meat gravy **

Last Sunday I was making my very first post on this blog, “Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti” for a family dinner celebrating my daughter’s birthday.    I then realized that my recipe for traditional meat sauce (or “gravy or “ragu” as we Italians call it) is hidden within this recipe, way back in the archives of this blog.  It is very difficult to find.  My family recipe for meatballs is also hidden there.    I decided that I needed to make these recipes much more accessible to all of you.  I apologize for keeping these two very important Italian dishes so obscurely placed.  Now they will be at your fingertips, and I hope you enjoy them over and over.  While you are at it, why not give “Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti” a try.  It is the very first post under the “Pasta” category.  You won’t regret it!!   I also would love for to try making braciole to add to your sauce.  I spent years watching my grandfather roll and tie these with tender loving care.  They are delicious, and add to the sauce, but not absolutely necessary, so don’t worry if you don’t feel like giving them a try.  I don’t always add them either.

Calling this Tradtional  meat sauce, is really quite brazen of me.  I should say that this is my family’s traditional meat sauce.  All Italians have their own family version of this wonderfully meaty sauce that would grace our tables on Sundays.  Who doesn’t remember the aromas swirling around the kitchen on Sunday mornings? Who among us hasn’t stolen a hot meatball, freshly draining from the fry pan?  It wouldn’t be Sunday, if you didn’t sneak a piece of fresh, crusty Italian bread and dip it in the gravy,  The memories go on and on.  What I love the most about making this sauce on Sundays is that my family is still stealing meatball; still dunking the bread in gravy; and still filled with happiness to smell this pot of meat and tomatoes cooking on the stove.   Traditions are a wonderful thing.   I believe them to be one of the best gifts you can give to your family.

Nonni’s Ragu

4 cans of Italian plum tomatoes, 28 ounce cans…..make sure the can says “Product of Italy”.

1 6ounce can of tomato paste

1 onion, chopped

1 to 2 pounds of pork spare ribs

1 to 2 pounds of beef ribs or any beef on the bone

1 pound of Italian pork sausage

1/2 cup good olive oil or lard…of course, Nonni used lard and I will sometimes use this or one part olive oil / one part lard

1 1/2 cups of red wine

salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy pot heat the oil and /or lard over medium heat.  When oil is warm, add the various meats in batches and brown, turning occasionally until brown on all sides.  Remove meat as it browns and continue adding until all the meat is browned well and out of the pot.  Now add the chopped onions and sauté for 5 minutes or so.  Add the wine and then stir and turn off the heat.  Now add the tomatoes, which have be “squished” in your hands until basically you have pureed tomatoes.  If you prefer, you can pulse them once or twice in a blender instead, but little Nonni would never have done that!  Turn the heat back up to medium and cook for thirty minutes.  Then add the tomato paste. Clean out the can of paste by swishing a little water around in the can and add it into the pot, stirring to mix the paste in well.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Then put the meat back in the pot and cook for another hour, at least.  the longer the better.  Make sure you stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom.

Nonni’s Meatballs  

1/2 pound each of ground beef, veal and pork

1/2 cups of Italian style breadcrumbs

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 cup fresh, Italian flat parsley, minced

salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil for frying meatballs in a skillet

Combine all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large mixing bowl.  Using your hands, mix thoroughly. Really get in there.   If consistency is too wet, just add more breadcrumbs.

Once they are the right consistency, wash your hands, but leave them slightly wet for rolling the balls.  I place them on a cookie sheet as I go along and then fry all at one time.  She always used a cast iron heavy skillet to fry the meatballs and so do I.  But any skillet will do just fine.  Heat the oil.  Add several meatballs at a time, but keep an eye not to burn.  Keep turning until they are nicely browned.  I line another cookie sheet with paper towels and this is where I put the meatballs to drain as they come out of the pot.  This will get rid of the excess oil.


1 pound beef bottom round, cut into ½ inch think slices (this should give you around 6 slices)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup  chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

cooking twine for tying, or toothpicks can be used

1. Pound the meat to tenderize.

2. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper

3 Spread the garlic, parsley and grated cheese on each slice.

4. Roll the meat the short way and tie with string or use a toothpick to  secure.

5. Brown the meat  on all side in the hot olive oil.

6. Place in the sauce and cook for at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better.

meat gravy browning 1

meat gravy browning 2

meat gravy brownedmeat gravy onionsmeat gravy cookedmeat gravy meatballs 1meat gravy meatballs 2 meat gravy braciole

meat gravy braciole fryingmeat gravy recipe

Can I tempt to to try Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti???

meat gravy pie


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