Grandma’s Gravy (Sauce)

Italians or at least Italian-Americans are well known for their ‘Pasta Sunday’. My mom grew up in an Italian household and tells stories about how every Sunday after church her and her family, including aunts, uncles, cousins and so on, would all gather at her Grandma’s, a tiny house in Jersey City for Sunday dinner.

Sunday dinner usually consisted of some type of pasta and sauce, red or white, which was cooked all day on a hot stove. It was simply tradition; a tradition that she carried forward to our family and which I’ve now continued with mine.

Growing up, I remember helping my Grandma in the kitchen when she would come to visit and asking her, why this seasoning or that ingredient? For how long? Can I cut that? and so on. I loved helping just as much as I enjoyed indulging in her delicious meals. When I went away to college and even after I moved to Buffalo, when I would get lonely and miss home, I would call and ask her how to make the many meals from my childhood. I feel very fortunate to have learned a few recipes from my Grandma.

Before I had Weston, whenever I was in the kitchen whether it was making dinner, snacks, or dessert, I would describe each step to my fur son, Otto. No matter what I was making I could and still can, count on him joining me in the kitchen with the look of eagerness in his eyes. I would say, “Now Otto are you paying attention? If something ever happens to me, I need you take care of your dad, and he loves this meal!”. Otto would sit up and start salivating as soon as I said his name. Now that I have my own human son, the kitchen rituals haven’t really changed much, except now I have a real helper and two bodies keeping me company in the kitchen!

Grandma’s Gravy
(Pasta Sauce)

From the Kitchen of The Buffalo Blonde


1 onion
3 cloves of garlic chopped
3 Tablespoons of EVOO – *approximately
1 pound of beef chuck roast, blade steak or brisket (I usually do a mixture of chuck roast and brisket)
1 pound of pork spareribs, neck bones, or pork chops (I usually do a mixture of pork spareribs and pork chops…something about the neck bones seem unappetizing in my opinion)
2 28 oz. can of tomato sauce (*optional: one 28 oz. can of tomato sauce and one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes)
2 cans of water (this reads weird but I explain below in the directions)
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning – *approximately
1 tablespoons of Parsley – *approximately
1 tablespoons of Basil – *approximately
1 teaspoon of Crushed Red Pepper (optional)

In a large pot, add olive oil, garlic, and onion. Bring to medium heat, stirring consistently until the onions are translucent in color, about 3 -5 minutes. Turn stove off and remove onions and garlic and place in a side bowl. *Try to remove only the onions and garlic and not the oil. Once the oil has had a chance to cool down, add in the beef and pork. Turn the stove to high-medium heat to brown the meat. Cook for about 10 minutes flipping half way through. Turn stove off and remove the meat from pot and place in a side bowl.

Once the oil has had a chance to cool down, add tomato paste, and stir. Add 2 cans of tomato sauce (or 1 can of tomato sauce and 1 can of tomatoes). Fill the cans up with water and pour both into the pot. Stir in parsley, basil, and italian seasoning. *(How my Grandma taught me to season the sauce: The basil and parsley should lightly cover the sauce in the pot from side to side. You should still be able to see the red. The sauce on top should have a light layer of seasoning. (I usually do the basil first, stir and repeat with parsley). The Italian seasoning should cover the sauce. Not too thick, but just enough where you don’t see any red/sauce). Add crushed red pepper and stir the sauce thoroughly. Return the meats to pot with their juices. If you like onions and garlic in your sauce, you can return those to the pot as well. (I usually skip this or only add the garlic back in.) Bring sauce to a roaring boil. Turn heat down to simmer, stir, and then cover. Let the sauce simmer for at least 2.5-3 hours stirring regularly.

*The longer the sauce cooks the better it is!!!! If I’m making this for a large family style dinner, I will start this early in the morning the day before. Let it simmer all day. Turn it off and let the pot cool, then place in the refrigerator. The day of the party, take it out and heat it up on low for 2-5 hours before the party.

Boil the spaghetti according to package directions. Once cooked to your liking, drain.

While the spaghetti is cooking, remove as much of the meat as you can from the pot and place in a side bowl. Serve with the meat with dinner.

Add spaghetti to bowls, cover in sauce and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto. – Eat well, laugh often, love much!


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