Sunday Gravy

I know on this island there’s a long-standing debate going on – Is it called Sunday Sauce or Sunday Gravy? Me, I really don’t care what you call it as long as it tastes good.   I tend to call the regular version I make sauce and the version I’m making today gravy. What’s the difference?  For me, the heartiness of the sauce is what puts it in the gravy category.  Remember, this is a German lady cooking Italian every Sunday, so I do not claim to be an expert.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money.  My dad was a Police Officer and my mom was a stay at home mother raising three children, many times alone.  Mom was left alone with the three of us as my dad worked rotating shifts.  I can still remember his shift schedule. Two nights (4-12), two days (8-4), two overnight (12-8) followed by two days off if he was lucky.  I never thought much back then about the fact that our mom always had a hearty meal on the table every single night.  As kids, we had a hot meal (meat, vegetables and starch) every night and rarely, if ever, ate fast food.  We actually only ate out once a year, for the New Year, and ordered pizza when our house flooded, which unfortunately (or fortunately) was often.  How my mom managed that feat, I really can’t say as I sure didn’t when my three were little.   We ate a lot of fast food and macaroni and cheese from the blue box.

Dad at his Seneca Avenue home, 1956

My dad always liked good quality food.   I used to think this was because he grew up poor.   I thought he saw it as some kind of confirmation that he “made it” and didn’t have to settle for less anymore.  But, when mom was diagnosed and he started cooking, I realized that wasn’t it at all.  Dad was really a foodie at heart.   One day, I asked him why he didn’t cook more as he loved it and was quite good.   His answer made me sad.   He said my mom never let him cook because she didn’t want a big mess.   Mom was quite the clean freak in her day and the thought of pots and pans all over her kitchen likely stressed her out.   Now that he was doing all the cooking and cleaning, he was able to cook and experiment with many new recipes.

My Dad always knew the best places to get quality meat.   He often brought home special roasts for our holiday meals and they never disappointed.  Still, we weren’t often able to get expensive cuts.  Thankfully, mom was great at slow cooking so we really couldn’t tell.   I actually never tasted a Filet Mignon until I was in my thirties!  Another cut of meat I had for the first time about a year ago was short ribs.  Crazy, right?  We went to lunch one day with my son and his fiancé and I ordered beer braised short ribs.   I instantly fell in love with the softest, tastiest stew meat I’d ever tasted.   I’ve been hooked on it ever since.

Today, we were in the mood for Sunday Gravy so I knew just the meat I’d be adding in.  Short ribs cooked in tomato sauce turn it into a hearty ragu, hence why I call it gravy.  I hope you’ll give this one a try over some homemade, hand cut spaghetti as  I promise you won’t be sorry.   You need to get an early start with this recipe though as it needs to cook long and slow.

For our pasta today, we were in the mood for some homemade ravioli.   You don’t need a fancy machine to make it and like other pasta, once you eat homemade you’ll not go back to frozen.  My pasta recipe was shared in this post – Sunday Sauce

For ravioli, I follow the same recipe but use “00” Flour instead of all-purpose.  This helps keep the dough thin and light, which is exactly how ravioli dough should be.


I use this ravioli cutter and it’s super easy to make.  Just do not overfill them as they will explode if you do.
Bellemain Large Ravioli Maker

Sunday Short Rib Gravy

Ingredients (For 2 with leftovers)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pounds short ribs
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • dash of wine or broth to deglaze the pot
  •  Sat and pepper to taste
  • pinch of sugar
  • tsp red pepper flakes
  • olive oil and 1 tbsp sweet butter


  1. Pour cup of coffee as it will be way too early for wine.  You can still turn Alexa on low and dance in the kitchen.
  2. Your pot choice matters a lot when cooking.  Please, use cast iron for this recipe.   I used to be a Le Creuset snob, but was not happy with the customer service I didn’t receive when my expensive pot’s white inside lost its luster.  I recently purchased a new cast iron pot from Anolon and am loving it!  If you’re looking to try cast iron cooking, you may want to check this pot out for far less money.    The insides are black and the lines of the pot and handle are sleek and modern.
  • Brown the short ribs in tbsp of olive oil.  Remove from pot.878C5103-82E7-40BC-A023-4E61A4513593
  • Mine left very little oil in the  pot, so I added tbsp of sweet butter to brown my chopped onions.   Cook gently on low heat for about 4 minutes.  Do not allow them to burn.
  • Add chopped garlic and red pepper and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add splash of wine to deglaze the pot.  I had white on hand. Use flat wooden scraper and get all those wonderful bits off the pot.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir.  Cook for a minute
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and pinch of sugar.
  • Add sat and pepper to taste.
  • Cook for at least 5 hours until meat falls off the bone.
  • Remove bones and carrot and discard.
  • Shred meat if needed, but mine usually just falls apart.
  • Serve over spaghetti with a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.02F8F623-B328-4DB5-A6D9-09A4B7885D0A

