How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

How to Make Sunday Gravy

Sunday gravy! I first learned about Sunday gravy from the Godfather. One of my favourite movies of all time is The Godfather. The acting is phenomenal, the script is well crafted and the story is compelling. I have seen it many times there are countless memorable scenes for me that I look forward to watching again and again. Just as an aside, there are some people that do not like to watch movies a second or third, instead they would rather watch a new movie. I am the type of person that would often prefer to watch a movie again; one I know I loved instead of seeing a new one that I may or may not like. It is just the way I am

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

Ok back to The Godfather. One of my favourite scenes is when they are in the kitchen and Clemenza is teaching Michael how to make Sunday Gravy, aka Mob War Sauce. Great tiny scene! Love it!

Here is Clemenza’s recipe! Quote right from The Godfather.

Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for twenty guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh?… And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.

Sunday gravy is a classic dish among Italian Americans. It is a meat infused gravy that was often made on Sundays. The family would all gather around the table and there would be plenty for everyone. The first time I made Sunday gravy, I loved it. The richness in the gravy is fabulous and the variety of meat makes each bite unique!

There are a LOT of ingredients for Sunday gravy. I love the ribs in this dish and the slow cooking causes the meat to just fall off the bone and provides such a rich flavour.

I like large meatballs, about 2 inches in size. I also bake them in the oven as it is easier than using a frypan.

Bake them in a preheated oven until they are cooked through. You want to make sure these are cooked through because if they are not, I find they can fall apart in the sauce if they are not cooked through. Once done, dump them in a large pot.

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

Brown the Italian sausages in a skillet until nicely browned. Don’t worry if they are cooked through because they will finish cooking in the sauce.

Cut the rack of ribs into individual rib portions and brown them in a skillet with a little bit of oil to prevent them from sticking. Do not worry about cooking them right through as they will be well cooked in the sauce.

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

Saute the onion, celery, pepper and garlic in the skillet. You can also add a little bit of water to deglaze the bottom of the pan.

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

Add all the meat, veggies, tomatoes, wine and remaining ingredients (except the noodles of course) to the large pot. Bring the sauce to a light boil. Let the sauce simmer for about 4 hours. Stir it often and make sure that there is not sauce that starts to burn at the bottom of the pot.

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

To serve, I have a large bowl of the noodles that have been tossed with some of the gravy. I also have a serving dish with all the meat – there is lots of meat!! In a separate bowl, I have some extra gravy, as everyone seems to have a different preference as to how much gravy they like.

Having the meat in a separate dish than the gravy is good so that people can choose which of the different meat they want to try out.

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

This recipe serves a big family! It takes a long time, but the flavour is so rich and amazing that it is worth it.

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe
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5 from 4 votes

How to Make Sunday Gravy

A meat infused tomato sauce often made on Sundays in Italian American homes. Meatballs, ribs, sausage, tomato sauce, simmered for hours and served on noodles.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 people
Author Steve Cylka

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage, mild or hot
  • 1 rack baby back ribs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesean cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 sweet red pepper, cored and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 11 cups of strained/crushed tomatoes (3-4 jars or cans)
  • 2 cups red wine or sparkling grape juice
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed dried chili flakes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • spaghetti noodles or other pasta

Instructions

  • For the meatballs, mix the ground beef, ricotta cheese, parmesean, bread crumbs, egg, milk, 1/3 cup fresh basil and salt together. Knead the mixture with your hands until thoroughly combined. Roll into 2 inch meatballs and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven at 400 until cooked through, about 20 minute.
  • In a large pot, pour in the strained tomatoes, wine/sparkling grape juice, sugar, dried chilies and salt. Bring to a small boil.
  • When the meatballs are cooked, stir them in the gravy.
  • In a frypan, heat the oil and cook the sausages until they are cooked mostly through. Stir them in the gravy.
  • In the same frypan, sear the ribs for a few minutes on each side. Stir them in the gravy.
  • In the frypan, add the onions, sweet red pepper, celery and garlic. You may need to add a bit more oil if the pan is dry. Also, as the veggies are cooking, this is a great opportunity to 'deglaze' the pan. There are a lot of great flavours on the base of this pan and they need to get in the gravy. Pour in a little bit of water (1/2 cup) and scrape the bottom of the pan to pull up all the bits that are packed with flavour. Once the veggies are soft, pour it all into the gravy.
  • Cook the gravy at a low to medium simmer for about 4 hours, or longer. Serve with noodles.

How to make Sunday Gravy Recipe

About Steve Cylka

Steve is the author of The Black Peppercorn. He is a recipe developer and food photographer. His recipes have been featured on websites like Bradley Smoker, Times Picayune, Buzzfeed, and Basil & Salt. He has also authored and co-authored a couple cookbooks.

27 comments

  1. I love that scene! It flies right past most people. I guess it takes a foodie.
    Thanks for the sauce recipe, it really looks fantastic. My mom used to simmer the sauce with sausage and pork and lots of good stuff.

  2. I’ve been thinking it’s time to revisit a traditional Italian pasta sauce like yours…my hubby thought it was fabulous when I went through the whole process a couple years ago. You’ve given me the push I need to make this soon…it looks delish!

