Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy brought me to tears. Check it out in the closing credits. Hand-crushed tomatoes and long-braised meats galore. The traditional, long-cooked pasta sauce from a small village in Campania. You have to make this one next Sunday!

Watch the video once, then follow along with Gianni, glancing at the recipe when you need to cheat:



  • Pork braciola: Thinly cut slice of pork shoulder or pork loin
  • Beef braciola: Thinly cut slice of beef chuck or round
  • Meatballs: Mixture of 1/3 ground beef, ground pork, ground veal,
  • 11/2 pounds total
  • 4 Italian sausage links
  • 1 cup Italian flat parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the pork braciole: about 12 lightly toasted pinoli (pine nuts) and 12 raisins
  • For the meatballs: ½ cup of stale bread soaked in water or milk and squeezed dry to form the pinade (la pinada)
  • 1 egg

For frying:

  • 1/8 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)


  • 2 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes imported from Campania, Italy
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 carrot, cut in half and then in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 celery stalk cut in 2 inch pieces
  • ½ white onion, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • 1 lb or 500 grams pasta. Fusilli napoletani is used in the recipe, but you can use any pasta you want. Make sure that it is durum wheat pasta imported from Italy that is extruded through a bronze die. Look for something like this on the package: “Pasta trafilata in bronzo”.
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

Cooking Directions


  1. In a thick-bottomed pot, put the olive oil, the battuto (carrot, celery, onion, garlic and bay leaf). Turn heat to medium-low and sauté slowly. This is your soffritto (the odori, flavoring vegetables and herbs). You want these ingredients to be translucent, not browned, so they infuse the oil with their flavor.
  2. Crush the San Marzano tomatoes with your hands until they are all broken up into rough chunky texture. Discard any basil, peel or stems or veins on the inside of the tomato (usually white or yellow).
  3. When the soffritto is translucent and sizzling a bit in the oil, add the tomatoes. Stir to mix the tomatoes and the suffritto. Add the basil and parsley sprigs and submerge in the gravy. Add the sea salt. Reduce to low heat, cover the pot and simmer gently. Stir the pot frequently so it doesn’t burn. This is a long-simmered sauce and will cook for at least 3 hours after the meat is added to the gravy.



  1. Finely chop the parsley and garlic. Set aside. You will use half for the braciole and half for the meatballs.
  2. Lay the pork and beef braciole out flat on the board. Take ½ of the garlic/parsley and equally divide the garlic/parsley paste between the two braciole. Spread the paste evenly over the surface of each braciola leaving about a 1/2 inch border at the long edges. Sprinkle ¼ cup grated Pecorino evenly over both braciole. Sprinkle salt and tower to taste over both.
  3. For the pork braciola only: Spread 12 toasted pinoli and 12 raisins evenly over the pork braciola.
  4. Tightly roll up each braciole and tie with string to keep the paste inside and to maintain the shape of the braciole.

Meatballs (Polpette)

  1. Put the ground meat, the remaining chopped garlic/parsley, Pecorino, stale bread pinada, egg, and ground salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Combine the ingredients with your hand. Squeeze everything together so that it is a homogeneous mixture. Put about 2 tablespoons of the meat into the palm of your hand and roll into a ball, round and slightly flat.
  2. Over a high flame, heat a large sauté pan, add the canola and EVOO and heat until it ripples and smokes a bit. Add all the meat and reduce heat to medium-low and cook the meat until a brown crust forms.  Cook the meat in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Do not touch the meat until you can easily move the meatballs, sausage and braciole in the pan, without them sticking. Turn over and brown on the other side. You want to caramelize the meat and form a nice brown crust.
  3. When well browned, transfer the meat, except the meatballs, in the gravy. Make sure all of the meat is submerged. Leave the lid of the pot ajar a bit to let some of the water evaporate so a thicker gravy forms. Gently simmer for at least 3 hours on a low flame. You want the braciole to tenderize by simmering in the gravy. Add the meatballs to the gravy about a half hour prior to cooking the pasta.

