The most common scene at any Italian-American household on a Sunday, is, of course, Sunday Dinner. So, is it “Gravy” or “Sauce”, well, its either… no trivial arguments here. The term gravy is used to describe any sauce made from meat and/or its drippings. When Italians came here from the old country, remember, they didn’t speak English, so they used a term that closest meant to what they were trying to say… for them, it was gravy. Now we call it sauce (which is what it is) but either term is fine. So, on to the “meat” of the matter.
This recipe really cannot get much simpler. It may take some time, but its not rocket science. And while I would love to know everyone’s personal family recipes, here is one that is not only mine, but the most basic and simple that you cannot go wrong with.
Recipe for Meat Sauce or “Gravy”
1-1.5lbs of chopped meat, 1/3 beef; 1/3 pork; 1/3 veal
1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup of fresh chopped onion
1/3 cup of bread crumbs
1/4 grated cheese
1 large egg, beaten, to act as a binder
Salt & Pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well with hands, but don’t reduce the meat to much, handle it gently, mixing well. Roll into balls, 1.5 lbs should easily make 15 meatballs. Don’t make them to big, or too small, I think the perfect size should be about the size of a golf ball, a little larger or smaller is fine. 2 Meatballs per serving with pasta should be fine.
Fry meatballs on all sides in olive oil and garlic until fully browned. Set on a plate of paper towels to drain excess oil. Set aside.
OPTIONAL: fry your sausage, browning on all sides.
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of plum tomatoes, chopped
1 can of tomato paste
1 can of cold water
Salt, Pepper, Basil (oregano is optional, but not necessary)
Simply add all ingredients into a heavy pot, stir while bringing to a boil, continue to stir, add meatballs and/or sausage, once boiling, reduce to a low simmer (usually the lowest setting on the stove), walk away for 1.5 t0 2 hours, and once you see it thicken to your desired consistency, you have the most perfect meal you will ever create for yourself and/or your family. Leftovers freeze and reheat easily. Just remember to freeze them in “portions”. For example, if you are one person, 2 meatballs and enough sauce per package; if you are 2 people, 4 meatballs and enough sauce, etc… don’t be afraid to label how many meatballs are there and when it was made. Either way, I tend to make a big pot of this and even if I eat it twice a week, I have enough for a month or more.
So, that is your basic recipe, which is adapted from my mother’s recipe, but I know people who add in braciole, short ribs, some add sugar to take away from the acidity of the tomatoes (although today’s canned tomatoes are fine, that has improved since the previous century) but some will fry onions with the tomato paste then deglaze with a glass of red wine. Many will argue not to add water, and even talk about the brand of tomatoes that are best. Some will say add day old bread soaked in milk instead of breadcrumbs. They are all valid arguments, variations, but if this recipe is new to you, just go with what is above, and make your variations as you go along to make it your very own traditional family recipe.
Here is another version/variation… but don’t sweat the details, all are good, and the simpler the better: