Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fair One: Gravy or Sauce

If you are from an Italian family - especially in the northeast part of the United States - you likely call the stuff you put on pasta, gravy. I know this particular moniker is the source of fierce debate, but whatever you call this blend of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices cooked for at least three hours with a lot of meat, it’s delicious.

How did this term “gravy” originate?

My Wikipedia search extensive research reveals that "gravy" is an erroneous English translation from the Italian sugo which means juice, but can also mean sauce (as in sugo per pastasciutta). The expression for "gravy" in Italian is sugo d'arrosto, which is literally "juice of a roast" and is not specifically tomato sauce.”

Che cosa?

This explanation has apparently been adapted to explain that a spaghetti topping cooked with meat is called gravy and a topping made with other ingredients and no meat, such as Pesto or Alfredo, is called sauce.

Well, I’m glad that’s settled.

South Philly native and Philadelphia radio/TV personality and author Lorraine Ranalli wrote a book called “Gravy Wars” about this inexhaustible cultural conflict…when I finish reading it, I’ll write a review! In my family, we always called it gravy since my Italian grandmom made hers with meatballs, sausage and, if she really liked us that week, braciole.

So, this discussion is only useful if I tell you how to make this traditional Italian favorite:

The ingredients:

* Olive Oil
* 1 medium onion, diced
* Garlic, 4 (or 6 or 8) cloves, minced
* 1 can each of tomato puree, sauce and paste
* 1 puree can full of water
* 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
* 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano
* 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
* Brown sugar, about two tablespoons (I find this mellows the acidity of the tomatoes)
* Salt

Brown the meat -- homemade meatballs and pork sausage made with parsley and romano cheese -- in a large pan. Once browned, remove and set aside…juices will flow to the bottom of the bowl.

In the same pan in which you browned the meat (do not wash it!), sauté the onions and garlic until a bit brown.

Add the puree, sauce and paste and the water and give the mixture a good swirl until the paste dissolves.

Add the spices, sugar and salt.

Add the meat with the juices and simmer for at least three hours.

I started my gravy at 11:34 a.m. and we did not eat until after 5:00 p.m.....and that's how it's done. This may have been my best batch ever. I served the gravy on fresh pasta accompanied by my house red wine, Cantina Zaccagnini.

Youngest daughter loves spaghetti and meatballs so I made her a special dinner for her last weekend home before heading off to the Honors Program at the University of Delaware next Saturday...she will do amazing things, trust me! Mom, sister, older daughter and her BF came to say "see you later."

Where did the time go?


Therapist San Francisco said...

Oh, yum! I love spaghetti but I've always used store bought sauces to make it... I can't wait to make a sauce from scratch!

Cathy said...

It was very good. Glad that I was able to test in person.

Joann said...

Let me know if you have any questions San happy to help! Cathy, we'll have to do it again.

black eyed susans kitchen said...

Neither my husband or myself are actually Italian, we do however have Italian food often and my husband loves to make a long simmering gravy. There is just something very comforting in food like this.

KnitOne, PearlOnion said...

Yes, I agree!

Jane said...

With a new DIL whose heritage is New England Italian, I am hearing this term a lot. Being a true southerner (with a little Sicilian and Cuban heritage thrown in), I think of gravy as the stuff you pour over your meat or biscuits...lots of pan drippings, browned bits of meat, and cream (if you are serving it with chicken or on biscuits...with sausage).

I look forward to trying your sauce. Oops...I mean GRAVY.
Jane (artfully graced)

~ ~ Ahrisha ~ ~ said...

I am so glad that I found you this recipe may just be the one. I was telling a girlfriend yesterday that I wish I could find a great gravy recipe. Tied a few but no good.
There once was an Italian Club in West Chester, PA. Can't remember the name but their gravy was the best I ever ate. It was such a deep red bordering on brown and the taste. . .OMG! Do you know the place.
~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

KnitOnePearlOnion said...

Jane, Ahrisha...I am so glad that you will both be trying this recipe. Let me know if I can help. You will want to use a large can of puree, a medium can of sauce and a small can of paste. The olive oil, just to coat the pan, for browing the meat. may mean The Italian Social Club on Gay Street...I've heard of it but have never been there! -- Joann