I knew immediately that the first thing I wanted to make when I started this project was gravy. Sunday gravy. A slow cooked meat sauce that takes all day to make, that includes meatballs that were mentioned in my mother’s obituary (I am not kidding). We ate this almost six nights a week in my house growing up. What I am about to say might sound crazy but I have zero memory of watching this sauce actually get made. It was kind of just always there? I remembered a few basic things but I was mostly going in blind. I did A LOT of guessing during this attempt. There was a carrot for sure, I remember that. A Bayleaf? What kind of meat is braciola?
I reached out to my brother and uncle to see what they could remember, these were the real answers I got:
My brother; “I couldn’t tell you but I know they had all the cans of tomato paste and meatballs and sausage in the same pot. Like all the meats She’d use a veal, beef and something else, I wanna say lamb, maybe. For the meatballs I mean, she used a meat blend.”
She did not, but I was relieved to find out I not the only one who wasn’t paying attention.
My uncles response: ‘I think so, Sausage, a piece of pork, a piece of beef, spareribs and meatballs. I think she put a carrot and some sugar. The meat cost like 40-50 bucks lmao. “
Thank you gentlemen, you have both been very, very helpful.
Now with somehow less information then I had started with I was overwhelmed but had a plan. I was going to shop and make the gravy Saturday night and heat it up the next day because, gravy is always, all together now, “EVEN BETTAH THE NEXT DAY-A”
I really wanted to include something called braciola (pronounced BRA-ZSA-OLE). I knew without it, it wouldn’t be right. Thanks to my very kind friend and her lovely mother I am much more equipped for accuracy on my second pass. According to her mom, the most important ingredient for a braciola is a cooperative butcher, which I could not find. I figured I would start with the basics and go from there.
It took me a total of four hours to get all of the things I thought I needed, and I am proud to say I only cried in my car once. Here is everything I got, and everything you’ll need to make a really good but historically inaccurate version of my mom’s sauce:
2 can tomato puree (28oz)
1 can crushed tomatoes (28oz)
1 medium sweet onion
1 pound ground beef (80/20)
3 bone in short ribs
2 pork chops
2 sweet, 1 hot Italian sausage
1/2 pound fresh grated Locatelli
4c breadcrumbs (Italian seasoned)
1 pound Barilla penne
salt and pepper
Finley chop onion and parsley, peel carrot, and mince garlic. I will not tell you how much garlic you need to use, you can listen to you heart for that but I used about 8 cloves. Remember, you’re making a lot of sauce. If you want to feel like you’re on Masterchef put everything into small glass bowls, or just leave everything on your cutting board until you’re ready to build the sauce, live your truth.
In a large bowl combine ground beef, about 1/2 cup of Locatelli, 2 eggs, whisked, a cup of breadcrumbs, a splash of milk, chopped parsley and salt. Use your hands to mix together. Once fully incorporated portion into gold ball sized meatballs and set aside.
Place pork chops between two sheets of plastic wrap and tenderize until thin, ideally with a meat tenderizer but since i misplaced mine I found a cocktail muddler worked just as well. Season with salt and set aside.
Season short ribs.
Heat a large frying pan with a layer of oil. Once hot, brown short ribs, pork and sausage.
Repeat process for meatballs. For total recipe accuracy completely fuck up your first batch of meatballs and spend 20 dollars to postmates yourself a single pound of ground beef, seriously consider giving up and telling your friends not to come tomorrow. Or skip this step entirely by paying attention.
Add an inch of oil to the largest pot you have, on medium heat add onion. Sweat until translucent.
Add garlic, sauté until fragrant about 2 minutes.
Add 2 cans of puree, 1 crushed and a can of water. SEASON AS YOU GO. I’m sorry for yelling but I can’t stress this enough, you’ll thank me later. Now is a good time to toss in that carrot, tear off some fresh basil and the rest of your parsley.
Bring to a boil and add meat. Reduce heat to low, like really really low. Put the lid on but not like all the way, prop it up a little bit so some steam can get out. Stir every 30 minutes for the next four hours. Watch a Victoria Gotti documentary to pass the time.
Once meat is fork tender it’s done. I cooked mine for closer to seven hours which I really regret. It was perfect around 4-5 hours which is closer to what I would recommend for these proportions at least. I remember my mother cooking it all day but her pot was much bigger and she was feeding a lot more people? I’m learning you guys. I’m glad I know for next time. Serve with your favorite macaroni, I used Penne but really wanted to be able to find cavatelli (pronounced GAH-VA-DEALS).in
So in the end, no I didn’t make the gravy the way I remember. I did however manage to make Sunday feel like a Sunday for the first time in years. It felt like home to wake up and go to the bakery to get bread and cannolis for dinner that night. I can’t begin to express my gratitude for having a table full of kind, supportive, amazing people. We even played cards. My sauce gets a 6 but my night gets a 10.
If you read this far I thank you kindly for your time. Happy Sunday.