Monday, September 6, 2010

Sicilian Sunday Gravy and Other Stories From The Kitchen

I am so lucky to have met two great Italian chefs at this year’s Italian fest. It has led to many triumphs on a plan to improve my Italian cooking skills.

Vinnie and Gaccio are both first generation Americans and go back to the homeland a few times a year.They both have girlfriends back in Italy and I suspect they also have girlfriends here. I would say “typical Italian male” but these two are anything but typical.

They were best friends growing up and love to eat. They are a product of their mother’s kitchen.

I happen to think that this qualifies them as a new BFF. If someone is as passionate about food as you are - and these two clearly are – all the other prerequisites are called off.

Vinnie made this recipe today and I was almost embarrassed because I had visions of licking my plate clean but I did with the backside of the homemade Italian bread instead. Hey – it’s the weekend. No guilt trips here. Vinnie also made the bread. Anyone who makes great bread is golden in my book.

It’s Sunday and you don’t have to cook Sicilian Sunday Gravy on Sunday but Vinnie thinks that there is a little magic in the pot if you do!

Bon Appetit…Italian somewhere in my past!

P.S. I happen to think that this recipe is all about the neck bones. How about you?

1 Large cooking pot (all cooking is done in one pot)

4 cans of Tomato puree - (28 oz.)

1 1/2 to 2 Pounds Italian sausage (Hot & Sweet sausage - or all hot or all sweet)

1 1/2 to 2 Pounds Pork Neck Bones

1 Pound of cubed Veal or Veal bones

4 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Medium red Onion sliced very thin or diced

4 cloves Garlic sliced very thin or diced

1 tsp. each Salt & fresh ground Pepper

1 Tbs. fresh Parsley

1 Tbs. fresh Basil

1 Tbs. Sugar

Red or Burgundy wine to taste

Put 4 Tbs. of olive oil in your pot, set heat to medium-high. Add meat (sausage, pork bones, veal) and brown on all sides, turn as needed. The meat will stick to the bottom of the pot, but that is good. When meat is brown on all sides remove from pot and set aside.

Lower heat to medium, add more olive oil if needed. Add garlic & onions, and saute stirring as needed until softened but not burnt - this won't take long.

Add the Tomato puree, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil. Then set heat to low and let simmer. Next, add the browned meat to the gravy and stir gently. Let simmer at least 2 hours, stirring frequently - for better results simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

Actually, the longer the simmering time the better. An old Sicilian secret is to let it simmer all day, this allows the gravy to become infused with the flavors of the meats. Taste often, and add additional spices to adjust to your taste. The best way to do this is to dip a piece of Sicilian bread into the gravy. Vinnie also likes to sample while he is cooking.

Remove the meat and a little gravy from the pot and place in a large bowl, set on table. Next, spoon red gravy over cooked pasta of your choice, top with shredded or grated fresh Parmesan cheese or any cheese you like. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe will make enough red gravy to serve 12.

Gaccio came armed with his family recipes. I awed over every one of them. These two are always in a battle to outdo one another. Me – I’m not choosing sides because both of them are great chefs.

The boys say that their recipes are best prepared as you drink a nice glass of red wine. Works for me!

Bon Appetit!

• About ½ cup olive oil – about because he just eyeballs it…we need to learn to do that!

• 3 lbs sweet or hot Italian sausage (or mixture), sliced into 3-inch pieces

• 2 lbs your favorite meatballs (about 24 formed meatballs*) – See previous recipe for meatballs.

• 3 lbs country-style pork ribs on the bone

• 2 lbs pork neck bones

• 2 medium Spanish onions, finely chopped

• 8 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 12-oz can tomato paste

• 5 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with juices, crushed by hand until no whole tomatoes remain

• 3 bay leaves

• Hefty pinch sugar

• Salt to taste (about 2 to 3 tsp)


Coat cooking surface of large heavy-bottomed stockpot (at least 12 qts — we're talking about a huge pot) with olive oil, place over medium-low heat, and brown all meats on all sides, working one at a time in this order: sausage, and remove; meatballs, and remove; ribs, and remove; then pork bones, leaving these in the pot. (Add more olive oil as needed.)

Add onions to pork bones and slowly brown, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and lightly brown, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste and stir to coat onions and pork bones. Slowly cook until paste begins to thicken and turn deep reddish brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, and sugar. Stir well, making sure you get down to the bottom, and bring to a low boil.

Lower heat and simmer uncovered until sauce begins to thicken. After an hour, add ribs; two hours, add sausage; three hours, add meatballs. Continue to simmer until a layer of oil forms on top, about another hour. Season to taste with salt.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to serving platter. Ladle sauce over your favorite pasta.

Yield: 16 cups sauce and meat for 8 to 10 people.