Not your Grandma’s Sunday Gravy — Or is it?

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Sunday Gravy - Dinner is served!

I am not an Italian Grandmother, but sometimes I channel one when I go into the kitchen. Every family’s pasta sauces and marinara a bit different, some recipes handed down for generations, some with a modern twist, and some just because that’s the way Gramma always did it.

A recent dinner request for roast beef and spaghetti drove me to the archives for a perfect Sunday Gravy. This dish is not part of my standard repertoire.  Sunday What? My Dad made pretty spectacular spaghetti sauce, flavors embedded in his memory from his Mama and passed down.  Grandmother Delores was no slouch in the kitchen either,  how could she be with seven children? In the family album is a Santa Cruz newspaper article from the 1930’s describing in detail her recipe for spaghetti including ground beef and fresh herbs. The author veritably gushed in praise of Mrs. Hayford’s cooking prowess.  I couldn’t help but smile reading it — hey, that’s like my Dad’s! The images vividly rush to my mind of the bustling dining table in the big red house on the hill.  The six boys and single daughter round the lace covered table each having played a part in dinner’s preparation. A bowl of black olives and red wine from the Italian neighbors within easy reach on the sideboard for Grandpa Tom.

Like most, I am generally much to impatient or just lack the time to go completely old school and spend all day for a single meal’s preparation.  Those indulgences are generally scheduled for major holidays.  So when I reflect on the time honored family tradition of Sunday Gravy my respect grows for all those generations of Nonas in their kitchens. So, today,  a wild creative challenge motives me to set aside the time to become an Italian Grandma! Grab your apron and red wine, let’s get cooking!

The Menu
Salata Caprese
Sunday Gravy
Crusty Rustic Bread
Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes
On the Wine List:  Sbragia Vineyards, Geyersville, CA 2007 Italo’s Vineyard Zinfandel
Antipasti, Salata Caprese, Sunday Gravy

Click Read More for Recipes

Sunday Gravy

Not Your Grandma’s Sunday Gravy
A combination of Beef Roast, Meatballs and Sweet Italian Sausage in Gravy
Serves 6-8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3-4 hrs

2 ½ lb Beef Roast
1 lb Sweet Italian Sausages
1 lb Spaghetti

(makes about 36 1½”-2” meatballs)
½ lb lean ground turkey
½ lb lean ground pork
1 lb 15% fat lean ground beef
2 eggs
½ cup fresh grated Peccorino-Romano cheese
½ cup fresh grated Parmasan Cheese
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf Parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Italian Oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup water

Sunday Gravy
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 ½ cups fresh cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 ea 6 oz can Cento Tomato Paste
2 ea 28oz cans Cento Chef’s Cut Tomatoes with Basil (and juices)
28 oz water
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh fresh Basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian Oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Sweet Marjoram, chopped
* pinch red pepper flakes to taste
½ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated


Preheat oven to 425º
Place ground meat in large bowl, add eggs, herbs and spices. Begin mixing thoroughly with clean hands.  Add bread crumbs, olive oil and water.  
Line two large rimmed cookie sheets with foil, shape meatballs into rounds about 1 ½” – 2” in size. I used a small ice cream scoop to help keep sizes consistent. Place on baking sheets with space between. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven to cool, set aside.

Sunday Gravy

  1. Mix and divide freshly chopped herbs in half.
  2. In large 7 qt dutch oven or heavy pot add olive oil over medium high heat.
  3. When oil is hot, sear/brown beef roast on all sides. Remove from oil and set aside. In remaining oil, brown sausages on all sides, remove to cool and set aside with meatballs in refrigerator. Drain excess oils from pot leaving about 1 ½ tablespoons.
  4. Turn down heat and add garlic and onions, cook to soften only — not brown cook for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add mushrooms and continue cooking for 5 minutes more until mushrooms have soften and absorbed the flavor of the onions and garlic.
  6. Add red wine to deglaze bottom, gently scraping up all the good bits.
  7. Add beef stock, tomatoes, tomato paste and half of the fresh herb mixture.
  8. Add in beef roast and turn up heat to bring gravy up to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes and then turn down to gentle simmer. Cook partially covered at this temperature for 3-4 hours.  Check occasionally to stir.  
  9. Last hour add back in about 24 meatballs and Italian Sausage to gravy.  
  10. Put on large pot of water to boil and cook pasta al dente.
  11. Drain pasta and mix good portion of gravy and half remaining herbs to coat evenly

Remove meat from gravy and serve with pasta on large platter or bowl sprinkle with last bit of herbs and Parmesan cheese.  Pass around extra gravy and cheese. Buon Appetito!

Cook’s Tips
The meatballs can be cooked ahead and frozen to be used in spaghetti, meatball sandwiches or Sunday Gravy.

Sbragia Vineyards

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4 Responses to Not your Grandma’s Sunday Gravy — Or is it?

  1. KMont says:

    This looks so good! I’m betting my hubby would love this. And me too.

  2. Robin says:

    Hi Kenda, thank you for dropping by and leaving such a nice comment. The prep for this isn’t to much and you can just leave it simmering for hours while you’re doing something else. Hope you enjoy, I know my guys loved it.

  3. Bentobird says:

    What an incredible post! Beautiful food, tradition, presentation…I love the heart and soul you bring to cooking Robin!

  4. Robin says:

    Greeting Ms. Jenn! Thanks for coming by with such a lovely comment. I am happy to share and glad to know someone appreciates it. The presentation points go to my Mom. We feasted at her house and you can see many of the color dishes she collects and uses with joy.

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