Cooking the Pasta and Finishing the Dish

  1. Put the water and salt in a large pot. Make sure that the pot is big enough to allow the long fusilli to “dance” in the salted water. Cook about 8 minutes until the pasta is very al dente. It will finish cooking in the gravy in a sauté pan.
  2. Put about 2 cups of the gravy in a large sauté pan and heat over a medium flame. Pull out the al dente fusilli and put in the sauté pan. Finish cooking the fusilli in the gravy, turning it so that the gravy is absorbed by the pasta to finish cooking. You should just have enough gravy to fully coat all of the fusilli.
  3. Close the flame. Grate Pecorino to taste and mix to distribute it throughout the pasta. If you wish, drizzle with a good quality EVOO.
  4. Remove the strings from the braciole and slice into ½ inch slices. Put the braciole, meatballs and sausage on a serving platter and top with some of the gravy.
  5. Serve the pasta in a warm bowl or plate. Traditionally, the pasta is served as a separate course, followed by the meats as the next course. To be honest, I usually serve the pasta and the meats at the same time. My guests can decide how to enjoy the pasta and the long-simmered meats.

Serve with a hearty red from Campania, an aglianico or taurasi perhaps.

53 Replies to “Sunday Gravy”

  1. Amazing…..simply amazing. This tastes exactly like my grandmother used to make in Baragiano! Thank you, Gianna. You took me back!

  2. Last sunday i made this Sunday Gravy but used it for the Ziti from the Soprano Cookbook.
    Thank you for sharing!!! Wow what a tast. It was hard to get the San Maranzano in the Netherlands but finaly i found the tomatoes of Casar. Now I know what a real gravy taste like.

    Thank you Gianni!



  3. Hey Gianni, I have made your Sunday gravy twice and it’s delicious. I use pork neckbones instead of the braciole and simmer that baby up for 5 hours. Even my teenage son who usually doesn’t like spaghetti sauce loved it. Thanks very much for sharing your recipe.

    1. Ciao Jack.

      Oh the neckbones! Luckily I can get them at my butcher. I use them often when I want that pork flavor in the gravy and don’t have time to make braciole. A pork chop or ribs impart a lot of flavor too. Keep on cooking.
      Buon appetito!

      1. You guys brought up a good point. When I make the gravy, I go to Dittmers in Palo Alto for the sausages and meatball meats. I also get a few slices of thick cut bacon. I chop it up small and render them bits to crispy (I order extra for these are impossible not to munch on). I use that fat to brown the meatballs and add the bacon bits the sauce. I cannot tell if this really makes a difference, because this sauce is by far the freshest and best sauce I ever tasted regardless; maybe is psychological but adding bacon to me is always a good thing. Besides, making it with my daughter is that much more special. Thanks again Gianni! ciao!

  4. Wow! Brings back memories from when i was small and Sunday dinner was a big thing! I love the raisins and pine nuts in the pork..not sure if we ever had that in ours. Excited to try this and live in a time where food was important in my family. Thanks alot for this!

    1. Ciao Michelle. Let me know how the Sunday Gravy turns out for you. You have to try the pork braciola with toasted pine nuts and raisins. It’s a wonderful taste combination.

      Buon appetito!

  5. Just finished watching Sunday gravy, loved at the end when you say don’t use the cheap cheese or I will kill grandparents are from the Abruzzi region way on top of the hill and we always called it sauce,but I have heard people call it gravy depending the the region of the Boot you came from its still all good.Also I always use bread crumbs for my eggplant but next time I make it I will try it with out it looked spectacular,keep up the good job.

  6. That’s it, I’m applying to change my nationality to Italian.

    I made a few of your dishes, one of the funnest and quickest is the shell pasta with arugula and garlic infused olive oil. Periodically I throw in a fresh rough cut tomato, maybe some shrimps, lovely dish! My sweetie (who is Asian) is speaking Italian and even with her hands!

    So my point… haha I made the Sunday Gravy today, sans the Braciole, but made a LOT of meatballs and three kinds of sausages. OMG this is amazing! Thank you again and especially for sharing the stories and recipes and your time. I can see why a dish like this takes you to tears…. this is a dish you make for family and for sharing. Memories are sure to abound. So I sit and watch this do its last hour of magic, then… dinner is served! Ill post a pic up on your FB to let you see how it came out!

    1. Ciao Georgio.

      I love sharing food with family and friends around the table and posting videos and recipes of some of my favorite dishes. I cherish memories of these times.

