Necks and Feet and Shoulder, Oh MY! It’s Always Sunday When You Make This Gravy.

Sunday Gravy

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

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.

Meat for Sunday 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.

Pig Foot for Sunday Gravy

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add tomatoes and one can of water (use the tomato can). Stir.
  5. 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.
  6. At hour number four, add back the sausage and bracciole and allow to simmer for one more hour.
  7. 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.

37 thoughts on “Necks and Feet and Shoulder, Oh MY! It’s Always Sunday When You Make This Gravy.

  1. I hope you had company yesterday to help you eat your gravy.

    I make my “Sunday gravy” with brasciole only (5 hours), I love your additions. I froze mine and then reused it in a lasagne and it was even better!

  2. Oh, yum. I’m seriously craving a day of slow simmering and wine-sipping. This looks perfect. I love how it makes use of all the delectable “scraps”!!

  3. You did a great job! Must have been that kind of Sunday. I also did something similar on my blog. And to add the fodder about gravy vs. sauce, I grew up saying ‘gravy’ because that was the culture at the time. Somewhere along the way as the world globalized, I switched to ‘sauce’ as witnessed by my calling my post a ‘Sunday Sauce’.

  4. This is so funny… I’ve been doing a ton of research on Italian American regional cooking, etc., and gravy has figured BIG in my reading.

    This recipe looks fabulous and perfect for an all-day get together. I agree – any day would be Sunday with this delicious mess (and I say “mess” with the utmost affection and awe).

  5. It’s that decent variety that makes the Sunday sauce (ragu) somethin’ special. I’d side with ragu being a thick sauce with meat and gravy could be an all-encopassing term…gravy with meat?

  6. You guys are bringin me back to my childhood in South Philly when–on your way home from Mass—you could smell the gravy cooking as you walked thru the neighborhood–Yum– Also, you non believers—PIGS FEET ROCKS!!

  7. Siiiiiii!!!! I want some of your Pies de cerdo! He, he, love to see this kind of meat in your blog… this way, I don’t feel like a martian in blogosphere ;D. We love pig’s feet at home and got many recipes for them. My husband not only loves its gelatin texture, he could eat them for lunch and dinner during a whole week :D.

    Gravy sounds a bit like a sofrito… whatever the name is… Delicious dish guys!

  8. Back in South Philly, I lived two doors down from Termini Brothers, an old-school Italian bakery. On weekends and whenever the Iggles played, the line for cannoli went out the door. On every snow, Old Man Termini had one of his guys come out and use a blower on the fresh-fallen stuff up and down the entire street (or “schreet” as some called it). One day while finishing about two gallons of gravy, I heard the blower outside, carving a footpath in the snow. I packed a quart, wrote a quick thank-you note on the back of one of my cards, and ran it up to the store in my shirtsleeves. Every holiday from then on, one of the white-coated counter ladies would deliver a small package: Easter pie, pizza rustica, cannoli, torrone. San Diego winters don’t call so much for gravy, what with the palm trees and surfing and all, but now I’m inspired to make a big dose of Sunday Gravy. Thanks for the reminder ~

  9. That looks so fantastic I’m speechless. Have you heard of Hakata Tonton? They’re a Japanese restaurant in the west village that specializes in pig trotters (almost every item on the menu contains them).

  10. OH man you got to love feets. There are some great old English recipes for them too, similarly braised, but with fruit and spices rather than tomato sauce. They were called pig’s “pettitoes” ! Isn’t that delicious? Or “big crubeens for tuppence to be pickin’ while you’re able, with your wack-foldero, folde-diddley idle day.” Who else could make a sing about feets but the Irish!

  11. I dated a first generation Italian for 10 years. I have had my share of Sunday gravy and plenty of chiant’.

    The thing is, I haven’t had my share of YOUR gravy, so your gonna need to overnight some of that lovely goodness to Atlanta.

  12. Umm meat, feet, well trotters and well, meat- its looks great, really great. One day you will be able to pod cast or provide a scratch and sniff screen to share the glorious smells which filled your kitchen last sunday, until then we will just have to imagine.
    Trotters – very neglected I think, more recipes for pig feet please, you first, then I will give stuffed ones a go.

  13. this post – well, let’s just say it has some of my favorite bunch of comments. yes, peter… i said it “porky love”. you know what i’m talkin’ ’bout.

    claudia, i understand the need to loose weight. we are really, really trying to eat lighter. lots of these recipes were from right before the christmas pig-fest. you’ll never be boring, baby.

    rachel, it’s ON. we’re totally wanting to do more w/ pig’s feet.

    ken: thanks for the insight! jonny’s english and who would’ve known…

    rowley: let me just say, i LOVED your comment. not sure if you knew, but i’m from philly originally and my mom (rosesep – see comment above) is also so this comment really meant alot. i felt like i was there! do you miss philly sometimes? your comment made me miss it!

  14. This debate rages in my family. It’s gravy on Dad’s side and sauce on Mom’s. Both of my grandmothers’ families were from Naples, but one grew up in northern CT and the other grew up in the Bronx and it made a world of difference how they named their food.

    It was always just meatballs and sausage in my gravy/sauce growing up. If I’m going all out for a Sunday pasta night, I’ll throw in braciole though. I never thought about pork hocks. They are creepy looking, but I know they do give great flavor.

  15. Hey Amy, I’m all there with you when it comes to the pigs feet. I grew up eating pigs feet in soups and my mom would always add it to her sauces and reductions.
    Your Sunday gravy is on my list for sure! And I’m not just saying that! You’ve got me totally hooked and excited!

  16. We call all red sauce gravy too. Besides all of the pork meat we also add chicken thighs. It adds a great flavor. But you can’t go wrong no matter what meat you use. I’ve never tried pigs feet. Not even sure I could get them here in Phoenix but I’m going to start looking.

    I love your blog and I’m so glad I found it.

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