. Bolognese is a rich meat sauce with a minimal amount of tomato (one or two per batch) while a Marinara sauce is primarily tomatoes with some herbs and spices.

                  I would believe the meat marinara sauce is their marinara sauce with meat added.

                  In regards to lasagna, according to an Italian coworker, you use Bolognese to make the lasagna.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: dave_c

                    I couldn't resist and just did a mini taste test. The Bolognese sauce is actually quite thick and has a much deeper more developed flavor than the marinara sauce which rings of the acidity of fresh tomatoes. It seems it's more than the marirnara sauce with meat added particularly as the ingredients list has additional ingredients with additional vegetables, meat and fresh tomatoes as the first ingredient vs cannned tomato sauce in the marinara sauce. What do people normally use marinara sauce for? It seems that my mom was always making a Bolognese whether she called it that or not and we never had this thinner more tomatoe-y flavored sauce.

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      Yum! Bolognese - deep, rich, complex and hearty. Marinara - bright, acidic, light. The way I've had marinara and spaghetti was side dish/counter-point to heartier, richer protein.

                      1. re: dave_c

                        dave, I think that's an excellent distinction. I can't quite imagine really liking a whole big bowl of marinara but rather as an accompaniment for chicken, etc.

                      2. re: fldhkybnva

                        Marinara would be good for your dish, put the sauce on the plate, the piece of lasagne on top. Using the bolognese would be redundant, IMO.
                        It's a great sauce for lighter dishes, pasta, cutlets, etc, where one would not want the beefy, richer bolognese taking over the dish.

                        1. re: wyogal

                          Well, we had lasagna last night and you were all right, no additional sauce needed. However, with the last pan extra sauce was necessary so I guess that means it was probably a bit too dry but not sure why it differed so much.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            What exactly did you make the lasagna with?

                            And, btw, your SO isn't from New Zealand is he? I know someone from there who has to have tomato sauce with/on everythig. Drives his wife batty. She fixes good food and he drowns it with that :(

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Well, the same local deli provided the lasagna - made homemade by an old Italian grandmother and then frozen unbaked. I can ask specifically next time I'm in the store but it was quite hearty and meaty.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                Oh, no problem, I thought you made it. And I saw on another thread that the second lasagna, chicken IIRC, got dropped into the oven :( That would certainly account for it being dry! But really chicken would likely just be drier.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Oh yea, that was tragic. Well, initially it was tragic and the fire that followed. However, you might be right about the chicken but either way I tasted a bite of the pasta that fell in the oven and it definitely didn't hold a candle to the chicken. Though, that could be that it also had spinach which I knew when I bought it but not sure why I didn't recall that I'm not a big fan of spinach mixed into some dishes particularly as it usually seems to be spinach with this unusually potent flavor which ruins it for me. So, no harm loss in the happy belly category at the end of the day.