This Sunday Gravy recipe is similar to the Anthony Bourdain recipe you see all over the net, but not identical. I’ve tuned it up in a number of ways. For example, I prefer to use Chicken Stock rather than the dark beef stock he calls for. The beef stock available to home cooks is mostly salt, and chicken stock has a lot better flavor. Bourdain can get great beef stock for his restaurants, but you and I have to use chicken unless we make our own stock.
There are another of other taste-tested tweaks I’ve made that really take this version to a higher level.
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb country style pork ribs or bone-in pork chops
1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat or flank steak
2 lb Italian sausage (1lb each of sweet and hot)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 x 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
2 sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary
2 cups dry red wine
1/2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- Preheat your oven to 300F.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers in your Dutch Oven (make sure it’s ovenproof and has a lid).
- Brown the meat in the oil in batches, so as not to overcrowd. Brown the sausages last. I use tongs to handle it and set it aside on a plate once it is well browned. Don’t be shy about the browning, as we’re not just searing the meat, we’re bringing the flavors released by the browning into the pot we’re cooking in. We’ll release them in the deglazing step. The meat will release some juices on the plate, be sure not to lose any of that as it also goes back into the sauce!
- Once all the meat is browned and removed from the pot, add the onion and cook over the same medium-high heat. Once in the pan, salt the onions a bit to help them release their juices. Stir often and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon You want that onion to pick up all those browned bits–they’re pure flavor. Don’t overbrown the onions or they will lose their natural sweetness.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. I love to use crushed garlic that comes in a tube. I ratio 1 Tbsp per clove called for, so 6 Tbsp’s of garlic. That’s probably more than 6 cloves, but I insist on a lot of garlic with my Italian food!
- After the garlic has cooked a minute, add the tomato paste, oregano, and pepper flakes. Let that cook a few more minutes until the tomato paste has turned a reddish brown and is starting to stick to the pan.
- Deglaze the mixture with the wine. Keep cooking until the mixture has reduced by half.
- Add the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, and bay leaves. You can wrap your thyme or rosemary sprigs with string to keep them together, put them in cheesecloth to make a boquet garni, or just toss them in. I do the latter, it’s no big thing for guests to avoid eating them.
- Stir it all well, then add the meat except for the sausages. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. I will taste once it has boiled (careful!), and add salt as needed. I look for it to taste slightly salty. Not too crazy on the salt, but just a tiny bit saltier than what the finished product should be. Don’t worry, that salt will subside during cooking.
- Once you have it all boiling and seasoned, it’s time to cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven. You have a decision to make–slow long cook or fast shorter cook. Left at 300F, the sauce is done in 2 1/2 hours. But, if you want the benefits of slower cooking, I would leave it for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to maybe 190-200. Now you can slow cook up to 3 more hours. The meat will fall off the bone and the flavors will be better melded. Monitor the end stages carefully whichever way you go to make sure the sauce doesn’t get too dried out. Keeping it moist is one reason we keep it covered. If you go too far and it dries out, you can add some chicken stock, red wine, or crushed tomatoes. Personally, I’d add a mix of all three or at least two of those ingredients and do so sparingly. My pal Chef Michael Clark likes to add Bloody Mary mix to kick things up a whole other notch too!
- A half hour before you plan to serve, take the Dutch Oven out and add the sausage back in. Return to the oven and cook for another 30 minutes. The sauce should be thick but still juicy.
- Now you can remove the sauce from the oven. The heavy Dutch Oven will keep things warm while you prepare the pasta.
- In a large pot, bring salted water to boil. Cook your pasta according to instructions–al dente recommended. Drain the pasta and pot, and then return the pasta to the hot pot. Toss it for about 30 seconds with tongs to dry it.
- Now, ladle is enough of the warm sauce to coat the pasta, but not much more. Serve the sauce and sausages on the side with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.