Sunday Gravy (Sinatra's FAV in Hoboken,baby!)

Lisa Joisygirl


There are tons of 'classic' Italian 'marinara'gravy' or sauce recipes out there. FYI- (inside info here-) "you can stick 10 guineas in a kitchen all making their own sauce, following the 'same' recipe- and it will inevitably come out tasting different. All spouses, kids, etc become accustomed to (their own families) unique flavor. Which is why at a get together- we can always tell "WHO MADE THE SAUCE".
This recipe is the premier 'basic" traditional (southern) recipe, 5 generations old, from BARI, Italy all the way to Hoboken, Nj! This recipe makes a ton for giving to neighbors or freezing.

pinch tips: Perfect Pasta Every Time



an army or 1- with tons of leftovers!


45 Min


3 Hr 30 Min


Stove Top


3 can(s)
crushed tomatoes (san marzano type tomatoes work best)
3 can(s)
tomato puree (san marzano type tomatoes work best)
2 can(s)
small cans tomato paste
2 can(s)
water (just fill those empty tomatoe puree ones)
2 pkg
italian sweet sausage (at least 8 or more in pkg)
1 lb
ground beef (chuck is fine)
1 lb
ground veal (butcher is best if you cant find at store)
1 lb
ground pork
2 pkg
beef braciole (thinly punded for stuffing/rolling w/toothpicks)
1 c
fresh finely chopped garlic divided in can use divided in 2 if your not making brasciole.(will be used in meatballs, braciole, and gravy.
1/2 c
fresh chopped parsley
1/2 c
fresh chopped basil
salt and pepper
1 c
good italian flavored breadcrumbs (or fresh,plain or seasoned)
good quality olive oil. (note:evoo has lower smoke point when frying the meat, so use the regular !


3/4 c
large vidalia onion, chopped
1 1/2 c
really good quality parmesean cheese. i use locatelli type.
3 Tbsp
any type basic italian seasoning
1/2 c
sugar (this cuts down the acidity of the gravy)
1 pinch

Directions Step-By-Step

Using a huge stockpot big enough to hold all the sausages, and tons of meatballs, braciole, etc. (a lobster bake sized pot or commercial one is preferred,this way you have sauce for a long time in your freezer!)
1. pour the olive oil in the stockpot and sauté the chopped onions- when theyre slightly carmelized, add the sausages to brown. When those are browning, add the chopped garlic LAST. (burnt garlic ruins the gravy- it WILL be bitter; and must be thrown out and started all over again!)
LOWER the heat so you don't burn the garlic.
Start making the meatballs. Using a huge mixing bowl, throw in ALL that ground meat mix (it is a WELL known and universally agreed upon to use the TRIO aka 'Holy SPirit" of meat for the in, the beef, pork, and veal mix mostly found at the grocery store for meatloaf).
To the meat, add the breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, basil, milk,grated parmesan cheese,salt and pepper,pinch of nutmeg and eggs. Roll up your sleeves and use your hands to mix it all together thoroughly. PUT SOME LOVE INTO IT. (you may be judged on THAT later, as I usually am!)The mix should NOT BE TOO LOOSE- nor- too firm.If too loose, add more breadcrumbs (this is highly criticized if they're "too bready". If too firm add a splash more of milk. MAKE SURE YOU ADD ENOUGH SALT AND PEPPER TO SEASON ALL THIS MEAT.For this amount of meat, I would use about 1/3rd to a half an entire head of garlic. The cheese I use is fairly sharp (as in "Locatelli" brand.
Form an approx. 1.5 "-2" sized meatball (they'll shrink a bit while cooking).WATCH THAT SAUSAGE AND GARLIC SO IT DOESN'T BURN!This should give you at least more than 20 meatballs from the 3-4lbs of ground meat mix.
IF making brasciole- lay them out, pound them a tiny bit,slice in half. season w/salt & pepper, and add the filling inside. Roll and skewer using toothpicks or metal sticks. FILLLING: in a mixing bowl, mix grated cheese, garlic, copped parsley, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. Mix w/your hand and put a palm full into each pc of braciole and close.
You wont have room to brown the brasciole alongside the sausages, so transfer the sausages to another plate(temporarily). Remove the garlic too- so as to avoid burning while browning your brascoile. (many people don't do the brasciole EVERY TIME) sometimes we like to throw in whatever is on sale that week. Short ribs,pork ribs,veal shank, really anything that's tough that will braise for hours in this gravy.
After the (optional brasciole) is browned, put the sausages and garlic back in. NOW add all cans of crushed tomatoes, puree, and paste. Next, add a good amount of salt and pepper (as the tomatoes are full of water , so you will need to season well. DONT WORRY- you will be tasting it along the way adjusting the seasonings.Add, basic dried Italian seasoning and bring to a slow boil. STIR OFTEN to avoid BURNING the bottom of the stockpot! ANY BURNING WILL RESULT IN BITTER FLAVORED GRAVY.
Once the gravy starts bubbling, CAREFULLY add in all those meatballs. Let them plop in (even on top of each other is ok). Give it a good (careful stirring; we DONT WANT TO BREAK THE MEATBALLS).
Again, bring to a slow boil, reduce heat then simmer for at least 3hrs or more.In the last 30mins, add the chopped fresh BASIL. (many people have this simmering ALL day; so when they get home from church, they pig out together.Yes! people in NJ DO GO TO CHURCH STILL! lol-
Cook any type,shape of pasta (barilla, luigi vitelli)or FRESH we like here.MAKE SURE YOU COOK IT AL'DENTE' or throw it out. Many people don't know this but al' dente is lower glycemic and healthier to digest. I have a low carb brand I use often and LOVE (it tastes like semolina pasta) its called DREAMFIELDS. It cooks a bit quicker tho- so watch it. Top it off with the BEST QUALITY PARMESAN YOU CAN FIND. The cheese DEF can alter the flavor.
This SUNDAY GRAVY will meld the flavors over time and as it sits in the fridge as days pass. It should keep in the fridge for at least a week. in my house we'll eat it constantly. Freeze mini containers (even the quart sz Chinese food soup ones will do). I label the containers with the date and how many pieces of sausage, braciole, and meatballs are contained inside. Although this is considered a "sacrilege" amongst the older generations, as they would NEVER FREEZE A GRAVY- I have to remind myself that I am a working wife with time constraints and unless and until I move to Tuscany or the Almafi Coast and have a leisurely life- I will be freezing extras in this house for sure. They'll keep in the freezer up to 6mos.

About this Recipe