  3. I am ashamed to say I have never seen The Godfather. I am all about good Italian Food though, and this looks amazing!

  4. This plate of food would sleep with the fishes once I got a hold of it.

  5. Looks phenomenal! I can only imagine the smells coming from your kitchen!

  6. Hhaha..Nice Godfather reference! Adding ribs to this dish is nicely unique 😉

  7. I know I’m a latecomer to this discussion, and I’m afraid I may come off a bit on the negative side, but here goes.

    I’m assuming you’re British, Steve, from some spellings and terminology. Am I right that you mean what we in the States call “crushed red pepper flakes” when you say “crushed dried chilies”? Does “2 L” mean “2 lbs.”? And when you say “noodles,” you mean some form of pasta, right? For example, spaghetti or fetuccini or even rotelli. When we say “noodles” in the States, it’s a totally different form of pasta from what Italians normally use with rich sauces such as this Sunday gravy.

    By the way, the sausages in that photo look like English breakfast sausages I used to get at the B&B in London when I’d visit there, but they certainly don’t look like Italian sausages.

    I hope you’ll be good enough to let me have the answers to my questions. Thanks. I do want to try the recipe, but only after I’m sure about what you posted. Grazie tante.

    • Hey Rick. Thanks for the reply and don’t worry. It wasn’t negative, just asking some clarifying questions Here are the answers:
      1. I am not British. I live in Canada and we use similar spelling as British spelling.
      2. crushed dried chilies is the same and red pepper flakes
      3. 2 L means litres – we use metric here (I think I will change that to amount of cups as that would be more universally understood)
      4. noodles/pasta is the same thing yes.
      5. the sausage is italian sausage. Breakfast sausage up here is totally different than this. I use mild Italian sausage.

      It is interesting how different countries refer to things differently which makes it a challenge when posting. I am going to make some adjustments to make it a bit more clear. Thanks for your comments. I have had people from Australia and other places that ask clarifying questions. I hope you enjoy the sauce. Let me know how it turns out!

  8. Steve, I’m glad you posted this on FB — it truly looks like a sauce worth of a Don. 🙂 Nice to “see” you again!

  9. I made this for Mothers Day dinner it turned out great makes enough to feed 20 or more.

  10. I made this recipe several times it feeds a crowd and everyone loves it.
    Joe
    Mesa AZ

  11. I have never reviewed a recipe until now. This sauce is amazing. Everyone loves it. I am not a huge fan of spaghetti, as a rule. But, when I found this recipe, I was interested immediately. Let me just say, I will never buy pre made spaghetti sauce again. This will be my go-to sauce every time. Thank you so much for the recipe. Love it!

  12. Great. Nothing really more to say,…..because I am filled to the gills.

  13. Just wanted to say that my Grandma and Grandpa always made Sunday gravy full of all kinds of meat, simmered all day and it was fabulous. Also learned from my Grandma that you don’t have to cook the meatballs before putting them in the sauce. If you put them in raw they soak up the sauce and are completely cooked when you take them out. Awesome

    • Thank you for sharing!! I am planning to make Sunday gravy again and I will try your method of putting the meatballs in raw. My biggest fear is that they might break apart when stirring it, while they are still cooking through. Can’t wait to try!

  14. This is one of our favorite meals and thanks for reminding me that it’s been way too long since we’ve had it. I have a stash of movies that keep me company when I’m baking and The Godfather Pt 1 & 2 is one of them. My family doesn’t share my love of watching the same movies over and again and that’s OK with me. Your pictures are awesome and thanks for the recipe.

  15. Hi I just have a question can you taste any of the wine?

    • It does add a sweet richness to the sauce, but I don’t think it tastes like wine.

      • Well I made it Saturday Jan 13 everything was perfect awesome will definitely be making this again and yes could not taste the wine…Thank You..

      • Great recipe. I was taught that Real Italians never put sugar in their gravy but instead use shredded carrots for sweetness. Since I usually don’t measure anything I can’t tell you the appropriate amount to substitute thanks again

  16. I am going to try this as my go-to marinara (gravy in my family). If anyone is interested I have an amazing bolegnese recipe that I think everyone on this thread will enjoy. I will post u how my gravy came out as soon as I make it (hopefully this week end). Thanks for posting it up!! And Bob, I grew up with the same idea about no sugar in real Italians sauce…u can probably just leave it out and not notice a difference. And use a wine reduction on the vegetables…delicious

  17. I’m making this for my son’s 16th birthday party tomorrow… can I triple the sauce portion for my guests that do not want any meat? Or is that over-kill

    • My first thought – do you have a big enough pot? If you do, then sure you could probably do that. There is plenty of meat that there should still be a wonderful flavour in the sauce. I especially find that the ribs give lots of flavour to the sauce.

      I hope it turns out well and it is a great party for your son! My oldest turns 16 next year.

      Come back and share how the extra sauce worked out. Would love to hear!

      • Thanks for the quick reply! Good call on the pot size…. ummmm not sure that I do! I may stick with your exact recipe, and possibly make another dish to accompany this one. Thanks again!

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