      I’m pleased that you’re making these recipes your own. I bet your versions of the pasta and arugula are delicious.

      I hope the Sunday Gravy works out well for you and yours. I can’t wait to see the pix of your pasta, meatballs and sausage.

      Buon appetito!


    2. Ciao George.

      I love sharing my favorite dishes with my family and friends and posting video and recipes on my blog.

      Making the pasta with arugula recipe your own is fantastic.

      Can’t wait for the pix of your Sunday Gravy. Keep on cooking.

      Buon appetito!


        1. Ciao Andres. Saute the aromatics just until the they start to soften and take on a bit of color.
          Keep on cooking.

          Buon appetito!

  7. Thanks Gianni I made this last Sunday when I had the boys over for football. They loved it.
    I doubled the recipe and used beef short ribs insted of Braciola. The only problem is they want it every Sunday. Thanks again for the great recipe.

  8. GRAVY????? Where is the turkey? Kills me to hear Italian Americans who think they know Italian food because they speak l some 2 words of Jersey italian and they make “gravy”

    1. Ciao Alfredo. Sorry to offend you. Some of my best experiences, from growing up in a New Jersey Italian-American home until today, have been in the kitchen and around the table with family and friends. I’m just sharing some of the food and culture that I grew up with and that I still love. Oh, by the way, on Thanksgiving the turkey always followed the antipasti and lasagna. Then came coffee, fruit, cheese, nuts and pastries. The turkey always showed up again a few hours later and interrupted the poker game just in case somebody could eat a little something more.

  9. Quick question:

    Do you really only add 1/2 tsp of salt to the gravy, or do you add more?

    I have a large family, and when I make gravy I use six 28oz cans, and add about a tablespoon of salt! Am I adding too much?

    1. Ciao Mrs. C.

      If you’re making the entire recipe there will be some salt in the meatballs, braciole, sausage and the pecorino cheese is salty too. I like to just add a little salt for the tomatoes and then taste the gravy before serving to make sure it’s to my liking. I go light on salt but if you like more add more. I always have salt and pepper on my table so that my guests can add more if they want to. My rule of thumb is that you can always add more salt but you can’t take it out!

    1. Ciao Dave.

      Thanks for sharing the post. I’m amazed at the number of variations of this dish among North American families with roots in Campania. Keep the traditions alive!

  10. Hey Gianni:

    I live in Chicago. Have you ever eaten out here?

    My family’s Gravy recipe is derived from a dish my grandfather’s family made back in Calabria. My grandpa liked smooth sauces, so he preferred puree-based (rather than whole tomato based) gravies. Well, I just tried your hand-crushed San Marzano version, and it’s SO much more flavorful. (The only thing I did that is different is add a splash of Chianti.) We also got our hands on some Tipo 00, so we had it with fresh fettuccine. DELICIOUS.

    Thanks for the great advice and cool videos. Tonight we’re going to try your Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

    Wish us luck!

    1. Ciao Pat. Thanks for sharing your family’s tradition. Sometimes I want a smoother sauce too. Just put the San Marzano tomatoes through a food mill instead of hand-crushing them. Buona fortuna. I hope the aglio e olio worked out well for you. I changed planes at O’Hare yesterday and had time to grab a bite to eat in Terminal C. I had a hard time deciding to have Billy Goat Tavern’s Italian Beef sandwich or Reggio’s deep dish pizza. I love your city. Last trip I checked out the Italian neighborhood and was sad to see that not much is left except for a few of the old-time restaurants. What are your favorite restaurants?

      1. The original Little Italy (Taylor Street) has been dwindling since they built the university. The Italian neighborhoods still exist on the Near West Side in Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, and parts of Berwyn & Cicero. There are some really great grocery stores for Italian imports in the Grand & Harlem area in Elmwood Park. For restaurants, I’d say my personal favorites are: Clara’s Homemade Fresh Pasta (in the suburbs), La Scarola, and Tuscany. There’s a place in Melrose Park called Danny’s Deli that specializes in Old World dishes (e.g., neckbones, tripe, polenta, etc). For pizza, check out Lou Malnati’s or Freddys in Cicero. For Italian Beef, you gotta try Johnnies on North Ave in Elmwood Park.

