Grape Gourmet – Cucina Dello Zio

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Pasta – Sunday Gravy (Il sugo di Domenica)

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#SundayGravy #SugoDiDomenica #Homemade #Food #CucinaDelloZio - #Braise #Pork #NeckBones #shank #beef #fennel #sausages #meatballs #polpette

Sunday Gravy (Italian-American Style)
Il Sugo di Domenica
Tomato Braised-Pork Ragú
by James Belardo

When the first wave of Italian immigrants came to America (late 1800s, early 1900s), they unintentionally made their own unique traditions, one such tradition is Sunday Gravy. Sunday Gravy has become something of an enigma, a cultural phenomenon. It’s been ingrained in the life of Italian-Americans and a distinct part of the culture, even if called by different names.

The first wave of Italian immigrants began to arrive around 1880 with most arriving between 1900-1914. Ellis Island was the port of entry. The Statue of Liberty, a symbol of a country welcoming them with open arms, was in the background.

Sunday Gravy
The Italian immigrants worked long and hard, days were long and money tight. Weekends were the only time they had to spend with their families. Saturday’s were spent at the markets and doing household chores, so Sunday’s became the ultimate family day. Sunday’s were for church and family, dinner was the best chance they could spend together before the work week began. Food, and particularly Sunday ‘macaroni and gravy’ had become a staple and eventually a tradition. Today, it’s legacy grounds us and helps bring families back together.

Why is it called ‘Sunday Gravy?’
Sunday gravy is close to a Napoleon-style Pork Ragú Pasta Sauce which is a typical ragú from the area around Naples, it’s usually started with ‘the slow braising of pork neck-bones, sausages and other meats.’ These were meats that were typically the left-over and inexpensive cuts but they had the most flavor. Meatballs and brasciola (rolled, stuffed and seasoned steak) were added to the Ragu later.

An interesting story that my grandma told me about adding hard-boiled eggs to the Sunday Gravy. She said, during the Great Depression in 1929, hard-boiled eggs were added because there wasn’t enough meat for everyone. This became so popular that it’s still enjoyed today by many people.

Sunday Gravy conjures up memories of family get-together’s and (of course) grandma. I remember grandma letting us eat a meatball or two before putting it in the gravy or letting us dip bread into some of the gravy – we called it ‘Italian Fondue’ although it’s called Scarpetta in Italian.

This following recipe is an interpretation of my grandmother’s tomato, braised-pork ragù. The key ingredients are the pork neck bones, Italian fennel pork sausages, beef meatballs, pecorino Romano cheese, fresh basil and fennel seeds. Beef braciole was a treat, added when we had the beef-steaks.

Sunday gravy can be used with any type of pasta such as spaghettini, rigatoni, penne rigate, fusilli or ravioli.

A Ragu, a Sugo and a Salsa Walk into a Kitchen
A ragu ‘typically’ uses ground meats and a sugo ‘typically’ uses braised meats cooked relatively slow. A sauce, or salsa, doesn’t usually use ground or braised meat and is based on a few simple ingredients.

Ingredients
1/2 lb pork neck bones and/or spare ribs (pork shoulder if you like)
1/4 – 1/2 lb pancetta
Italian pork sausages, with fennel
Beef or Veal Shank – optional
2 cans 28 oz plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), crushed by hand
2 cans (small) tomato paste
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh Cremini mushrooms (small brown mushrooms – they’re actually baby Portabello)
Olive oil
1 cup Italian dry red wine, we like to use Nero D’Avola
4 cups beef and/or chicken stock
2-4 cups water
1/4-1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil (chopped)
2 or 3 bay leaves
1/2 – 1 lemon (juice, freshly squeezed)
1 tbsp fennel Seeds
salt and pepper – to taste
Peperoncino Fiocchi (hot pepper flakes) – optional

Suggested Meats
Meatballs
Braciole

Directions
1. In a large dutch oven, preheat 3-4 tbsp of olive oil using medium heat. Add the pork neck bones and sausages, cook until the they’re golden brown on all sides. After the meat is browned, set aside.
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2.  After you have removed the pork toss in the cut up pancetta and let cook for a few minutes, do not cook too brown.
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3. Once the pancetta has rendered down and begins to brown add the chopped onions, garlic and crushed peperoncino fiocchi (hot pepper flakes). Let cook and keep an eye so not to burn the garlic.
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4. Once the onions, garlic and hot pepper flakes are done, add the peppers (green and red). Cook for another 5 or 10 minutes more or until the peppers soften.
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5. Add a cup of Italian red wine and let come to boil, then add a cup of chicken stock, let come to a boil and then a cup of beef stock (let come to a boil).
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6. Toss in the bay leaves, a cup of chicken stock, let come to a boil and then a cup of beef stock (let come to a boil).
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7. If you like, you can add mushrooms, another cup of chicken stock, let come to a boil and then another cup of beef stock (let come to a boil)..
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6. Once the vegetables are done, add the hand-crushed plum tomatoes and the two cans of tomato paste. Bring back to a boil.
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7. Simmer the gravy until it begins to bubble slightly. Add the fennel seeds, some salt and pepper.
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8. add the grated Romano cheese, mix well and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
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9. Add the cooked meat previously set aside.
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8. Finally add the fresh basil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
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9. Cook for an 30-60 minutes, stirring frequently (or longer, if you like). Taste frequently and add salt and/or pepper if needed. If the gravy becomes too intense you can add water and some more hand crushed tomatoes. Just let simmer an additional hour if you do.
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7. When you add precooked meats such as meatballs and/or braciole to the sauce, it adds flavor. Another tradition is to add hard-boiled eggs (shells removed) when serving the pasta and sauce. This was something my grandmother learned during the great depression when there wasn’t enough meat for everyone.

Enjoy!

The Grape Gourmet
• health • wellness • culture • flavor •

a Mo’zArt Production

 

Written by Zio James

November 30, 2012 at 9:11 PM

One Response

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  1. […] Gravy This Sunday gravy tradition continues to this day because ‘Sunday Gravy‘ always felt like a special occasion, friends and relatives would all eat with us. I loved […]

    AKA Pasta « Grape Gourmet

    November 30, 2012 at 9:43 PM


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