The weather is cooling here on the planetary topside. My husband’s cousin, Bill, in New Jersey slipped on a patch of ice today. And I’m thinking about Sunday Gravy.
Sunday Gravy is Italian and I am not, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to stand around in the kitchen for hours, chopping, frying, stirring, and tasting. I am powerless to the siren song of the Gravy burbling in a big pot.
I certainly did not come upon this desire to cook and eat Sunday Gravy naturally. My Mom was a 1950’s, college-degreed, home economist and health food fanatic, and my Dad, the sometimes family cook, made scary meals that usually ended up with a beer poured into them. Dad was also the family breakfast cook, but I don’t recall any beer in my grits or oatmeal. My sisters, brothers and I would surely have been sent home from whichever saint-named school we were attending at the time, or maybe not.
As far as I can recall, one day I started making what turned out to be Sunday Gravy and I was hooked. I don’t make it too often though. It takes a long time to prepare and it’s very fatty, which of course makes it taste good.
Olive Crazy’s Sunday Gravy and Meatballs
Notes: I don’t ever measure anything for the Gravy, but I do for the Meatballs. For the Gravy I switch out the meats I use, but stick to the basic meat formula of pork, beef, and Italian sausages. For the Meatballs, I always prefer a mix of ground pork and ground beef. Tomato paste is a thickener and flavor enhancer so don’t use much. I have never needed to use more than one small can. Of the herbs used in the recipes, I use both fresh and dried in the Gravy and the Meatballs.
Meaty pork pieces and pork bones
Meaty beef pieces and beef bones
Red wine (one you would enjoy drinking)
Peeled, seeded tomatoes
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
2 lrg eggs
1/2 c Italian bread crumbs (I buy canned at the grocery store)
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 c freshly grated Parmigiano or other hard cheese
Begin with the gravy. Place a large, thick-bottomed pot over medium heat and wait until the bottom of the pot is warm. Add olive oil. Before adding the meats make sure you’ve patted them dry. Add pork pieces and bones and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate or bowl. Repeat for beef and beef bones, then for sausages. Drain fat.
Lower heat and let pot cool a little. Add olive oil and then the garlic. Move garlic around for a few seconds and add red wine and tomato paste. Increase temperature to medium high and stir continuously for a few minutes. This is where you dredge up all the caramelized, meaty goodness from the bottom of your pot and incorporate it into the sauce. Add tomatoes, stir, and break them up.
Beginning now and throughout the cooking process, if sauce gets too thick, add water, but don’t make it soupy. Add salt, pepper, parsley, basil, and oregano. Return meat and bones, but not sausages, to the pot. Decrease temperature to low, partially cover pot, and stir occasionally.
Start making meatballs. Put all meatball ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix with clean, slightly olive-oiled hands. The olive oil on your hands keeps the meat from sticking to you. Make golf ball-sized meatballs. In a skillet, over medium to medium high heat, add olive oil and brown meatballs without cooking them all the way through.
When the meat in the pot easily falls apart, about two hours, add in sausages and meatballs, check the consistency of the liquid and add water as needed (don’t get carried away), and stir occasionally for another hour.
Remove all the bones, meats, sausages, and meatballs. Throw away the bones, and set the rest aside to serve after the pasta course or to use in another dish. As an Italian friend informed me – meat is eaten after pasta, not at the same time.
Toss pasta with the Sunday Gravy and serve.
May the sun shine through your branches.