Ragu Napoletana = Sunday Gravy

I know it's not a Sunday, but I wanted to give you some good ideas for the upcoming weekend.

As a kid growing up in NJ, my friends would invite me for "Sunday Gravy". Since we weren't Italian, this was foreign to me. Gravy in my family was the brown sauce my mother served with her roast beef or what you put on mashed potatoes.

This heavenly sauce, reserved for Sundays only, was filled with pork shoulder, beef, sausages, red wine and other delights. It simmered on the stove all day and my mouth watered as I sat at their wonderful family tables.

Where I lived, this Sunday gravy was known as Gravy Napoletan ("NAH-BO-LEE-DON"), and it hails from the South, in Naples.

This hearty meat sauce is from Mario Batali's book Molto Italiano, it's very simple to make and is the perfect winter Sunday dinner. It is sure to please.

*Sorry, no substituting TURKEY or CHICKEN sausage in this recipe, it just doesn't work.
(and you know who you are, so don't ask!)

Ragu Napoletana (a.k.a. Sunday Gravy):

1 lb. veal shoulder or pork shoulder cut into chunks
1/2 lb. beef chuck meat, cubed
salt & pepper
3 good quality hot Italian sausages, cut in half
two 28oz. cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes w/ juice
3/4 cup dry red wine (I use chianti)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped

In a large Dutch oven, season your meat cubes with salt & pepper and sear in olive oil until brown. You will have to do this in a few batches. Don't overcrowd the meat, you want them to get a nice crust. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pot, add the chopped onion and saute, scraping the bottom of the pot w/ a wooden spoon, loosening up any brown bits. Now add the garlic and cook a minute or two, don't burn the garlic.

After the onion is soft, add the wine, meat chunks, tomatoes and sausages and bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook about 2 1/2 hours. Sauce will reduce and thicken and meat will be fork tender.

You can add meatballs to this sauce and I have seen other additions of meat, like neck bones, spare ribs, etc., but I followed Mario's recipe (except that he doesn't use garlic, and I did) to the letter. It's a big pot of meat, pork and tomato sauce, so use what you like.

Most people remove the meat to a separate platter and serve just the tomato sauce over pasta, then pass the meat platter. I like to serve the sauce from one pot.

Either way, it's all good!
Serve over rigatoni or penne and enjoy.


Anonymous said…
Oh my dad used to make this for us when i was a little girl. He also used to put pork skin in it too to give it a richer flavour, and you can eat it as well. Melts in the mouth.
The JR said…
It certainly looks like it's worth the time to make it.
Lisa Nickerson said…
Yes yes -- Stacey!

I remember being at Paula's house for this same unbelievable delicacy. It was served over "macaroni" with uber fresh bread from that bakery up on Route 46!

Anonymous said…
I enjoy your writing almost more than I enjoy your recipes. I think you may have missed your calling, Girl! Thank you!!
Debby said…
Ah Memories of growing up in Boston where you could actually find "little packages" wrapped in the meat department at "Purity Supermarket." Inside the package were a chick wing or two, country style pork rib, and stew beef. Great sauce and happy memories.
I'm smiling from ear to ear and licking my chops. My Seattle pal Kristin always raved about her family's Sunday gravy, and finally made it for us on Christmas Eve.

Uh, yeah, like I ate so much I could barely move. (I mean even more than normal.) It's a sauce and recipe that tastes like love around the table. Thanks for sharing this, as I'm not so sure Miss Kristin was willing to do the same. Warm regards, Tom
Ciao Chow Linda said…
now that's Italian! real comfort food and it would be a most welcome meal any day, but a typical Sunday meal (with meatballs) at our house.
Coming from this Nah-Bo-Lee-Don, that is pure comfort food at it's best! There's nothing like that smell flowing through the house on a Sunday, (or any day!)
I have two Italian grandmothers and one grew up in the Bronx and one grew up in CT. The former always called the sauce "gravy" and my father followed suit. The latter always called it "sauce" and that's what Mom called it.

Oh the fights that broke out over the nomenclature in my family. In our case any red sauce could be called gravy (on Dad's side anyway) but I know some folks say it's only gravy if there is meat in it.
Maureen said…
I grew up in NJ too, in Belleville, though am Irish.
On Sundays you could smell the garlic on our street, hear the yelling (all with love!) and you knew it was Sunday gravy time!
Anonymous said…
The gravy soggy wooden spoon resting on the butcher block, wood x 2, great photograph. Stacey hearts the boot!
Jersey Joe said…
I never knew that NABOLEDON was the same thing as Neapolitan! and I call myself an Italian?
What a dope I am!
Nice sauce, you do a good job with Italian food Stacey. You could invite me for Sunday dinner anytime!
Carole said…
Your well-used wooden spoon is a testament of a good cook.
kat said…
Now that is a stick to your ribs meal!