‘Gimme Gimme Gravy Tonight…’

     I’ve always been picky about spaghetti sauce, or gravy, as my grandmother calls it.

     Every drop I’ve tasted always got compared to hers. I can remember looking in her fridge and always finding a bowl of cooked noodles and a bowl of the reddest, thinnest, flavor-flooded sauce you could ever imagine. 

     Over the years, I’ve had my share of jarred sauces, some of which were better than others. Try Giada DeLaurentiis’ at Target… love it! (Even my grandmother likes it and she had NEVER had store-bought sauce before)
     My dad always gets a jar of the store-bought stuff and adds spices to it. I’ve done that too.
     And.. of course, I’ve made my own. I never wrote down a recipe, so every batch was different, again, some better than others.
     In the last several days I got the itch to really make it from scratch… you know.. using whole tomatoes – like my grandmother did, or I should write, like I THOUGHT she did.
     Buying enough tomatoes to do that would’ve cost me more than a new hybrid car, so I opted to do it like I have in the past… using canned tomato sauce. Then, I remembered a tip from a chef I follow on Twitter (@ChefJenDePalma): She said to always use whole canned tomatoes or crushed. I opted for crushed.
     The sauce was a hit – even passed the tough tastebuds of a 5-year-old.
     After making it – I got to talk to my grandmother and asked her about how she used to use whole tomatoes and then strain the mix (something I didn’t witness, but thought I’d heard in a story passed from relative to relative)… She had no idea what I was talking about and told me she used canned tomatoes and a blender (yes, a blender!) to get that smooth, thin consistency I remember.
     Next time, I’ll try running my sauce through a food processor, though it was fine the way I made it!
     Your reward for reading that rant into the wonderful world of red rivers that flow onto a field of fun shapes: My recipe, ‘Ghetti Gravy. No sugar here. You’ll get sweetness from carrots and balsamic vinegar.
     This will make a good bit of sauce. Use what you need for dinner and then freeze the rest or read the tip below.
     Breaded bonus: My garlic bread recipe, Finger Garlickin’ Bread. I could eat this stuff every day and not get tired of it!
     So… Mangia, Mangia! (eat, eat!)





Recipe: ‘Ghetti Gravy

           INGREDIENTS                                                                                        PROCESS

  • 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
-1- In a food processor, combine the onion, carrots and garlic. (I use the mini carrots because I always have a bag on hand for snacking… to easily peel the garlic, put it on a cutting board and smash with the flat side of a big kitchen knife, the skin will come away from the clove). Pulse the mixture a few times. You want it finely chopped, not pureed into mush. Smell it. It’ll open your eyes!
  • 8 mini carrots, cut in half


-2- In a large pot heated to medium-high, add 2 Tbsp. oil and the mix from the food processor. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
-3- Add the basil and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir.
  • ½ Sweet onion, cut into cunks


-4- Add the tomatoes, the remaining Tbsp. of oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano (make sure your grind it in your hands to wake-up the flavor) and Tsps. Of S & P. Plus, fill each empty tomato can with about a Tbsp. of water and swish it around to get the remaining  tomato residue. Add that to the pot too.
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
-5- Bring mixture to a boil and let it boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil


-6- Reduce heat to low, add parmesan cheese, stir. Cover and cook on low for at least 2 hours. Occasionally, grab the handles of the pot and move it side to side to get the sauce dancing.
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tsp. each salt & pepper, plus extra to taste
  • 1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese



Recipe: Finger Garlickin’ Bread

            INGREDIENTS                                                                                   PROCESS

  • 1 Loaf French bread (Note: I used to use the ‘everything’ French bread from the Wal-Mart bakery – if you can find it – use it – then skip steps 3 &4)
-1- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder, plus a pinch more
-2- Using a serrated knife, cut loaf in half lengthwise. Put it upside down on a cookie sheet.
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano


-3- Spray the crust of the loaf with the cooking spray and then sprinkle with a pinch of garlic powder, the Tbsp. of dried oregano (grind it in your hands first to wake-up the flavor), 1 Tbsp. of rosemary (grind it in your hands), salt and pepper. The crust should have flavor too!
  • 2 Tbsp. dried rosemary


-4- Flip over the loaf and rub it around on the cookie sheet to collect any spices that got off course.
  • 1 Stick of butter


-5- In a microwave-safe dish, combine the butter and the 1 Tbsp. garlic powder and cook for 15 seconds. This should leave some of the butter solid. Stir it to combine. You’ll get a thick liquid.
  • Salt & pepper to taste


-6- Using a spoon or a pastry brush, cover the inside of the loaf with the garlic butter. Every centimeter should be wet. If there are craters, fill ‘em with the butter. Leave just about two teaspoons in the dish.
  • Non-stick cooking spray, butter flavor is best


-7- Sprinkle the buttered bread with the remaining Tbsp. of rosemary (grind it in your hands first). This step is optional, but you must sprinkle the buttered bread with salt and pepper.
   -8- Put in oven open-faced on the cookie sheet– don’t close the loaf or cover it. Bake 15 minutes or until top is light brown and crusted over.
   -9- Drop remaining garlic butter on hot loaf. Slice and serve.
Tip: When you’ve got plenty of spaghetti sauce, keep it in the fridge for a few days instead of freezing it immediately. The flavor gets better, but you’ll also have a quick fix for more meals. Add red pepper flakes and make a spicy sausage & peppers dish (which I did the next night) – Add some mascarpone cheese (or regular ol’ cream cheese) to make a creamy sauce, better than alfredo – or add some vodka (at least 1/2 cup) and heavy cream, then cook it down- boom ala vodka sauce! Or, just use it as a dip for leftover bread (like mine). The possibilities are endless!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    I believe my mother is getting a bit forgetful. Grandpa liked the sauce velvety smooth so nana put the tomato sauce through a strainer so no seeds would get in. I think in the early days so also used the blender but honestly if you cook it all day they kinda just disappear. She also used a bunch of fresh parsley in her meatballs along with parm cheese….yummy!

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