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Italian "Gravy"...

Chiffonade_'s picture

Here is the recipe, as posted the first time...And thanks to all of you who have made it and remarked about it. It feels really wonderful that I have shared this childhood fave with all of you.

b Italian Gravy

i For the Gravy...

* 3 28 Oz. Cans Whole Peeled Tomatoes
* 3 Small Cans Tomato Paste
* 6-7 Fresh Basil Leaves
* 2 Small Whole Yellow Onions

* 1 Large Onion (Chopped - to be added later)

In the bowl of your food processor, place one large can of tomatoes, one can of paste and 3 tomato paste cans of water. Blend and transfer to very large non-reactive saucepan (probably closer to a stockpot). Repeat with remaining cans of tomatoes and paste. Add basil leaves and whole small onions and set to a low simmer.

i For the Meat (Any or all of the following)...

* Italian Sweet or Hot Sausage
* Pig's Feet
* Pig's Skin (otherwise known as fresh pork rind)
* Veal Neck Bones
* Pork Neck Bones
* Bracciola (directions follow)
* Meatballs (directions follow)

* Corn or Vegetable oil for frying

In a large fry pan, heat the oil. Fry sausages at a med-low temperature till browned. If the sausages are connected, start frying them attached and once they are browned, cut them apart. As they are browned, add them to the pot with the tomato products.

i For the Meatballs...

In the bowl of your food processor, place 1.5 lbs of ground beef, 1 egg, 3 slices of bread which you have run under the tap to moisten (do NOT use bread crumbs or you will be able to play tennis with the meatballs), 3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese, 1 tsp. dry basil leaves, 1 clove garlic, smashed, 1/4 cup dry onion, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process these ingredients until they are a shade of pink. (Do NOT just buy ground beef and roll it into balls...yeccch.) Roll into meatballs a bit larger than a golf ball. Fry these in the oil where you fried the sausage. Try to brown on all sides (sometimes this makes them look like "pyramid" shaped balls, but don't worry, they are great). As they are browned, drain with slotted spoon and place in pot with tomato and sausages.

i For the Bracciola...

Take very flat sheets of beef (some are sold for this purpose in Italian Butchers) and sprinkle on them, chopped garlic, parmesan or romano cheese, pignoli, and a slice of prosciutto or good quality ham. Roll up and tie with butcher's twine. Brown as above and transfer to pot.

i Pig's Feet and Skin...

These can be washed and slipped directly into the pot, no browning required.

i Neck Bones...

Brown as above and slip into the pot.

You should still have one large onion - chop in food processor and fry in oil where the meats were fried. Scrape up bottom of frying pan, the flavor here is incredible - Combine well with the chopped onion and fry until onion is translucent. Add onion AND OIL to pot.

Stir gently to combine all ingredients...being careful not to stir too turbulently as the meatballs are fragile when not cooked through - they are simply browned at this point. Cook on low heat for one and a half to 2 hours. Stir occasionally to be certain gravy is not burning at the bottom of the pot. A good test (if you use them) is to check whether or not the pig's skin is soft. Pork products added to the gravy create a sweeter taste. My ex-husband would not eat the pig's feet but missed them when they were not included because the gravy was not as sweet. (I eat the pig's feet...forgive me.)

TO SERVE...Your macaroni can be served as a first course, with the meat presented afterward on a large platter. Do not platter the meat until your first course is finished or it will get cold.

i Some macaroni suggestions...

* Cavatelli (a frozen pasta)
* Gnocchi (another frozen fresh pasta)
* Penne (quills)
* Ziti (small tubes)
* Rotelli (screws)
* Mafalde (smaller lasagna-like strips)
* Fusilli

Spaghetti or linguini are not recommended for this type of gravy. A short macaroni is best.

Marie-Louise_'s picture

(post #38186, reply #1 of 9)

I combined this with an old New Basics recipe I used to make (the spices are theirs but this recipe is MUCH better because of sauteing the onions in the meat drippings). I make it with 2 lbs. spareribs, sawed in half through the bone, and 2 lbs. total hot & sweet sausages. For the amount of tomatoes listed above, I add 3 cloves garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1/4 c. red wine (deglaze the pan w/ the onions), 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp. red pepper and the peel from 1/2 lemon (in big pieces). I saute all the onions. I also add 2 tbsp. sugar, even when using San Marenzo tomatoes, but that is considered a shameful practice by others on this forum!

I sprinkle a little gremolata (1 tsp. grated lemon peel, 1 tbsp. chopped parsley and 1/4 tsp. chopped garlic) & Parmesan cheese over the pasta at the end.

I know it sounds like I've altered the recipe a lot but I really still consider it "Chiff's Gravy." The amount of meat, sauteing the onions in the meat drippings and especially adding all the oil to the sauce are ideas I got from you and it is much, much better than any other recipe I've ever made. I also love this story-it tastes even better with the imagery of you, Andrea and countless other Italian families in NYC sitting down to the every Sunday! (psst-this thread also contains the story of how MC became a chef!)

Eileen_Launonen's picture

(post #38186, reply #2 of 9)

Hi im new to this we speak your Gravy is cooking on my stove and my husband is drooling...Im here on Long Island and my husband is Italian We were both born in Queens..He of course has grandmothers and aunts who cook FANTASTIC...Im pretty good but I always wanted to master the Sunday the way all my Italian sister in laws and my in laws all call it gravy! Thanks I appreciate you sharing this recipe.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #38186, reply #3 of 9)

b Welcome
and I'm thrilled you're making gravy. After enjoying this gravy just about every Sunday for my entire life, I don't think I turned out too bad!! Glad your hubby is enjoying the aromas. Let me know how you make out and which macaroni you serve with it.

