Judy Mastro Scheidt’s Recipe for Italian Gravy
½ pound (usually 2 links) Italian Sausage links – do not cut (any medium hot made of pork, chicken or turkey, not sweet sausage and no dried sausage. Fresh only and pork sausage is the best.)
2 cups of chopped pear tomatoes (canned are fine, just make sure they’re packed in their own juice and not with basil and oregano)
32 ounces of tomato sauce. No flavors or funny jars of Prego or Ragu. Plain old sauce. (Canned)
3 garlic cloves, minced. More if you like garlic.
1 onion (white or yellow), fine chopped, not really minced.
1 cup red wine (cabernet, merlot, or zinfandel is fine. I use jug wine usually. It’s more in the spirit of the dish. How many Italians in Bari had a bottle of good Cabernet? Drink the Cabernet at dinner.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon each of dried parsley and oregano (I get confused whether it’s Greek or Spanish oregano, but I’m pretty sure it’s Greek. It smells the most like thyme.)
5 tablespoons olive oil. (Some will say you need extra virgin oil, I say bull. I have 6 different grades of oil in my kitchen from different olives and regions. Use bulk olive oil from producers like Star or Bertolli for this dish. Save the good stuff for dipping, salads, and use as a condiment after the pasta is cooked to bring out flavor.)
Blending with a hand blender the roughly chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes after cooking to smooth out you gravy. Some people don’t like some of the chunkiness of the sauce.
Any additional meat products you wish to include. Meatballs and Braccioletone (rolled round steak with garlic and parsley) come to mind. This sauce is best with sauage, meatballs, and braccioletone.
Some people like to use sugar for balance considering the wine and the amount of tomato, but I don’t find it necessary. This is by no means meant to be a sweet sauce or a marinara.
In a heavy gauge, deep stainless pot, heat some olive oil. Put your sausages in to brown. If the pan is on high heat, reduce to medium while browning. Watch your heat. Be careful not to break the casing on the sausage. It’s not a sin if you do, but it’s something to brag about if you don’t. Remove the sausage after browning. Drain any excess fat.
Add a bit a fresh olive oil to the pot. Add your onion and allow to wilt down. Add parsley, oregano, and let the onions cook. After the onions have a little color, add you chopped tomato and garlic. Add a little salt and pepper. You should always salt and pepper throughout the cooking process. A little here and there is helpful. Return the stove to a high heat and let cook to evaporate the water. Stay close to pot, sometimes evaporation happens fast. Make sure the tomatoes don’t brown or start to stick.
When almost all of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated, add your cup of wine. Stir it through your sauce and let reduce by half. Probably five minutes. Then add the can of tomato sauce and reintroduce your sausage (and other meat products) to the gravy.
Bring the gravy up to a boil. When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to very low and cover, leaving just a crack for excess moisture to escape (nobody wants watery gravy). Let it cook for about 3 hours (depending on the heat of your stove) or until the gravy is very thick and a deep burgundy color. Stir occasionally. The truth is you could cook this for 5 hours if you have a lot of meat products in there and depending on how much gravy you are cooking. Taste the sauce at the one hour period to see if it could use additional, salt, pepper, dried parsley, or oregano. It depends on your taste. Taste it again at the two hour period.
A warning. The bottom of the pot is prone to sticking and being burnt. Do not scrape. You will have bitter gravy if you do. It shouldn’t burn if you watch your temperature during the early stages of cooking. You will have some additional clean-up after, but it’s worth it.
You can freeze the sauce if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Just have 8 people over for dinner and drink a lot of wine. You’ll finish the gravy. If you don’t, heat up the gravy and put it over your eggs in the morning. That’s Italian to.