I wrote this post back in March of 2011 – maybe even before then.
A friend of mine asked for my gravy recipe so I’m going to include it at the end. Here you go Allie:
Gravy is my comfort food. When I talk about gravy, I’m talking about the RED stuff you put on macaroni – not brown gravy. If you’re a North Jersey Italian-American, GRAVY is where it’s at.
I was always taught that tomato sauce comes out of a can. What you put into that tomato sauce makes it gravy. I firmly believe this with all of my heart. There was nothing better than a pot of my Grandma’s gravy (or my Mom’s) cooking on the stove on Saturday night and all morning Sunday. We had our Sunday dinner at 1 pm in our house and the whole house smelled incredible. Sunday was always macaroni day for my family.
On occasion I remember my mom making roast beef or some other dish on Sunday. My dad and I were always very disappointed when we didn’t feast on Rotelli or Shells with a big piece of hot Italian sausage and a delicious meatball. It was torture.
On Saturday night Mommy and Grandma would make the meatballs and brown all the meat in the oven. My dad and I hung around the kitchen waiting for the meatballs to be ready. We would grab a small Dixie cup and plop one of those bad boys atop and eat it like a hot ice cream cone. When Grandma made the Brasciole I would steal the Pignoli nuts that she rolled inside and eat them by the handfuls. My mother always had to hide the bottle.
Then the gravy-process started in that giant white, porcelain pot set on top of 2 grates so the gravy didn’t burn. The browning of the garlic rocked as it wafted through the house and the neighborhood (if the windows were open). Neither used onion or tomato paste (I do) so spices, herbs, crushed tomatoes, water, grated cheese, sugar and the magic ingredient “pepperoni” were all tossed in the pot, brought a strong simmer and cooked for an hour or so before adding all that yummy browned meat.
I watched like a ravenous dog waiting for a treat to drop on the floor as I stared at the CREATION. Meatballs, hot sausage, sweet sausage, steak, pork bones (spareribs) and sometimes even a piece of veal were blended together to form, quite frankly, a mouth-watering masterpiece. My mouth is watering now. Fortunately I learned how to make a kick-ass gravy and meatballs to boot. I actually went back to my great-grandmother’s recipe and made it my own. When my husband tells me that I make the best meatballs and gravy that he’s ever eaten, it makes me glow with pride and happiness.
I miss the days when we spent every Sunday having a family dinner in the middle of the afternoon. I miss that giant bowl of pasta and an equally giant plate of meat. I miss the good Italian bread and the salad that we ate with or after our meal. Those were the days.
It’s before everyone got too busy to make time for family. Weekly quality time with a family who loved you and who you loved back. The older I get, the more I long for those days as there are more and more of us in the earth than on it anymore.
Every time I smell my gravy cooking on the stove, it fills me with wonderful memories and actually transports me back in time. I see it. I hear it. I smell it and I taste it.
Gravy IS my comfort food.
GRAVY is my time machine.
GRAVY IS RED.
So here’s MY recipe… get cooking!
Grandma’s Gravy Via Jacqui
x virgin olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves minced or sliced
1 handful of fresh basil torn or much less dried basil
1 handful of fresh oregano chopped or much less dried
1/2 handful fresh thyme or less dried
a pinch of red pepper flakes or more
red or white wine
1 can tomato paste
sea salt or grey salt & pepper to taste
1/2 handful sugar or more depending how sweet you like it
3 -4 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes (I like Tuttarosso, Luigi Vitelli, Whole Foods brand or Rienzi)
water – 1/2 can of each can used
1 large onion minced (red or yellow)
Meat: meatballs (RECIPE HERE), pork & beef brasciole, 1 stick pepperoni – cut in half then in pieces, sausage – also you can add spareribs or a piece of pork, steak etc.
1 c or more of grated pecorino romano
Salt & pepper all meat (except meatballs). In a large stockpot or dutch oven heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil & brown meat on all sides. Set aside in a large bowl.
Deglaze the pot with a little red wine and allow to burn off while scraping brown bits off bottom of pot. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and heat. Add onions and stir. Cook until starting to get translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, any dried spices and a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring until garlic starts to brown. Add can of tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook for a bit, stirring.
Add crushed tomatoes and approx 1/2 can water per can of crushed tomatoes (for desired consistency). Add wine (maybe 1/2 c), fresh herbs, salt, rest of sugar, a couple of pieces of pepperoni and grated cheese. Stir to combine. Cook until bubbling then lower to a simmer. Make sure to stir occasionally – do not burn. Cook for at least a half an hour – ideally 1 hour.
Add all meat and accumulated juices after an hour and cook over low heat – stirring occasionally. Cook for 1-6 hours. The longer you cook it, the better it will taste.
Serve with pasta.
From Jacq’s Kitchen
© 2012 J. H-M. and CultureChoc2010.