Clemenza Shows Michael
How to Make Sunday Sauce "GRAVY"
For a Bunch of Mobsters
Of all the fine traditions of the Italian-American enclave in the United State, the Sunday afternoon ritual of making and Eating a Sunday Sauce is Italian-America’s most Time-Honored. Mamma, Grandma (Nonna) will make her Celebrated Sunday Sauce. What is it? Well there are a number of variations on the theme. Most Sunday Sauces are made with Italian Sausages, Braciole, and Meatballs. Some people make their versions with; Beef Neck, while others make their Gravy (Sunday Sauce) with just Sausage and Meatballs. Some may throw some Chicken Thighs into this mix. Sunday Sauces can be made with any combination of these aforementioned meats.
The meats are slowly simmered for several hours with tomato, and minced onions and garlic.
I generally like to make my Sunday Sauce with Saus-ages, Meatballs, and Pork Ribs. Other times I’ll make it with Sausage, Ribs, and Braciole. An old tradition in some families is that mother or Grandma would start the Sauce early on a Sunday morning, get it sim-mering away
for a couple hours on top of the stove, then put it in the oven for a couple hours while everyone goes to Church. When you get back home, the sauce would be ready. Ready to be devoured
We would usually start our Sunday meal with the most traditional Italian-American-Antipasto
of roast peppers, Salami, Olives, and Provolone. After that, it’s on to the Main Event, Maccheroni and Sunday Sauce. Something so Blissfully Pleasurable and Sub-lime, that it is
When a meal centered around a Sunday Sauce is announced, one can have visions of Blissful Ecstasyat thoughts of Eating Pasta laden with Italian Sausages, Savory Meatballs, and Succulent Pork Ribs. All this has been slowly simmered to culinary perfection. Yes just the thoughts can enrapture one into a Delightful Frenzy of the Most Blissful Feelings of smelling, seeing, and consuming Sausages, Meat-balls and Gravy. Yes a Sunday Sauce can and does
have such effects on one’s mind, body, and soul. And, I do not want to sound prejudice, but this is pure fact, it is the Male of the Italian-American species who Love The Sunday Sauce in all its form, far more than the female sex. True! Meatballs too. And Italian-American men and boys Love and hold oh-so-dare, their Meatballs, Sunday Sauce, Sausage & Peppers, and Meatball Parm Sandwiches.
The Sunday Sauce that my mother would makewas with Sausages, Meatballs, and Beef Braciole. My memories are vivid watching my mother stuffing the Braciole with garlic, parsley, Pecorino, and Pignoli Nuts, then tying the bundles with butchers cord to hold the Braciole together as they slowly simmered in the Gravy. Another fond memory was helping my mother
roll and shape the Meatballs.
As for me, my Sunday Sauce will vary dependingon my mood. One thing I Love to do when makingmy sauce is to add Pork Spareribs to the “Gravy.” “Gravy” by the way is what many people in the New York area call Sunday Sauce, particularly in Brooklyn. Not many people
make there Sunday Sauce with the Pork Ribs, but to me they are phenomenal, and anyone
who tries them, they are immediately hook-ed. As I think back, none of the ladies in our
family put Pork Spare Ribs into their Gravy. I guess I read or heard about some people
doing it, and I believe it was about 14 years ago or so that I Started adding theRibs into my Sunday Sauce. I haven’t looked back ever since. I Love them, as does everyone whom I serve them to.
Whenever I make my sauce with Pork Ribs, my friends go nuts for them. Many are
surprised, as they might never have had Ribs in a Sunday Gravy before. They didn’t know
that you could use Pork Spareribs.
The ribs are traditional with some but not all. It is quite a shame for those who don’t add the ribs as they give the sauce a quite wonderful flavor, and the Ribs themselves, “Yumm.”
The Ribs that simmer long and slow and are very tender,” They lit-erally Melt-in-Your-Mouth.
Whenever I make the sauce, and I’m dishing it out to friends and family, I always make sure that I have my fare share of the Ribs. Pork Ribs cooked in this manner, simmering in the sauce are oh so suc-culent and tasty, they are Beyond-Belief-Tasty.
These Sunday Sauce Ribs are, “Out-of-this-World” and friends, one-by-one, go nuts for them.
I remember the time I first met my friend John Cataneo. We were having a dinner party with Ada, Jimmy, Pat and Gina Parrotta, Ronny “C,” Bobby Shack. Jimmy had invited John and his wife Maria.
I had never met either of them before. John and Maria had eaten already and were not hungry so Johnny told me just to give him a small portion when I was dishing the Gravy out.
I guess it was so good, Johnny shyly came back and asked if he could have a couple more ribs.
“No problem Johnny. Enjoy!”
And what to serve with the Sunday Sauce you ask? Any short Maccheroni such as Rigatoni, Ziti, or Gnocchi are best.
The rituals of cooking, serving, and eating Sunday Sauce is a time honored one. It is a
quite a beautiful thing, same as making Mole in Mexico or Cassoulet in France. They are all wonderful things of Beauty.
They take time and effort to make, and are made and served with Love. These dishes bring together friends and family, and for Italian-Americans, the Sunday Sauce is The King of all dishes.
If you utter the term Sunday Sauce to any number of millions of Italian-Americans, they
start salivating at the simple mention of its name. The wheels start turning in their heads,
with thoughts of how tasty it is and all the different components; the Meatballs, Sausages, Braciole, maybe Ribs, Beef Neck, or Pig Skin Braciole, the Pasta, and the Gravy itself.
They think about sitting at the table with friends and or family, people they love.
They’ll ponder the Antipasti, wondering what it might be; Mixed Salumi, Baked Clams,
Grilled Calamari? And with the meal, there will surely be Wine, Italian Wine, maybe a good Chianti or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. With Uncle Frank and Uncle Tony, the wine was usually Carlo Rossi Paisano or Gallo Hearty Burgundy, two solid Italian-American winemakers.
They think about the warmth in the air, of loved ones, Sinatra, Dino, the Sunday Sauce.“It’s
a beautiful thing!!!” If you’ve never done it, “Try it!” If you haven’t cooked one for some time, plan a get-together with friends and family, soon. Sunday Sauce, It brings people togeth-er, in a most Delightful way, and as the Big Boys would say, “It’s a Beautiful Thing.”
Daniel Bellino Zwicke
Excerpted from Daniel Bellino's forthcoming book "La Tavola" Broadway Ffith Press, NY NY