Karin CallowayFood columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.

Sunday gravy doesn't have to be a chore

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Sunday gravy is an Italian-American red sauce that’s chock-full of meats. My husband, Bond, and I have been making it for years as a Sunday afternoon labor of love. Prepared the traditional way, this sauce requires hours of standing over the stove.

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Sunday gravy is an Italian-American red sauce that's chock-full of meats.   Special
Sunday gravy is an Italian-American red sauce that's chock-full of meats.

Recently, I’ve discovered that the sauce comes out just as deliciously when prepared in my slow cooker. This version allows you to get this going on a Sunday morning and then enjoy a delicious dinner in the evening without all the work.

In addition, the recipe makes enough sauce for three pounds of pasta, so you’ll have leftover sauce in the freezer for two more meals down the road.

Classic Sunday gravy usually includes meatballs and Italian sausage along with pork ribs and braciole, which is thin slices of beef rolled around a cheese and bread crumb stuffing. In this version you’ll get the same meaty flavor but without the meatballs.

I like to use hot Italian chicken sausages in the recipe. The chicken sausages are flavorful but are much leaner than traditional Italian sausage. My favorite brand is GreenWise hot Italian chicken sausage, sold at Publix.

The remaining ingredients are typical of any tomato-based pasta sauce: canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chopped onion, minced garlic and a little sugar. The sauce ingredients and meats are combined in the slow cooker and let simmer on low for 8-10 hours.

Traditionally, the meats are served as one course and the tomato sauce is tossed with pasta as another course.

I prefer to go an untraditional route, removing and shredding the meat, slicing the sausages and returning it all to the sauce.

Serve over cooked spaghetti with garlic bread and a tossed salad for a hearty Italian-American classic.


1 small boneless chuck roast, about 1½ pounds

1 pound boneless country style pork ribs

1 package (about 5 links) sweet or hot Italian sausage, preferably hot Italian chicken sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon dry crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon salt

3 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 8-ounce can tomato paste

1 cup chopped onion, about 1 medium onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic, about 2 large cloves

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place roast and ribs onto a clean cutting board and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper and salt, rubbing the seasonings into the meat with your hands.

Set aside.

Combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, onion, garlic and sugar in the ceramic vessel of a slow cooker. Add the meats and sausage and covering with the sauce.

Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours, until meat is very tender. Remove the roast and the ribs to a platter and shred.

Remove the sausage to a cutting board and slice. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper, as needed.

Return the meats and sausage to the sauce and serve with cooked spaghetti or other pasta.

Makes enough sauce for three pounds of pasta.


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augustapoz 12/07/11 - 04:33 pm
Sugar? You may call this

Sugar? You may call this Sunday gravy but this is not even a version of the true Italian. There are many much better recipes that take less work and will deliver more true Italian flavor. It is also called Sunday gravy because it was put into a low oven or on a back burner and left to slowly cook while everyone went to Mass. Then there was plenty for the whole family to eat on for the entire day.

JustLilMe 12/07/11 - 06:13 pm
Tomato paste? sugar? "Italian

Tomato paste? sugar? "Italian Seasoning" ?? Good grief. Italians and Italian Americans of any recent descent are cringing here.
Also, that's a lot of meat for so little sauce. Traditionally meats cooked in sauce are served as meat course or even at another meal since meat is considered a luxury and eaten far less.

ntuitive1 05/31/14 - 01:00 pm
From a Real Sicilian, this is NOT a bad recipe

I don't get the negative comments here. Everyone here thinks they're an expert. Well I AM an expert and I'm not cringing. My Sicilian American family taught me how to cook real authentic Sunday gravy. My Sicilian grandmother was born in 1906 (she passed in 1984 when I was 26) and I watched her diligently growing up to learn her recipes. She was a phenomenal cook. I know everyone says that about their grandma, but she really was - People used to beg to sit at her table or just get a sample of her leftovers. My mother was similarly gifted.

All Italian Americans have a different preferred recipe. The only thing I would argue with about this one is that usually a big 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes is used (or whatever brand you prefer) in puree, which are crushed. I often add another 15 oz. can depending on how much meat I have. No diced tomatoes. You can use anywhere from 1 tbsp. to one 8oz. can of tomato paste based on preferences. I use half a can. Tomato paste is definitely something Italian Grandma's approve of in gravy. And yes, SUGAR is often added to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes. My grandmother added it. So does Buddy Valastro. She also added Italian herbs - Parsley, Oregano and Basil. She tended to prefer fresh herbs but if she didn't have them on her windowsill for some reason, she just used dried. No big whoop. My grandma won't roll in her grave if you use Italian Seasoning. This food is family style cooking, not brain surgery, so it's nowhere near precise. Grandma used 3 cloves of minced garlic, but not onions - that was preference. Onions are fine if you like them. They tend to sweeten the gravy, but if they're not there you won't miss them unless you are very used to them. She preferred chuck roast cut into big 2 inch cubes (they shrink) and pork shoulder picnic roast, also cut into 2 inch cubes and not shredded. I often buy the one intended for the slow cooker because it's the right size. Country ribs are fine too. Sausages are also fine. Like I said, not precision cooking.

To the person who said this recipe had a lot of meat to sauce, yes, it does have too little sauce, but also keep in mind that in a slow cooker there is less evaporation. The meat exudes juices and creates more liquid. So you don't have to add water or wine. If the sauce looks a little dry after a few hours, add it. Again, not brain surgery. Some meat produces a lot of juice, some doesn't. Use your intuition, not measuring cups. That's what Grandma did and that's why her cooking was so good.

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