This Authentic Italian Sunday Gravy recipe is what I grew up eating every week. Nana’s tomato meat sauce holds a fond place in my heart, and her recipe lives on to this day in my recipe box. It’s my most requested recipe and today I’m sharing my family recipe with you.
I grew up in a big, fun Italian family, near Buffalo, NY. We even all lived on the same neighborhood block. My mom’s parents lived next door, then my aunt & uncle, then my mom’s aunt & uncle, and on and on around the entire block, seven houses in total if I count correctly…
Two things I remember most are always having cousins next door, and always having leftover food being transferred between houses.
Leftovers always included such yummy Italian food made from passed down Sicilian recipes. Like, Pasta Succo (pasta with sauce), Cannoli, Carduni, Chicken Soup. The list goes on and on.
Basically – I grew up in food heaven.
The main cooks in my family were my Nana and Nanu LaMancuso (grandma and grandpa). Nana always made the Pasta Succo and the Cannolis were my Nanu’s specialty.
I actually never got a true lesson on cooking these dishes and my passion for cooking didn’t really come until after I graduated college. Once in a while, my mom would ship me some of nana’s sauce – all the way from New York to Oregon…
My grandparents have both passed on now, and I’ve developed this sauce recipe over the years from my childhood memories and with tips passed on from other family members.
I’ve got to say that I think it would make Nana proud. It’s got an authentic Italian meaty flavor coming from three different types of meat – Italian sausage, pork and beef.
These meats simmer in the sauce and really give it a great flavor. By the end of the cooking time, they’re falling off the bone and super tender. Meaning that you can serve the meats for dinner that night and save the “succo” (or sauce) for a pasta dinner the next.
Or, you can serve the meats as a second course alongside your pasta.
Either way – You’ve got an amazing Italian feast on your hands and as Nana would say “Mangia! Mangia!” (Eat! Eat!).
Sunday Gravy Ingredients
The ingredients for this Italian gravy recipe are simple and available in all grocery stores:
- Olive oil
- Pork spareribs – or pork neck bones, pork chops, etc.
- Beef stew meat – or a small steak
- Italian sausage – spicy or mild, based on personal preference
- Garlic cloves
- Tomato paste – helps to thicken your sauce and add a rich flavor
- Crushed tomatoes – or whole tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes are best)
- Salt and Pepper
- Sugar – this goes in at the end. Add more or less based on how sweet your tomatoes are.
How to make Sunday Gravy
- Heat oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Brown the meats in the hot oil and set aside on a plate. Drain all but 2 TBSP of fat from the pot.
- Add the garlic and cook in the fat from the meat until golden.
- Discard the cloves – their flavor will still remain in the pot to flavor the sauce.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes to the pot, along with water, salt + pepper. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Return the meats to the pot and bring sauce to a simmer.
- Partially cover the pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 hours. The long cooking time is what gives that amazing flavor.
- At the end, add sugar, to taste, and adjust your seasonings one more time with salt and black pepper.
- Add fresh basil leaves and serve over your favorite pasta, topped with shaved Parmesan.
- Meat: Use any combination of meat that you have on hand. Sometimes I’ll use all pork (I find that pork gives the best flavor). Sometimes I’ll leave out the sausage if I’m not serving a large group. But for the best flavor, use at least one cute of meat that has the bones attached. The slow simmering of the meat on the bone gives amazing flavor. Some great options are pork chops, short ribs, pork shoulder, and neck bones. For a more thick + hearty sauce, you could add in some browned, ground pork.
- Parmesan Rind: If you have a parmesan rind on hand, throw it into your sauce as it simmers for some added delicious flavor!
- Herbs & Spices: Feel free to add a bit more flavor by adding in a pinch of dried oregano, red pepper flakes, onion powder, garlic powder or Italian seasoning.
- Red Wine: Try adding in a splash of red wine as your sauce simmers away. It will add color and a bright flavor to your sauce.
