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Lisa’s Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Most Italian-Americans emigrated from the southern regions of Italy: Campania, Basilicata, Reggio-Calabria, and Sicily. My family was no exception! My mother’s family is from Campania and Sicily, while my father’s family is from Campania. Regardless of the region of origin, when you became an Italian-American, a Southern Italian immigrant trying to make it in America, there was one thing that united (and still unites!) us all: “Sunday Gravy”. The name you give it may vary from New York to Chicago, the meat you put in the sauce may also vary, but Sunday Gravy is a tradition, a staple, a classic. Our ancestors in Italy, out of necessity, used the meat in their meals to both flavor their tomato sauce and serve it as their second course. Italian-Americans added more meat and more expensive cuts of meat as a sign of the prosperity they found in America. No matter how many years have passed, it remains one of the most wholly satisfying and classically Italian-America traditions that we have.

You can watch me make this recipe on the Lisa’s Italian YouTube channel here.

Buon appetito e tutti a tavola!


Lisa’s Sunday Gravy Ingredients:

Sunday Gravy

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

8 links sweet Italian sausage with fennel seeds

1 rack spare ribs (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut between the bones into individual ribs

4 veal chops

Ingredients for Lisa’s famous meat-a-balls: 

  • 1 lb ground veal
  • 1 lb ground pork with fennel
  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup grated imported Pecorino Romano
  • 3/4 cup grated imported Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 slices of Italian bread
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • Sicilian sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for frying

2 large onions, cut in quarters

8 whole peeled garlic cloves

at least 2 jars Lisa’s Italian Sunday Sauce, Authentic Classic

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/2 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Freshly ground pepper

2 lbs ziti

Sunday Gravy

Lisa’s Sunday Gravy Directions:

In a heavy, large, at least 8 quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.

To make the meatballs, pour milk into a bowl and soak the two slices of Italian bread in the milk. Mix all other ingredients. With your hand, squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and add the bread to the meat mixture. Make sure the bread is mixed well with all the other ingredients. Form balls approximately 2-2 1/2″ in diameter. Put the extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan, place meatballs in and cook on all sides until brown. Transfer the meatballs to a large pot of Lisa’s Authentic Classic Italian Sunday Sauce. Add the garlic to the pot of sauce.

Sunday Gravy

Working in batches without overcrowding the pot, brown the spare ribs, sausages, and veal chops well on all sides, removing them as they brown. Add small amounts of extra virgin olive oil during the browning if necessary. When all the meat is browned add to the pot of sauce. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce in thickened and the ribs are tender, at least 4 hours.

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Cook the ziti in a large pot of boiling salted water, for two minutes less than the package directions. Meanwhile, stir the chopped basil and chopped flat leaf parsley into the sauce. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add enough of the sauce to lightly coat the pasta and transfer it to a large platter, serving with a generous helping of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Sunday Gravy

Take the meats made above for Sunday Gravy and arrange on a large platter. Drizzle with the Classic Tomato sauce but do not drown. Serve for the second course of your Sunday Dinner, with a green side dish like scarola.

Sunday Gravy


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