They (we) call it a Sunday Gravy because it really suits a Sunday best. The long simmering, the wine drinking, the letting-it-sit-on-the-stove-till-the-family-arrives kind of gravy. Thanks to the Sopranos, people all over the world have heard of Sunday Gravy. Some scratch their heads in wonder as to why some call it sauce and others call it gravy. It’s a hotly debated topic but, in essence, this “stew” of veal necks, sausage, pork ribs, bracciole, pigs feet, etc. should always be called a gravy over a sauce. It requires long and slow cooking and is flavored by the meat, hence it is technically a gravy. Friend of the blog, Joe, at Italyville has a wonderful post on this debate and I’d recommend all who are still confused to check it out.
To make the debate even more annoying, the Italian Americans in this country have kind of created this confusion about gravy vs. sauce. For many Italians in this country, whether you call this type of meal a sauce or a gravy is decided by the family you come from and even the area of the country you live in. For my Italian family, a gravy seems to be ANYTHING that contains tomato sauce. Come to think of it, my family calls anything you put on top of meat or macaroni as “gravy”. But, rule of thumb is if you are in Italy and you ask for gravy, you’re going to get a sauce that contains meat (ragu). Check out Joe’s link for a perfect example of this from the Sopranos.
Sunday gravy can be made with a variety of meats and as long as you have a decent variety, you can not mess this up. Our Sunday Gravy included pigs feet, bracciole, pork necks, veal shoulder, and sweet and hot sausage. Other traditional additions include pork ribs, beef ribs, pork chops, some even put meatballs in theirs. It’s kind of a “what can you get your hands on” kind of meal. With that said, I would like to recommend that you do not skip two key ingredients in order to get optimal flavor – pigs feet and the pork necks. I know, guys, some of you may be squeamish about this but the flavor, OH THE FLAVOR, you get by simmering these delicious bits of offal. If you feel uncomfortable serving them with the rest of your meat, well throw them out after they flavor your gravy. But, personally, I believe these two bits of pig really make the gravy.
So put on your ‘fat pants’, throw on some Sinatra, pour yourself a big glass of chiant’ (Chianti to all you non-Northeastern US Italians) and give yourself a good four to five hours to watch the porky love grow in your pot.
SUNDAY GRAVY (serves a sh!tload of people – at least 6 hungry men)
- 2 pigs feet (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
- 1 pound bracciole (about a 8 inch long piece)
- 2 pounds veal, beef or pork neck bones
- 1 pound veal shoulder (in chops form or cut into 3 inch pieces)
- 1 veal shank (bone-in)
- 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1/2 pound hot Italian sausage
- 1 large onion
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 28 ounce can of tomatos (preferably San Marzano – I prefer pureed over whole)
- some water
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
What to do:
- Season meat with salt and pepper and, with a bit of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot (dutch over, preferably), brown all sides of each piece of meat. Remove and set aside on a plate.
- After all the meat is browned, add the onions and use the meat fat already in the pan to cook till soft (about 6-8 minutes), adding more olive oil if necessary. Add garlic and stir, cook for about a minute.
- Add the wine and deglaze, scraping up the bits of goodness that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Allow to reduce for a few minutes until it has reduced by about half.
- Add tomatoes and one can of water (use the tomato can). Stir.
- Add back the meat except the sausage and bracciole (which won’t be added until the last hour). Bring to a simmer, cover and allow to cook for five hours. Yes, kids, that’s five hours. Ever once in a while stir.
- At hour number four, add back the sausage and bracciole and allow to simmer for one more hour.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper and add some hot pepper if you’d like. Remove all the meat and serve separately from the gravy. Cut the sausage into 2 inch pieces. Serve some of the gravy over pasta and enjoy.