Eileen_Launonen's picture

(post #38186, reply #4 of 9)

Hi wanted to let you know that the Gravy was excellent We just loved it and for the first time my 2 and 4 year old not only asked for seconds on the pasta they also did for the meatballs!!!! I served It over a penne but I really think this would be delicious with almost any pasta even ravioli or monicotti! Just wonderful... Bringing some left overs to dad today macaroni is his favorite! Thanks again Eileen

Rebecca's picture

(post #38186, reply #5 of 9)

Chiff - We will be making lasagna this week and I want to use your lauded recipe. So, please advise on this plan:

* One batch of Chiff's Italian Gravy with everything except the meatballs.
* One batch of meatballs made separately to be sliced & put in layers of lasagna (DD wants sliced meatballs IN the lasagna - it is her birthday dinner request). OR, should I make the meatballs in the gravy and fish them out later for slicing & layering?
* Make the lasagna with the gravy poured over & the meats on the side. OR do I serve the gravy with the meats and pasta as a separate meal and there is leftover gravy for the lasagna?

TIA, Rebecca

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #38186, reply #6 of 9)

Please wish daughter a very happy birthday!

When I do lasagna with meatballs, I make them very tiny out of fully seasoned meat, fry them all the way and nestle them in the layers of lasagna. You can make an additional batch the regular way for serving with the rest of the meat course. If she prefers sliced regular sized meatballs in the lasagna, this will work fine. You'd have to fry them longer than just the browning which you'd do prior to putting them in the gravy.

I don't know if you've ever made lasagna before but I tend to add
i just
enough gravy to the cheese mixture to make it pink. Ricotta gives off so much water that an inordinate amount of gravy will cause the portion to squish all over the plate. Lasagna should yield a square, "cakelike" portion. (My brother laughs every time I say this...) Keep the amount of gravy you mix into your lasagna minimal - and pass the gravy separately for people who like it "soupy" (like me!). (P.S. If it does squish all over the plate it will still taste delicious :)

We always served the lasagna first, then mom would go to the stove and platter up all the meat, serving it as a second course. If you serve the lasagna
i with
the meat, by the time the diner has finished the lasagna, the meat will be cold. Even turned off, the gravy and meat will remain hot until time of service.

Hope I answered your questions...have a wonderful celebration dinner.

Rebecca's picture

(post #38186, reply #7 of 9)

Thanks, Chiff - I planned on using your lasagna recipe (of course). Your suggestion of meatballs both in the lasagna & in the sauce is brilliant! My kind of thinking. You answered my questions - thanks for the help!

nutcakes_'s picture

(post #38186, reply #8 of 9)

I am making my 4th batch of this today. I now feel like I could put this together in my sleep.

For those who have trouble getting the pork neck bones wanted to note that I found the pork neck bones in a Chinese butcher shop and they cut them up with the butcher's saw for me. I had never used them before and worried that they might be wierd but these are just large bones with some meat clinging. They do add a sweet silkiness to the sauce. The bracciola is great but I have trouble finding meat prepared for this. Also I always freeze a quart of sauce with no meats, and use it for this Baked Ziti the next week, also by Chiffonade.

Baked Ziti

1 Lb. Ground Beef
1 Tbsp. Oil (Corn oil or Olive oil)
1 Large Onion, chopped (or more if you like)
1 Lb. Ricotta Cheese (Polly-O)
1 Lb. Mozzarella (Polly-O) Cubed into dice about ½" (Reserve 1/4 lb. for topping)
1 Recipe Favorite Tomato Sauce (About a quart)
1 Lb. Ziti or other pasta (see suggestions below)
2/3 cup Grated Parmesan, Romano, Locatelli, or other Cheese
S&P to taste
Saute Onion in oil in a large skillet, until the onion is translucent. Add ground beef and saute until beef is browned. Drain off excess fat - set aside.

Boil pasta FOR ABOUT 4 MINUTES. This is not a typo. Boil just long enough to wash off the starch, and drain immediately. Bring water to a boil, add pasta, stir, start counting now...Not when water returns to a boil. This dish will be baked and if you boil the pasta too long, you will have mush.

In a large bowl, mix up ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup grated cheese mozzarella cubes and 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Mix well. Add ground meat, mix well. Sample and add salt and/or pepper or other seasonings if necessary. Add pasta, mix well.

Spoon into a casserole dish sprayed with vegetable spray. Ladle some sauce on top. Bake covered with foil in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle remaining grated cheese and a little mozzarella and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes. (Cheese should be melted not brown. We call that burned.) If made the day before needed, bake covered at around 350 until hot - probably closer to 45 minutes or 1 hour, depending on how deep your casserole dish is.

Serve with garlic bread, salad and antipasto.

Other pasta suggestions -

Mafalde (smaller version of lasagna - rippled ribbon-like pasta)
Small Shells
Rigatoni (one of my favorites)
NOTE: For all of you out there saying you don't have access to Polly-O cheese, you probably do. Next time you are at the supermarket (I have also found Polly-O at Wal Mart under the "Sam's Choice" name), pick up a container of store brand ricotta. Someplace on the label it must say where it was made. If the plant number (it will be small, you'll have to look) is 36-8071, it's Polly-O cheese.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #38186, reply #9 of 9)

Nuts!! When can you move in???? ;) Glad you're enjoying the food of my childhood :).