Sunday Dinner: Italian Gravy

Italian Gravy before simmeringA few years ago, I took a trip to the east coast with my parents.  My dad was going to attend Thrillerfest in New York City, and we decided to make a week of it and stop in Philadelphia for a couple days first.  My boss recommended a few restaurants because she is from Pennsylvania, and we were well fed our whole trip.

The most memorable stop was Dante and Luigi’s, the oldest Italian restaurant in Philly.  They had a terrific lunch special with a choice of entree, salad, and an option for pasta with “gravy.”  Having never heard of this, I opted for something more safe, but my dad, not one to pass up gravy, went for it. It was easily the best thing on the table.  Basically, it was a rich, red tomato sauce with tons of meaty flavor, but no meat!  

Dad was immediately smitten and began his research on how to purchase this Italian “gravy” for meals at home.  They actually sold the stuff in jars, but we weren’t quite up for the hefty shipping fees.  So, I began my research on how to prepare my own Italian gravy.

I found several recipes, and after a few years of adaptations, I settled on my own version.

Italian Gravy steps

It is quite simple in terms of ingredients and effort.  Basically you sear some meats, chop and saute some onions, garlic, and herbs, and add a bit of wine, tomatoes, and stock.  What it does take it a bit of time.  All day is best.

When I make a pot of gravy, I start either the night before or at least by mid-morning and cook  it all day. Then, we have it over some plain pasta with Parmesan and some roasted broccoli.  Once we make up a few dishes for lunches through the week, I freeze up the leftovers.  My absolute favorite thing to do with the leftovers is to make up an eggplant lasagna. (Recipe coming soon!)

If you have the time, I highly recommend cooking up a batch today! Enjoy!

(makes a ton!)Minimum cook time is 4 hours, but the longer this simmers, the better!


1 pound beef or pork ribs or roast (I use country style pork ribs)
1 piece salt pork (approximately 3 in x 2 in x 1 in)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp. each dried oregano, basil, crushed red pepper
½ cup red wine
24 oz. tomato paste
1 quart beef stock
58 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil


  1. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat and drizzle it with a little olive oil (about 1 tsp).
  2. Sear the meat and salt pork on all sides. Remove the meats and set aside.
  3. Add an additional bit a oil (about 1 tsp.) and saute the onion for about 2-3 minutes. Then, add the garlic and dried oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper and continue to cook until the onions are softened, about 4 additional minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and stir up the brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by about half.
  5. Add the tomato paste and stock to the pan, stirring to combine. Then, add the crushed tomatoes.
  6. Give the pot a final good stir, then add back the seared meats, the bay leaves, and Parmesan cheese rind. Stir again to combine.
  7. Put the lid on the pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for several hours, stirring from time to time.
  8. After about 4 hours, you can remove the meat completely for a nice, smooth gravy or you can shred the meat and return it to the pot for a chunkier meat sauce.
  9. At this point, you can serve this, or you can continue to simmer it for a few more hours.

Sunday Dinner Italian Gravy


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