Gary Barlettano wrote:Simple question: How many folks always use onions in their tomato sauce? I was brought up on a regimen of garlic only. The only exception was the "gravy" (pardon me, my New Jersey roots are showing) for chicken cacciatore which, by the way, was always accompanied by fusilli, the long ones and not those aberrant short cuts we often see today.
Nowadays, I make my tomato sauce in many different ways, depending on the mood my palate is in. Still in all, I often wonder just how mainstream or, conversely, off the beaten path my mother was in her not using onions. To be honest, I have never run across anyone who doesn't put onions in his/her tomato sauce.
Maybe there is someone out there more versed in the Italian kitchen than I who has a regional explanation.
Niki (Dayton OH) wrote:Gary
My mom never used onions, and when I make her sauce, neither do I. My mom's family was from Sicily, by the way, although much of her cooking was influenced by folks from Calabria (the toe of the boot). I don't recall any of my aunts or other relatives and their friends using onions, either. With chicken cacciatore, she sauteed the onions with the chicken, rather than add it to the sauce.
John Tomasso wrote:I have to disagree with Chef Carey here, in that our "gravy" never includes onions. Having compared and contrasted ours with friends and relatives over the years, I can say that most of their examples did not have onions, either. Our "gravy" making tradition comes by way of relatives hailing from Naples and Abruzzo.
Now ragu, that's another story. Both my long cooked ragu Bolognese, and my ragu sciue sciue contain plenty of onion.
For the uninitiated, the term "gravy" as it relates to tomato sauce refers to tomato sauce in which various meats have been braised. The sauce is then served to dress the first course of pasta, and then the braised meats are served as a second course. I posted a recipe a long time ago on the old FLDG, but I can't find the link, so here's a copy I found in my files.
Italian American “Gravy”
Say gravy to most anybody, and they either think of the gloppy sausage flavored stuff served on biscuits, or the brown gloppy stuff served on roasts. Say gravy to an Italian American, however, and his eyes light up as he thinks of the smell of garlic, tomatos, beef, pork and basil wafting through the house. That’s because, for some odd reason, the meat enriched tomato sauce served in just about every Italian American home on Sunday afternoon has come to be referred to by that name, rather than the more technically correct <I>pasta sauce</I>
Now, there are probably as many versions of Italian American gravy as there are Italian American cooks. Indeed, mine never comes out exactly the same twice. But here is a version I hope you enjoy.
For the meatballs:
1.25 LB ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
2 or 3 eggs, as needed
fresh parsley, chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste
garlic( I use granulated )
grated romano cheese
Combine ingredients, form into meatballs weighing around 1 oz. If you wind up with 13 meatballs, it’s bad luck, so break one in half, or combine two together. Set aside.
You also want to have on hand:
Your favorite hot Italian sausage links
Something with a bone in it, I like country style spare ribs
A hunk of beef chuck, pork shoulder, anything goes here, within reason
Start your sauce:
In 1 TBLSP XVOO, sweat some finely chopped fresh garlic, along with chopped fresh parsley. We’re just lending flavor here, so just BEFORE it begins to color, add 2 cans Italian style tomatoes that have been briefly whirled in the blender, not too much, we still want a somewhat chunky texture. I usually add a half can of water to thin it a bit. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, parsley, fresh thyme, and a little fresh basil. (we’ll add more later) <b> No Oregano!!!!</b>(it makes it taste like canned sauce) Set on medium heat, and go to work on the meat.
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with XVOO. Turn on medium heat, and drop some large pieces of fresh garlic in, say three or four cloves. Wait a minute or so, then put your meatballs in. You don’t want to brown them too deeply, but color on all sides. Remove as soon as they look done. Now brown your sausage, and the rest of the meat.
Once all the meat is browned, and your sauce comes to a boil, you are ready to add the meat to the sauce. Just plop all in, it should all be submerged. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook for at least two hours. Stir every twenty minutes or so with a wooden spoon, bring up the bottom, this helps thicken it. Oh, and here’s my secret. Degrease, aggressively. I usually remove about a half tomato can of grease from the surface of the gravy by the time it is done. People who don’t do this wind up with heartburn. You’ll know it is done when the sauce gets thick, and the meat starts falling apart. Add some more fresh basil at this point.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta, and sauce it with the gravy. (leaving the meat in the pot)
After you’re done with the pasta, bring the meat out as a separate course.
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