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Tomato Gravy (“Sunday Gravy”)

For my project, I will be making tomato gravy. Although tomato gravy and tomato sauce share similar ingredients, tomato gravy is simmered with some type of meat such as meatballs, pork necks, sausage, poultry, or braciole (pronounced ‘bra-shol’) and is cooked for several hours giving it a thicker gravy-like consistency. Some of the main ingredients in my recipe is canned tomatoes (both peeled and crushed), tomato paste, garlic, and parmesan cheese (Romano preferred). For as long as long as I can remember, my mother always made tomato gravy on Sundays.

My family, and many Italian-American families, calls it “gravy. ” Don’t get this confused with the type of gravy you would put on mashed potatoes — we call that “brown gravy”. I could never mistake a Sunday by waking up to the scent of roasted garlic permeating throughout the house. My traditional Sunday morning breakfast consisted of Italian bread dipped in gravy and a meatball or a pork neck. It was a family tradition, from both my parents, to have large dinners with family on Sundays and macaroni with gravy and a side of meat was the staple of the festivities.

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My family recipe dates back to my great aunt Mary who has passed away before I was born. Since my immediate family moved away when I was young, we couldn’t always make it to family functions on Sunday. However, we always celebrated Sundays with gravy. To this day, both my sister and I share the same tradition by making pasta with gravy on Sundays for our families. Throughout my adult life I encounter many animated debates with my non-Italian friends over the difference of tomato gravy and tomato sauce.

Most of the time they were usually satisfied with my family explanation, but after my recent Internet search I discovered the name “tomato gravy” originated from east coast of the United States. Some Italian Americans on the East Coast refer to tomato sauce as “gravy”, “tomato gravy”, or “Sunday gravy”, especially sauces with a large quantity of meat simmered in them, similar to the Italian Neapolitan ragu. ‘Gravy’ is actually an erroneous English translation from the Italian sugo which means juice or sauce.

The expression for “gravy” in Italian is sugo dell’arrosto, which is literally “juice of a roast” and is specifically not tomato sauce. ” (August 29, 2009; http://www. instructables. com/id/An-in-depth-guide-to-homemade-Italian-America n-t/step1/A-brief-history) The gravy is made by beginning with a saute of oil and meat (usually braciole, pork chops or sausages, meatballs, roasts or a combination), followed by a tomato mixture, and seasoning. It is referred to as Gravy because of the juices from the meats that are used as you base.

A proper gravy will take a minimum of 4-6 hours to properly cook, simmer, and marinate. Chef Toscano (http://www. answerbag. com/q_view/1303410, March 2009). And just when you thought you’re ready to eat came the ginormous plate of the meats. The meats were stained red from simmering in the tomato gravy all day. The plate was so heavy it took two people to serve; one person to hold the heavy plate and the other to serve. The pork necks were so tender they would fall off the bone when the tongs gripped them in the effort of serving them onto dinner plates.

And when they broke apart on your plate, a cloud of steam billowed out. From the first forkful of macaroni coated with tomato sauce with a chuck of pork (or meatball) to the last, it felt like a warm hug. Warm bread was served during the main course to soak up all the gravy that remained on your plate. Salad was always served after the main course; this was a traditional European custom. One time I asked my mom why we have our salad last and my friends eat their salad first she told me that salad is used to cleanse the palate. Carol Marchese, 1979) After the tomato paste is browned the next thing we do is prepare the meat. My mom normally made meatballs or pork necks. When making the meatballs my mom preferred using ground beef (at least 85% fat). She would hand mix the ground beef with minced garlic, parsley, egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and most importantly, Romano cheese (Locatelli preferred) into a large bowl until it was well blended and form meatballs about the size of a golf ball. Using the same saute pan used to brown the tomato paste she would brown the meatballs with a little oil (enough to coat the pan).

If she were making pork necks, she’d season the pork necks with salt ; pepper and brown the pork necks in garlic flavored oil. After the meat is browned it is placed in the large pot of simmering tomato gravy. To be certain that all the meat remnants and drippings were incorporated in the large pot, she would ladle tomato sauce into the sauce pan, under low heat, and scrape all the bits up with a wooden spoon. Then transfer the meat bits and tomato sauce back to the large pot of tomato gravy. Sunday visits weren’t just about the dinners. It was a day to


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