Italian Sunday Gravy

Not the first time I’ve written about Italian Sunday Gravy, the seminal slow-cooked tomato sauce filled with various cuts of meat. Shortly before leaving for the US, we visited a Swedish-Thai couple we know and prepared Italian Sunday Gravy for them and several other friends.

P1210130

A plate full of meats – sausages, ribs, and loin – are seared to get some color into the pot. Then onions are sauteed, tomato sauce is caramelized, canned tomatoes are added, and then the meat is placed back in the sauce and the whole thing bakes in the oven for three hours.

P1210136

Meanwhile, I made some homemade pasta using Thomas Keller’s French Laundry pasta dough recipe. Since we were at friends’ house and I didn’t want to carry my KitchenAid mixer (which has a pasta rolling attachment) I just used a cutting board and rolling pin. A little more rustic, but it still turned out okay.

P1210139

Letting the sheets of pasta dry for a few minutes before cutting them. This way, the individual pieces of pasta cut more easily.

P1210143

The hand-cut pasta – I didn’t have a ruler or straight edge handy so these are cut with all sorts of varying width. Very rustic, indeed! My technique (or lack thereof) would shame Italian grandmothers.

P1210150

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water just as the sauce is finished. Fresh pasta cooks much more quickly than dried pasta so one needs to pay close attention.

P1210153

Once the meat is tender, you pull it out of the sauce and serve it on a platter.

P1210154

The remaining sauce is served directly from the pan and spooned over your pasta. Lots and lots of flavor in there!

P1210148

A side dish of cabbage, fennel and radish cole slaw with a sesame dressing. Makes a nice accompaniment to the heavy Sunday gravy.

P1210158

For dessert, one of our hosts cooked raspberry almond bars. These were fantastic. All in all, not only did we have a very fun time visiting with our friends, but the cooking was fun, too.

 

Saturday Cooking Part 2

Whereas Saturday morning was spent at the Seagull Cooking Cafe helping break in their new cooking school, Saturday evening was spent at the house of Khun Nat, co-editor of the website catandnat.com where some of my entries are cross-posted.  After he started editing my pieces and discovered our common interest of food, he suggested we cook together.  Our first venture: Hearty Italian Sunday Gravy based on a recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

This over-the-top tomato sauce usually calls for six cuts of meat and half a day by the stove.  Thankfully, the CI recipe cuts that down to just three cuts (ribs, sausages, and meatballs) and just a few hours, most of which is in the oven.  In addition to preparing the sauce, spaghetti and a salad, Nat prepared an angel food cake.  Not wanting to waste the egg yolks, we also prepared two batches of ice cream: one banana and the other raspberry.

I did not go to the trouble of shooting everything, simply because I was being put to work.  But here is a video showing the highlights of the afternoon and evening.  If you cannot view the video embedded in this entry, the link for it is here.

P1100133

Raised in New York City, Nat moved here in his mid-twenties and has been here ever since.  He is one of those fortunate souls who got to design his kitchen from scratch and it is perfectly laid out to have lots of people involved in the cooking.  Off to the left is a seating area where guests can relax and talk with the chef.  Very useful arrangement, if only I had another few dozen square meters in my condo!

P1100138

Iron Chef New York prepares the tomato sauce after browning in the meats in a skillet.  The secret behind the rich flavor is that you sautee the onions until they start to brown and then add tomato paste and cook it until nearly burned.  While this may seem too far at first, it concentrates the flavors and nicely caramelizes the sugars in the paste, and it ends up adding an incredible richness to the sauce.

After adding crushed canned tomatoes and cooking for a while, you add the ribs and sausages to the sauce and let them bake, covered, in the oven for two hours.

P1100144

Starting ingredients for the meatballs: Italian parsley, egg yolk, bread crumbs, buttermilk, chili flakes, salt, and spices.

P1100154

Nicely shaped (golf ball sized) meatballs.

P1100159

Nat has a half-dozen or more beagles, all of which are very cute.  They must have been tortured by the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen!

P1100186

Fry the meatballs until browned.

P1100187

Busy kitchen as Tawn and Cha handle the wine, Nat keeps an eye on the meatballs, and the angel food cake rests upside down on the concrete countertop.

P1100190

The finished meatballs with nice browned bits on the outside, ready to add succulent flavor to the Sunday Gravy.

P1100198

After the first round of cooking the ribs and sausages in the sauce, we agreed that it needed more liquid so added some water.  Then added the meatballs and let them finish cooking.

P1100215

Beautiful angel food cake.  I really should make these more often.  They are fat-free and very showy and satisfying desserts, especially with some fresh berries spooned on top.  We went for homemade ice cream, but berries would have been nice, too.

P1100224

Keeping with the Italian theme, a nice mixed salad with cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, salami, feta cheese, and olives.

P1100228

The meat piled on a platter, ready to serve.  Too bad Xanga doesn’t have a smell-o-blog feature.

P1100241

The final product: whole wheat spaghetti served with rich sauce and three types of meat.  Oh, this was good.  I hate to rub it in, but you really missed out!

P1100246

A slice of heaven.  Didn’t photograph the two types of ice cream, but you can trust me that they were tasty, too.  Is there room in my kitchen for an ice cream machine?