The Cuts Of Meat Used For Steak Pizzaiola

Steak pizzaiola, or steak cooked in the style of a pizza maker (this is the literal meaning of the last word in the phrase), is yet another one of those numerous dishes with murky origins. Some claim that it originated in Sicily, but most say it's more likely to have come from Naples or Campania. Many, however, seem to agree that it was created in order to disguise the flavor of cheaper cuts of beef or even horse meat. While steak pizzaiola probably predates the 1940s, by some accounts, its popularity spiked around WWII at a time when Italians were experiencing food shortages. They had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on, hence the need to tenderize tough, cheap meat using leftover pizza sauce. The recipe gained ground in the U.S. in the 1970s and '80s, however, as Americans began branching out from spaghetti with meatballs and lasagna and experimenting with other Italian dishes.

These days, there really isn't any such thing as cheap steak, and you'll be hard-pressed to find any recipe worth its fleur de sel that encourages you to go out and buy less than the best of anything (thanks a bunch, Ina Garten). Still, many steak pizzaiola recipes do seem to call for beef cut on the thinner side, including hanger or skirt steaks such as might be used for fajitas. Other recipes call for sirloin, which is what passes for a budget cut in today's inflationary times.

Some cooks opt for other cuts (and meats)

There are some steak pizzaiola recipes, however, that opt for using a thicker cut of meat like chuck steak, which can be left whole if bone-in or cut into cubes if boneless. These recipes can be simmered low and slow on the stovetop or even oven-braised, although a Martha Stewart recipe calling for the latter technique with a bone-in chuck steak was decried by a commenter as not only being nontraditional but even defying the very idea of pizzaiola.

Still, there are no food rules so hard and fast that they can't be tweaked or even broken if that's what suits your purposes. In fact, if you really want to wander outside the bounds set by tradition, you could even opt for making pollo alla pizzaiola using boneless, skinless chicken breasts in place of steak. Turkey pizzaiola, while even more off-piste, is also a thing, since it features on the menu of meal delivery service Hello Fresh. There are also vegetarian pizzaiola recipes using tofu or cauliflower for those whose dietary restrictions require such things. We've yet to unearth one for Hawaiian-style Spam pizzaiola complete with canned pineapple chunks, but if you feel like taking on this culinary challenge, we salute your efforts (although we won't be angling for a dinner invite).