        Tonight’s aglio e olio turned out AMAZING. Thank you. My 4-year old daughter eve ate an adult size portion.

        hope to see you on TV some day! Best of luck!

  11. Thanks Gianni. We just had the Sunday Gravy (on tuesday)…out of this world!! Your videos are also very well done..looking forward to more great recipes!!

    1. Grazie Patricia. I’m pleased the recipe worked well. As long as you have the time to make it you can have Sunday Gravy any day of the week! Keep an eye out we’re posting a demonstration of pastiera and pizza rustica, 2 traditional Easter deep-dish “pies” from Campania, 1 savory and 1 sweet.

  12. Amazing, Gianni. My folks are still around and my family hails from close to where yours came from (a smallish town named Casanova in Carinola di Caserta, Campania). Our Sunday sugo (the term “gravy” never really caught on with Italian immigrants in Canada) with few very minor differences, is identical to the one you make in this video. You’ve inspired me to give away the family recipe to a food blog I sometimes write for.

    It’s no surprise you got choked up for a second there – it doesn’t take much for me to imagine how evocative this dish must be for you. My ma’s sugo, and yours, are too good to vanish into time. It’s love on a plate.

    1. Ciao Dave. Thanks for your comment. The closest I’ve been to your ancestral village is Caserta and Caserta Vecchia. I’d love to see your ma’s sugo recipe. I’ve been impressed with the food variations in Campania even as between two adjacent villages. I’d like to compare our mom’s versions of Sunday sugo.

  13. My goodness tomorrows Sunday I’ve got all the ingredients I’m going for it, my uncle michael angelo used to make Sunday gravy, too bad he’s passed away, the gravy I make tomorrow will be in his memory.
    Thank you for the recipe Gianni I really do appreciate it. Godbless!

  14. Wow! You have a another new fan. I lost my italian dad 4 years ago. The other morning i found your podcast and the moment you said “Finable,” I was sold. I haven’t heard that since 2006. My dad never could cook, unless charred steak and canned peas counts. But i bet he would have loved your cooking. I’m trying the Sunday gravy tonight. I wish he could have been here too.

    1. Thanks Dawn. I hope the Sunday Gravy turns out well. I think you’re Dad may just be there with you! Many of the dishes I cook bring back happy memories of time with loved ones now gone. Buon appetito!

  15. Hey Gianni –
    Greetings from Michigan – maybe this will be the mother-in-law gravy I could never replicate!!! Can’t wait to try them all-

  16. The stale bread pinada – it looks like there was a liquid that you had in the bread to make it easy to tear up. What was it?

    1. Ciao Renee. To make a pinade or la pinada just soak stale bread in water or milk until it’s soft enough to squeeze out all the liquid. Break it up into small wet “crumbs” so it is easily combined with the other meatball ingredients. BTW, I never throw out bread. I have many uses for stale bread, this pinada and tasty fresh breadcrumbs.

  17. Excellent teacher with authentic recipes. My greatest Italian teacher about food, love and family was Malvina Consoletti who is now in G-D’s kitchen – hopefully somebody else is doing the dishes.

  18. Gianni,
    Your Sunday Gravy video almost brought me to tears at the end! I just had a question for you. At what point and how do you take out the celery, carrots from the sauce. You said they are to be removed.


    1. Hi Brad. Sorry for getting weepy in that episode. I was just overwhelmed by the memories of growing up in Jersey that came flooding over me as I ate the dish. Take the odori, the celery, carrot, onion etc. out before you dress the pasta with the gravy.

  19. Hey, Gianni:

    I’m a new fan of your show.

    Thanks for sharing these great recipes with everyone.

    When I watch these videos, I want to jump into the computer and snatch the food out of the skillet!

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Marie, you make a mean gravy, I gotta say. Thanks for the fabulous recipe John. Your instructions are clear and easy to follow, and I know for a fact that the end result is out of this world delicious. I’d love to try your gravy some day. What do you think, will it stand up to Marie’s? 😉

      1. Hi Stephanie. You know Marie has many dishes up her sleeve. I’m happy that she’s back at the stove. The last gravy she made was fantastic. What do you expect? Her family roots are close to my mother’s village in Campania.

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