I originally put this to “paper” many years ago at WestCoastWine Network, link below, but have had some requests to post it here. Here it is, in all it’s glory, in a somewhat irreverant sort of style.
John M. Fodera’s Italian Sunday Gravy
GRAVY….that’s right! Here goes.
First, you need a BAP (Big Ass Pot) The BAP must be at least 10 to 12 quarts or you are in for trouble. I do not recommend making gravy in pots smaller than 10 quarts – you’ve been warned.
Assemble the meat: For this rendition I used the following –
1 lb. chopped beef which yielded about 10 meatballs. If you don’t know how to make meatballs, either get someone to do it for you, stop reading now, or crush up the meat into bits and brown it that way.
4 links of sweet sausage. A good store bought version could work. Jimmy Deans don’t count. If you have an Italian market, get it there. You can also use hot sausage if you like, but be warned, your entire batch of gravy will taste hot if you do – not simply the sausage.
1 package beef short ribs – Probably about 6-8 ribs in total
1 package pork ribs – Probably about 6-8 ribs total
3 Osso Bucco Veal Shanks
Modifications: You are free to add brachiole as well, but see meatballs above. Do not use Lamb, do not use chicken and don’t include anything dumb like feet or ham or tripe. Capisce? Do not use carrots, never add sugar, never use red wine, and Good God! no friggin potatoes!!!
Brown the meat: Get some extra virgin olive oil going in the BAP and brown all the meat until nicely brown, except for the meatballs . Brown the meatballs separately in a frying pan. When done, set all meat aside.
Now get some garlic and onions going in the pot. I used 12 cloves of garlic (method to calc. later on) and 2 medium onions. If your definition of these items includes the word powder, read no further. Spank yourself with the wooden spoon you should be using and go buy Ragu.
After these items are sweating nicely, deglaze the pot with a tiny bit of white wine. Probably just a few tablespoons is all that it will take. No 1/2 cup pours allowed here! Now crank the heat!! and boil off all of that white wine flavor.
Return meat to the BAP! – make sure all juices in dish go with the meat. DO NOT put the meatballs in yet.
Now begin the tomatoes – using fresh tomatoes is a waste of time and too much work. Get this martyr crap out of your head! Excellent canned tomatoes are available and should be used. But don’t go buying Hunt’s here either. You need good tomatoes. San Marzano are far and away the best tomatoes you can get. This is not a brand name, but a specific tomato grown in the protected area of San Marzano, Italy. They are never sour and are always delicious. If you look carefully at the can, it will say somewhere on there “San Marzano” and have the “DOP” designation on the can. The brand I always use is Cento. Progresso is good as well although not SM’s. And the organic Muir Glenn are nice too, but also not SM’s and a bit more expensive.
For this you will need eight 28oz. cans of tomatoes – whole, peeled tomatoes, including basil leaf! If you want to skip the blender step, you can use Crushed tomatoes, but at all costs – NO FREAKIN PUREE Capisce? If using whole, put the tomatoes into a blender 1 can at a time and zap them into a liquid. I use the “chop” setting. You don’t want to liquefy them, just mash them into a runny mess! As you mash them up, into the BAP they go. Calc: I figure a clove and a 1/2 of garlic per can of tomatoes.
When done adding the tomatoes, add S&P to taste along with fresh basil leaves (I used about 20) and some dried Oregano – no more than 1 tsp. Cover, set on low to medium heat, and begin simmering.
After 2 or 3 hours of simmering, remove the cover from the BAP and get rid of it. Wash it, let your kid use it for a cymbal, just lose it. Cook the gravy for another 4 to 5 hours until it thickens up. In the past, I have added two cans of tomato paste to speed the thickening process along. It’s thick enough when a wooden spoon does not fall when inserted in the center of the BAP. Wooden Spoons only please!
Now, I cook my gravy on Sundays from 9:30 AM (began prep. at 8:00AM) until 5:00 PM. All the meat falls off the bones (a good thing) and the gravy thickens up and reduces by about 3 or 4″ in the pot. Clear so far?
Then just make whatever pasta you like and spoon the glorious concotion over the top. Remove all meat (that can be removed) from the BAP and serve on the side. Meat that stays in the gravy is a good thing. But do remove and discard the bones.
It may sound like a lot of work, but it’s very easy and very rewarding. Plus, unless you’re serving a ton of people, you can portion out and freeze all the leftovers. A batch of gravy like this will usually provide at least 3 dinners.
My kids love to help make this, and especially love to rip off crusty bread and dunk it into the sauce as it cooks. For wine pairings, you need something with a lot of acidity to stand up to the tomatoes. I typically serve a younger Chianti Classico, or a Dolcetto d’Alba with lots of success.
PS – I came across my recipe, that someone had cross posted here: Fodera’s Sunday Gravy Recipe. It’s funny that I’d never seen it before, as I have used Chow Hound in the past. Another good site! Salute!