Monday, April 27, 2009

Mom's Tomato Gravy

Ok, I know there are some of you that might say that this is SAUCE not GRAVY, but growing up in our house, it was gravy. Some people say "Gravy's BROWN!". Well, no, not all gravy is brown. You can have biscuits and gravy. Not brown. How about chicken or turkey gravy? Also not brown. So that settles that. It's gravy.
When I first moved out of my parents' house, I always called Mom to ask her for help whenever I was cooking something. This was the first thing I asked her how to make. I still make it almost exactly as she described to me, but I've made a few tiny changes. It still tastes just like hers and it always reminds me of coming home from school and smelling the pot of gravy cooking.
Hopefully some of my family's next generation will give this a try. It's definitely one of those really important "pass it down" family recipes.
I hope you'll try it too. Thanx Mom!

olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 29oz cans tomato puree
1 29oz can crushed tomatoes
dried basil
dried oregano
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese
couple pinches of sugar

sweet Italian sausage
Homemade Meatballs

Generously pour a few glugs of olive oil into a large pot, enough to almost cover the bottom. Heat the oil over medium heat, just until it begins to shimmer. Add onions and garlic. Slowly saute until they become soft. Add tomato paste. Stir with onions and garlic for a few minutes until the paste begins to darken slightly. Add puree and crushed tomatoes. After emptying the crushed tomatoes and the puree into the pot, fill each can 3/4 full with water. Swirl the water to rinse the inside of the can, then add the water to the pot. Next, add the herbs and spices, the sugar and the grated cheese. These amounts were never specific. I just shake a good amount of the basil, oregano, salt, and pepper across the top of the gravy, just as Mom always did. When I asked her how much cheese to add, she said "about a handful". Basically, it's all to taste. "Do you like a lot? Add a lot." Reduce heat to the low setting.
Now it's time to add the meat.
Cut the Italian sausage into 2" or 3" pieces. Place them in a hot skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Brown sausage on all sides, (no need to cook all the way through), then add to the pot of gravy. While the sausage is cooking, make the meatballs. In the same skillet, saute the meatballs on all sides. Remove from the pan and add to the pot. When all the meatballs have been removed from the pan, pour off the excess grease and add about a cup of water to the hot pan. Placed it back on the heat and use a wooden spoon to scrape all the fond from the bottom of the pan. (that's all the browned bits that are stuck to surface of the pan). Add it to the pot. Let the pot simmer for a few hours. Give it a stir every so often. Be sure to stir all the way to the bottom so it doesn't begin to burn. Let it simmer until it reaches the desired thickness.

The key to this recipe is the meat. I've never made it without making meatballs to go along with it, and the sausage seasons the gravy as well. Another key step is deglazing the pan and adding the browned bits. I made it once without doing that and it just didn't taste right.
Instead of chopping the onions, Mom always cut an onion in half, and then added the two halves to the sauce. This gives good onion flavor without having the onion bits throughout the gravy.
I usually hold back a little on the salt when I'm first adding the seasonings. The sauce thickens and reduces as it cooks, and adding what seems like the right amount of salt in the beginning might turn out to be too much salt at the end. I just add a little in the beginning, then add more if it needs it when it's finished simmering.
I like a really thick gravy, so I always let it simmer all day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had it as a boy and WOW THAT STUFF IS TERRIFIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EVERYONE SHOULD TRY IT BEFORE DYING!!!!!! IT SHUD BE ON YOUR BUCKET LIST!!!!!!!!