“Gravy” is another name for sauce, and typically it was served as a big family meal on Sundays.
Typically the meats are removed from the sauce and served on the side. The remaining sauce is served with cooked pasta and parmesan on the side, with extra bread for sopping up the sauce, and parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top.
Sunday gravy is similar to tomato sauce, in the fact that it’s a tomato-based red sauce. However, Sunday Gravy includes meat. Typically flavorful cuts, that are on the bone, like pork ribs, beef, and sausages, are simmered in the sauce all day. It adds a ton of flavor that can’t be matched by a standard marinara sauce.
No. Sunday Gravy is a sauce made from simmering whole meats, then the simmered meats are served on the side. Bolognese is typically made with ground beef.
If your sauce is too thin, try simmering it for a bit longer on a bit higher heat (being sure to stir to prevent burning). Simmer it uncovered. This will cook off some of the extra liquids. You can also add in more tomato puree if you have some on hand. Or, if you don’t mind a little extra texture in your sauce, you can stir in some plain breadcrumbs to thicken things up.
I consider this to be the best Sunday Gravy recipe, and it’s easy to master with some simple steps.
Tips for Making It
- Use whatever meat you have on hand. Often, our grocery store has a section in the meat department of mark downs. Stuff that’s still good, but needs to be used soon. I’ll throw in a combination of whatever I can find, steaks, beef or pork ribs, stew pieces. No matter the combination, it ends up delicious in the end!
- You can also make slow cooker Sunday Gravy. Prepare up to Step 11 on your stove, and then throw everything into your slow cooker. Cook on low heat for up to 8 hours.
- I’ve also updated this recipe so that you can now make it in even quicker with this Instant Pot Sunday Gravy.
Wine Pairings for Sunday Gravy
- Since we’re eating authentic Italian Meat sauce, I’m going for an authentic Italian wine – Try a Chianti, Barolo or Teroldego.
- READ MORE —> the BEST pasta wine pairings.
Did you make this pasta sauce?
If you loved this recipe for Sunday Sauce I would appreciate it so much if you would give this recipe a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.
What to Serve with It
- Tomato Cucumber Salad
- Kale Caesar Salad
- Homemade Gnocchi
- Shaved Fennel and Celery Salad
- Arugula Salad
- Bread – for mopping up all that yummy sauce!
More Italian recipes:
- White Bolognese Meat Sauce
- Chicken Piccata
- Lemon Pasta
- Homemade Potato Gnocchi
- Cioppino (Seafood Stew)
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo
PS – Need a way to preserve that extra basil? Try my method for how to freeze basil.
Sunday Gravy Recipe
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb. pork spareribs
- 1 lb. beef stew meat
- 1 lb. Italian sausage ( spicy or mild, based on personal preference)
- 6 cloves garlic (peeled and left whole)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 3 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 8 leaves fresh basil (torn into small pieces)
- Salt and Pepper (to taste )
- 1 Tablespoon sugar (more or less based on the flavor of your tomatoes)
- Parmesan (shaved, for topping)
- Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.
- Pat the pork dry and put the pieces in the pot.
- Cook turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until nicely browned on all sides.
- Transfer pork to a plate.
- Brown the beef in the same way and add it to the plate.
- Place the sausages in the pot and brown on all sides.
- Set the sausages aside with the pork and beef.
- Drain off most of the fat from the pot.
- Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden.
- Remove and discard the garlic.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes to the pot.
- Add the water; season with a pinch salt and pepper.
- Return the pork, beef, and sausages to the pot and bring sauce to a simmer.
- Partially cover the pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 hours.
- If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more water.
- At the end, add sugar, to taste, and adjust your seasonings one more time with salt and pepper. Add basil leaves and serve over your favorite pasta, topped with shaved Parmesan.
Be sure to check out my tips on how to clean a dutch oven after using it.
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This post was originally published in 2017. It was updated in 2022 to add new photographs. The original Sunday Sauce recipe remains the same. Enjoy!