It’s an argument that will probably go on forever among Italian-Americans. Is it sauce or gravy? Most non-Italians couldn’t care less and it doesn’t really bother me but I’m going to add my opinion anyway.
In any dictionary, gravy and sauce have almost identical definitions although it seems that to be called “gravy” there must be some meat, or meat juices or drippings involved.
In Italian, there’s sugo (thin sauce/gravy made with meat) and ragu (thick sauce/gravy made with meat). Then there’s salsa, not made with meat and which I would translate as sauce.
When people think of gravy it’s usually brown and often made with meat drippings and a bit of flour to thicken it. Well, why can’t it be red and made with meat drippings and tomatoes instead of flour?
When my mother had a pot of bubbling tomatoes on the stove filled with meatballs, braciole, and sausage she called it “gravy.” When she made marinara, that’s tomatoes with no meat, it was “sauce.”
So that’s my take on the unending sauce-gravy argument. And here’s a recipe for a ragu. You can call it what you like.
Sweat one cup of trinity in oil and then add and lightly brown the pork. Add the crushed tomatoes and sachet. Simmer for at least one hour.
Put on a pot of water for the pasta. Add the peas to the tomatoes and pork and simmer for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking. Taste for seasoning.
When the pasta is almost done drain and add it to the ragu to finish cooking. If it’s too dry add some pasta water. Serve with grated cheese.
There are a lot of variations for this one – but always meat and tomatoes. Here’s a simple, basic recipe which you can vary.
Sausage – hot or sweet
Dried sausage or soprasade
Garlic (2 chopped cloves)
Salt and black pepper
Brown the sausage and oxtails in oil. Do it in batches and don’t crowd the pan. Remove and add the dried sausage and garlic. Don’t burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat, taste for seasoning and simmer for at least one hour.
There used to be a grocery store where I grew up on Mott Street called May’s. I’d go there for lunch because May made great sandwiches, especially fried baloney sandwiches. I know a lot of people have never heard of fried baloney but it really tastes great and is very simple to make.
For some reason, we call it baloney when it’s spelled Bologna, the city in Italy where it was first made. I guess that’s an Americanization, like saying “gabagool” for “capicola.”
All you need is bread, baloney and a little oil to fry it in. The better the bread, the better the sandwich. I like mine the way May used to do it, with mustard, relish, and lettuce.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, most of what we heard about in New York was the damage done in New Orleans. New Orleans got the headlines but Katrina affected the coastal areas of three states; Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Requests went out from those states for help and one of those requests, Mississippi’s, found its way the New York City Department of Buildings. Our Commissioner agreed to send ten of us with five SUVs and whatever equipment was needed to help with structural assessment.
. . . After two days of driving, we arrived at the border of Jackson County. That was as far as our instructions took us. We already were seeing downed trees and overturned trailers miles from the coast. Stopping at sort of a combination gas station-fried chicken restaurant we called for further directions.
. . . We arrived at the Gautier City Hall and were welcomed by a group of officials. They thanked us for coming and gave us some local maps. One official said something like “…as soon as we get a quiet evening, I’m sure we can boil and burn something for all y’all.” I knew he said something positive so I thanked him. I found out later he was inviting us to dinner.
. . . We were able to get breakfast and dinner at the Imperial Palace but were on our own for lunch. There was a Red Cross food van that was surprisingly good. We had to go to Camp Vancleave fairly regularly to have our laundry done and to get gas at the FEMA tank truck. Jack and I made it a point to go in the morning so we could have “Mohler’s” excellent donuts for breakfast.
. . . Eventually a family run restaurant on Bienville Boulevard called “BB’s Po’boy” reopened and Jack and I became regulars.
Our waitress apologized for not having any of their famous Gulf shrimp saying, “The boats hadn’t been able to go out because of the flotsam left by the storm.”
The proprietors and staff were glad to be back and their customers were happy to see them. When we talk in New York we’re usually exchanging information, in Mississippi they exchange “pleasantries” and it really was a pleasure being surrounded by such nice people. The food was good enough for us to go through their whole menu in the weeks we were in Ocean Springs but more than that, lunch time was an hour of gentile normalcy taken out of what was usually a bleak day.
. . . Toward the end of our stay some local building and fire officials invited all of us for dinner at their favorite Irish pub in Pascagoula. They served us corned beef and cabbage with homemade soda bread and the Guinness flowed like water. After dinner a lot of locals showed up just to meet the “inspectors from New York” and they all made a point of shaking our hands and thanking us for coming such a long way to help them. A little embarrassed by the compliment, we in turn, thanked them for their hospitality.
We had dinner with our nephews Stephen, Francesco and Doug. They put together a great meal but I loved the pasta most. I think maybe my niece Danielle had something to do with this too. They used a Giada DiLaurentis recipe.
So here it is – delicious. I used goat cheese instead of gorgonzola. Giada said that would be OK.
Add the pancetta and olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often until the pancetta is crispy, about 8 minutes. Add the shallots and cook another minute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Cook, stirring often until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
When the pasta is almost done (reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta water) add it to the skillet along with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Scatter the cheese over the pasta and stir to combine. Continue to stir, adding pasta water as needed, until a light creamy sauce is formed. Add the spinach and toss until it wilts.