Why There Is No 'Best' Cut Of Beef For Steak Pizzaiola

If you've never had steak pizzaiola, it's time to break out the saucepan and the handful of simple, yet intensely flavorful ingredients the dish requires. You might have guessed by the name that one of those ingredients is steak. In the dish, the meat gets seared and then cooked in a flavorful simmer sauce of tomatoes, garlic, and herbs (namely oregano). However, there's no need to buy a pricey cut of meat, or even to decipher the differences between New York strip and ribeye. To make steak pizzaiola, there's no "best" cut of beef, since there are a variety of cooking methods to make it taste nice and juicy.


In Italy, where the dish originated, steak pizzaiola was made with the most available and affordable cuts of meat and a hearty tomato sauce. Many recipes use sirloin steak, but you can use whatever you have on hand — from tenderloin to flank. For thicker pieces, it's key to pound the steak down until it's thin so it sears quickly in a pan and does not become tough. If you have extra time, though, some home chefs cook larger cuts like chuck or brisket, and braise the meat in the tomato sauce slowly. Basically, you can choose whatever cut of beef is right for you based on your budget, time, and the way you want to cook it.

The Italian dish can be made in a variety of ways, with a variety of steaks

Traditionally, steak pizzaiola wasn't meant to be a fussy meal. You can make an extremely flavorful homemade variation with any sort of steak or beef. If you are cooking the dish in a saucepan or cast-iron skillet, just make sure to tenderize the steak first by flattening it with a meat mallet. Whether it be tenderloin, sirloin, or skirt steak, it should be just about an inch thick so it sears in a matter of minutes. Once the meat is seared, take it out of the skillet and set it aside. After you've made your tomato sauce, add the meat back into the sauce to simmer and fully cook — absorbing all the sauce's flavors in the process.


Of course, there are cooking methods that require extra steps and patience. For instance, some recipes call for tomatoes concassé, which adds a preparation step to remove the fruit's skin and seeds, while other, quicker routes just ask you to use a good old jar of canned crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. While the exact origin of the dish is unclear, it's said to have roots in Naples, though Sicilian versions of steak pizzaiola use larger roasting cuts of meat like beef shoulder. If you have the extra time, you can sear larger cuts like chuck, then braise the meat for hours in the oven, bathed in the sauce — or use a slow cooker to do the job.

How to make your own steak pizzaiola

When making steak pizzaiola at home, of course the quality of the beef matters, but it's equally crucial that you have a flavorful sauce to cook it in. There are a variety of ways to prepare the sauce, from simple to more inventive. You may choose to highlight the richness and tang of the tomatoes and make a sauce akin to marinara. Or you can saute mushrooms, bell peppers, and onion as the sauce's base for some extra veggie intrigue. Deglaze the pan with some wine for even more flavor, and play around with whatever tomatoes you like — use canned, or opt for fresh cherry tomatoes if they're in season. Toss in some chopped or whole green olives for some briny brightness. Add some red pepper flakes for a touch of spicy heat. 


How you enjoy the dish is equally full of opportunity. Scoop up the thin, seared, and simmered pieces of steak with lots of delicious sauce and serve it over polenta or alongside artisan focaccia. Sprinkle or melt on some cheese, and garnish with fresh basil. For larger cuts of braised beef, you could shred it into the sauce and toss it with pasta for a nourishing dish. Whatever cut of meat you choose, pair the meal with a hearty grain, bread, or sauteed greens to soak up all the saucy goodness.