If you read me on Facebook, you have already seen this recipe. But I have lots of friends on this Blog who are not Facebook Friends. So, here is a quite detailed bunch of hints and ideas for what Italians call Sunday Gravy. It is the 5th in my series I promised you (my 5 favorite recipes in the world). I love this because it serves a big crowd, and literally can be made into main dishes, sandwiches, sauce, and anything you would use leftover sauce for. It freezes well too! I gave you the simple version on FB, but here I will attempt to go into more detail for those who like to make their own and do their own damage! (If you are a serious cook, please read all the little tips I put in the recipe….I have learned so much in my first 100 years of cooking!) Why is it called GRAVY? Ask any Italian gramma. It cooks all day on Sunday,and you put it over spaghetti, just like Gravy. I always look for the Gravy recipe in Italian cookbooks. Rao’s has one, so does the Sopranos….
Here is my HOMEMADE SAUCE OR GRAVY: I have been using ground turkey and chicken for years now in place of beef and pork, but I do find that the better your ingredients, the better your finished product. So, start with one lb. each ground beef (80/20), and ground pork Italian sausage. Again, I use the Ground turkey products, and I always use HOT Italian sausage. It really doesn’t add that much spice in the end, but it sure makes a great flavor, as it already has a lot of seasoning in it. Saute the meats in a large skillet in about 1/4 cup olive oil*, and smash smash smash until it’s nicely ground. Just before it is brown, add a large chopped onion, 4 or 5 cloves of sliced or smashed garlic, 3 Tbs. basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, or a combo of all together. Salt, pepper to taste, and I ALWAYS add 2 or 3 Tbs. sugar to any acid-y sauces. Finish it by cooking another 10 minutes or so, or till the onions are soft. Now you will add your liquids. I usually put 2 or 3 cups leftover red wine, and two 32 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes. Maybe you like puree, maybe you like whole tomatoes and crush them with your hands. That is up to you. But someday I will show you the blind “taste test” of 6 different canned tomatoes our family did. I can tell you that there were 11 of us, and NOBODY chose the $7 can San Marzano tomatoes that you are told are the ONLY tomatoes in the world to use! Everyone said they had a metallic taste. TIP: If you can find “6 in 1” tomatoes in the can, buy them! Then do your own taste test! (I found these by asking several of my favorite restaurants what brand of tomatoes they use. 6 in 1 kept coming up, so I went on line and found them. They are awesome)…..but if you can’t find them, Progresso came in 2nd for flavor in our family test. Now here’s one of those little tips I told you to watch for: Larry’s high school friend, Chuck Licci, had us over years ago to his gramma’s on a Sunday. She took a liking to me, and told me a little secret about her sauce (her “Gravy”) TIP: She always adds a fatty pork chop to her sauce when she starts cooking. I’m telling you. We tried it both ways, and the flavor DOUBLES when you add this. (plus, my hubby always fishes it out of the finished sauce and eats the chop!) Now you just let this simmer lightly all day, adding water if it gets too dry. Always leave a loaf of Italian bread beside the pot, so that after it has cooked a couple of hours, your family can walk by, tear off some bread, and dunk it in the sauce. This is when you will get a bunch of Geniuses telling you what’s missing!
*About OLIVE OIL:. I have no idea if this is true, but I was told by a very experienced chef that you never use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for cooking or frying. It shouldn’t be heated. Regular olive oil is ok. And I took several classes in Scottsdale at the now defunct Cordon Bleu cooking school and was told that the only oil I would ever need is 1/2 canola and 1/2 olive. It is actually sold that way at Restaurant Depot, where I am lucky enough to have a membership. Again, we will probably find out later that Canola oil causes cancer, or something like that……but for now, that’s what I usually use!
So now you have your sauce. Of course, as I said before, you can actually use jarred sauce but you will need at least 2 jars of it. To finish this wonderful meal, you are going to put several good Meats in a BIG pot. I use some baby back ribs (cut them in half if they won’t fit in the pot), a small pork roast or boneless pork chops (4 or 5), a recipe of sauteed meatballs (below), and almost any other pork product you’d like to use. Just as long as they all fit in the pot. A crockpot works, but it doesn’t hold as much as I make. Bring it to a boil, turn it down, and simmer it all day. If you are doing the homemade sauce first you are going to be in the kitchen a long time. So it’s perfectly ok to make it ahead a few days.
When I serve this in California on our vacation every year in July, I always make it the first day, and everyone has come to expect it. We literally eat it all week…..the meatball sandwiches on Wednesday are always great. I like to try to separate all the meats on a big platter and serve sauce on the side, along with a bowl of steaming pasta, tossed with a little olive oil, butter, and parmesan. (the grandkids eat it just like this….no sauce!). But speaking of MEATBALLS, here’s a basic recipe: 2 lbs. ground meats. Pork, chicken, turkey, beef, or a combination. Laurie, My daughter in law, is a REAL Italian, and she says ONLY beef. So whatever you prefer. To the meat, add 2 eggs, 1 cup bread soaked in milk till it’s soft, or 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs. Then add 1 Tbs. garlic powder, 1 Tbs. Italian seasoning, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper. Mix thoroughly (your hands work great for this), and get the grandkids to make meatballs. About the size of a golf ball is great….but they never get them right. Don’t worry, Granny! You are are bonding and nobody cares if a meatball is perfect! At this point I usually saute them about 10 minutes, OR I bake them on a cookie sheet at 325 about 20 minutes. This makes it easy to drain any grease. I don’t know why, but I just don’t like adding raw meatballs to my sauce…..Go figure.
I hope this recipe was easy to read. Please leave me comments here or on FACEBOOK with questions you may have. Bon Appetit and God bless! cb