If you make this gravy, drop me a note.  I’d love to hear how you liked it and what tweaks you made.  It comes out so thick and delicious.  Enjoy!E0981176-9577-4899-A7BC-B6DB5AFE41FF

Sunday Sauce

My favorite cookbooks are those that have a memoir weaved throughout.  Food, after all is woven throughout our lives.  Its connection to our memories can’t ever be overlooked.   The mere smell of onions browning brings to mind images of my mother cooking her Sunday roast beef. If I close my eyes I can almost transport myself back to that time.  Sundays around here do not find me cooking roast beef.   After all,  I live on an island known to be full of Italian people and also known for its great Italian food.  What’s a German lady to do when living on such an island?  Learn to cook Italian food without a Nona to teach her!

We’ve been eating Sunday sauce since I’ve been married.   My husband and I both love spaghetti and meatballs so I needed to learn very early in our marriage how to make this traditional Sunday meal.  I grew up in Middle Village, Queens on a block made up of brick row houses.  Each house was exactly the same, yet each was so very different.   0DF6BD35-AF6C-4530-9307-A9D0396CE93AWe were truly lucky to grow up on this block, and lived a very safe and happy childhood.  My attached neighbors to the right were an Italian family, Paul and Rita and their two sons Sal and Johnny.  Both boys were much older than the group I grew up with, but the close proximity of our homes enabled us to know each other well.   Paul was a tailor and Rita a stay at home mom.   Rita was an amazing cook and just the happiest lady.  She was always laughing and always cooking up great food.

As a newly married girl, I knew I needed to learn how to make sauce.   My mom was a great cook, but sauce was just not her thing.  She rarely, if ever, made any sauce that didn’t come from a glass jar labeled Ragu.  So, one day I called Rita on the phone and asked her to teach me how to make homemade sauce.   She shared her recipe with me and I remember being surprised by the short list of ingredients.  I wondered why my mom thought it’d be hard for her to make.  I’ve used this recipe ever since that day, though I’ve taken a few liberties with it as I’ve grown as a cook to personalize it to our tastes.

To go with this sauce, there’s nothing that compares to homemade, fresh pasta.   Dried pasta in a bag just doesn’t work for us.   I’ve been using a Kitchen Aid pasta attachment for years but can’t seem to get the consistency I want.   Sometimes it’s great, others too thick.   Today I decided to go back to hand rolling and cutting to see if that works.

Today, on this very cold Sunday, the smells of sauce permeate my kitchen.   If I close my eyes I can see Rita smiling and hear her joyful laughter.      If I close my eyes I’m sitting on the porch on 72nd Street smelling this food and wishing Rita was cooking for me.   Lucky enough she is.

Here’s Rita’s recipe that I tweaked slightly, along with my pasta recipe.

Sunday Sauce


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 large cans crushed Tomatoes (Rita used Redpack, I use Tuttorosa)
  • 1 small can tomato paste (I don’t use)
  • pinch sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper


  • Pour a glass of Chardonnay and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen
  • Sautee onion and red pepper flakes in olive oil until translucent (4 minutes)70879188-EB6A-4F3D-8365-4FC79FB517FB
  • Add chopped garlic and cook 1 minute longer
  • Add tomatoes and stir
  • Add sugar, salt & pepper
  • Add 1 Bay leaf
  • Refuce heat as low as possible, stir and simmer slowly for at least two hours 984859D5-526A-4957-B6C9-DF6BAEEC94E7
  • Add meatballs during last hour

Pasta Recipe


  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs


  • Mix together in Kitchen Aid with dough hook on low setting until it forms a ball 60FEA507-1BA4-440C-BBC9-982BCCA78C86.jpeg
  • Let dough rest at least 30 minutes
  • Knead dough lightly on well floured board
  • Cut dough into four sections
  • Roll each section as thin as possible.  45B50FCC-9FD5-405B-A289-616EA14D5533.jpeg
  • Hand cut using pizza cutter as thin as possible 

  • Cook in boiling water no more than 2 minutes.

*This recipe is for two people, rule of thumb is 2 eggs for every 1 cup of flour.

I served mine today with meatballs and eggplant parmesan.  It was quite delicious.  I learned from the best!


If you make this recipe, drop me a note and let me know how you made out.  Enjoy!

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