There's a Sunday tradition in many Italian households involving a huge pot of a meat filled tomato sauce on the stove and a house filled with the scents and sounds of a happy family gathering. They call the pot Sunday Gravy.
In honor of a cool Tucson Sunday afternoon coupled with the fact that I needed to redeem myself after Saturday night's dinner, I put a pot of gravy on the stove to simmer for the better part of the afternoon. Actually, I started the pot on the stove and finished it in the oven. That way I could enjoy the end result without having to stir the pot every 15 minutes - lazy cook, eh?
Now you can make Sunday Gravy out of a variety of meats. The Soprano version from their cookbook of the same name uses pork neck bones or spareribs, veal stew meat as well as Italian sausage and huge tennis ball sized meatballs. I'm pretty sure there's no right or wrong way to make it so my version starts with wonderful spicy hot Italian sausage followed by deeply browned beef shanks and some cubed up pork stewing meat to round out the flavors. Loaded with onions, garlic of course, fresh and dried herbs, canned tomatoes and wine - a lot of wine, my favorite Dutch oven full of glorious sauce was met with ooo's, ahhh's, holy cows and good gravy's when it came out of the oven.
As for serving this pot of rich red meat filled gloriousity (is that a word?) traditionally, the meats are removed from the sauce and dinner's first course includes just the sauce with pasta with the meats showcased as the second course. Naturally we're not strong on tradition around here, particularly since there's not an Italian gene to be found in any of us, so we left the meat in the sauce and served it all up on a bowl of al dente' rigatoni.
Word of warning - the recipe makes enough for a small army which is a good thing because it's incredibly delicious. Not only that - I see a huge casserole of lasagne coming our way along with maybe some baked pasta, a couple of stellar pizza's and lunches for the week. Oh yum!
Meaty Italian Ragu aka Sunday Gravy an original from JBug’s Kitchen inspired by Soprano’s Family Cookbook
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1.5 to 2 pounds beef shanks with bone
1.5 pounds cubed pork stewing meat (butt or shoulder)
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups dry Marsala wine
1-1/2 cups low sodium beef stock
2 – 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
3 ounces tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1 pound rigatoni cooked to al dente per package directions
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add Italian sausage and cook, crumbling with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until sausage is browned and fully cooked – about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage to a bowl. Season beef shanks on both sides with salt and pepper and add to Dutch oven. Brown meat very well on both sides then remove to the bowl with the sausage. Season pork stewing meat with salt and pepper and add it to the Dutch oven, browning it well. Remove to same bowl to join other meats.
Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and add onions. Cook until onions are softened and golden brown, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Stir in garlic, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper and bay leaves. Cook, stirring well for additional minute. Add Marsala wine and allow to reduce slightly, scraping up fond (browned bits) from bottom of pot then stir in beef stock, tomatoes and tomato paste. Return meat to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Bring pot to a high simmer, cover and place in preheated 325 oven. Cook for 2 to 2.5 hours or until meat is fall of the bone tender. Check pot and stir once during cooking period.
Just before serving, stir in half cup of wine. Remove bones and bay leaf from pot. Serve with pasta and garnish with grated parmesan and additional pepper flakes. This will easily serve 6, with some sauce leftover. Sauce freezes very well.