It's All Gravy (Well, at least, according to Grandma it is!)

My family members say she was The Boss--The Extreme Ruler. But I don't know much about her, except that she was short and stout with lar...

My family members say she was The Boss--The Extreme Ruler. But I don't know much about her, except that she was short and stout with large, meaty hands and a plump nose. She'd throw her shoe at you from the balcony if you didn't go to her when she called you inside. And she'd always get you. Always.

This tough woman I speak of--my great-great Nonna Vincenza--came to America at age 23, but never learned a word of English. According to Grandma, though, Nonna's suppers were virtually indescribable; the only language at Nonna's tables was a combination of sounds: cheeks bulging and contracting, teeth chomping on farm-fresh chicken and potatoes, and forks clanking against one another as my great aunts and uncles fought over the pan-scrapings.

But arguably, Nonna Vincenza's best recipe is the gravy she passed down to my great-grandma Evelyn (Mama Ev), who taught Grandma how to make it.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to learn the recipe, and I'm excited to share it with you today.

But first, let's get one thing straight. I have to use the word "gravy" because my Neopolitan family members (or as they pronounce it, "nubbly-don") would chase after me and hit me with wooden spoons if I called it "tomato sauce." They think "sauce" is an American ("middigon") word, and they'd gag me with a "mopeen" if I said it in their presence.

Contrary to what you might believe, not all Italians think alike. For example, my know-it-all guido pal Ed believes gravy is the stuff you pour over turkey and stuffing. He said the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of gravy is "a sauce made from the thickened and seasoned juices of cooked meat." According to him, when it comes to the red, tomatoey substance with which you eat pasta, "It's sauce, baby!"

Thanks, Eddie. Mama Ev is probably rolling around in her grave after that comment.

This is enough to strike up a civil war.

But in all seriousness, Grandma technically can call her red tomato stuff "gravy" because cooked beef (meatballs) and pork are added to it for complexity, texture, and flavor.

So here's the recipe. Try it! As they say in my family, just sit down, shut up and eat!

And I mean that in most loving way :)

Grandma's "Don't You Dare Call It Sauce" Gravy Recipe

What You'll Need:

1 yellow onion, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. boneless spareribs
3 cans crushed tomatoes (preferably from San Marzano, but always imported from Italy)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
fresh basil
fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

In a large saucepan, on high heat, caramelize onion in about 2-3 tbsp olive oil.

If necessary, add an extra 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sear the boneless spareribs (they should be golden brown on the outside).

Add tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper.

While this mixture simmers, get ready to prepare your meatballs in a separate bowl and fry them up in a separate, long pan.

You'll need:

1 1b. fresh, lean ground beef mixed with part ground pork (I usually substitute with lean ground turkey...just as delicious)
2 eggs
freshly chopped parsley
1 chopped clove of garlic
salt and pepper (as much as you think you'll want)
grated parmesan cheese (same here--as much as you'll want)
Vegetable oil for frying (or canola, if you wish)--enough to coat bottom of pan and sear the meatballs

Combine all ingredients in bowl, mix with clean hands, roll into 2-3 inch-long balls and fry in vegetable or canola oil until outsides are crispy.

Turn off the heat.

Add meatballs to simmering gravy and slow-cook on the stovetop for 3 hours.

Spareribs and meatballs will become tender and begin to break apart.
Molto Delicioso.

Serve over pasta, and try not to fight over the spareribs!

If you're like me, you'll want to pour some into a bowl and slurp it up like soup (yes, it might sound gross to you, but I can't get enough of it).

Yum's (definitely) the Word,



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