Hearty and meaty Sunday Gravy (Sunday Sauce) is classic Italian-American comfort food. Served over pasta, Mama's Italian Gravy is thick and flavorful and perfect for serving to the entire family or when company's coming for special occasions.
If you have never made slow-cooked tomato gravy, you have to try my best Sunday gravy recipe. Your house will smell wonderful and you might even have the neighbors come running over. My family tradition was to have this often as an Italian Sunday dinner.
I always make extra. Just in case.
While this recipe has a long cooking time, it is well worth it. It simmers in a large pot on the stove and the cooking process is not a hard one, so you can do other things. On Sunday, I usually relax with my family, watch football, have a glass of wine or just listen to some music.
Sunday Sauce Versus Sunday Gravy
Being from a part Italian family, on Sunday we always had gravy with our pasta. Different Italian families have their own spin on Sunday sauce but simplified down, Italian gravy is red sauce usually with some type of meat in it and served with pasta.
My husband always refers to gravy as the brown kind, served with pot roast or pork chops and mashed potatoes, but to me, that is "brown gravy."
But this Sunday gravy recipe contains country-style pork ribs. It's thick and meaty and SO much more than a sauce. I switch meats depending on what's in the freezer but chicken, pork or beef can be used. I also like to add pan fried meatballs and hot Italian sausage to my Italian gravy. Simply put, this is NOT sauce, so make sure you call it gravy!
This is another great food debate that depends on your ethnic background and where you grew up. My roommate from college grew up in an all-Italian town and also had Sunday gravy. If you go to places like South Philadelphia, any Italian restaurant will have gravy on its menu.
Ingredients Needed for Italian Gravy
- Olive Oil – Or use any light, neutral flavored oil.
- Country-style Pork Ribs – Country-style ribs are actually blade steaks and not ribs at all. I prefer to use bone-in becuase I think they add more flavor to the gravy. You do have to watch for bones, so if you don't want to pick them out, cubes of boneless pork shoulder works great too.
- Sausage Links or Meatballs - These are my family's favorite additions and add a ton of flavor to the sauce but you could use other types of meat such as .
- Fresh Garlic Cloves – 6 cloves of garlic is going to add a warm earthy flavor to this recipe.
- Red Wine – You don't have to use expensive wine but the splash of red wine added should be something you'd enjoy drinking.
- Tomatoes – Add both crushed tomatoes and tomato puree. As the sauce cooks down it will thicken and absorb all the flavors of the meat, garlic and other ingredients. For a real treat, but San Marzano tomatoes. They are more expensive but really the best tomatoes to use in this Italian Sunday gravy recipe.
- Seasoning – Onion powder, dried or fresh basil leaves, red pepper and salt will boost the flavor of the gravy. I prefer fresh herbs as they also look great to garnish your dish.
- Salt and pepper - A little bit of salt and black pepper goes a long way in seasoning this dish.
- Sugar – There is a big debate over whether sugar belongs in tomato sauce and gravy. Sugar can tone down the acidity of the tomatoes and that's how this Mama does it but I add just a little bit.
- Pasta – Pour this tomato-based sauce over your favorite pasta. I love making these homemade pasta noodles from scratch and cooking al dente pasta! This is also great with some hearty tortellini or ravioli. Now that's a good stick to your ribs Sunday dinner!
How to Make Sunday Sauce (or Gravy!)
- In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and brown meat.
- Remove meat and add garlic and sausage to the pan. Cook for a few minutes or until garlic is slightly golden and sausage starts to brown.
- Deglaze pan with red wine. Add tomatoes, puree, onion powder, basil, sugar and pepper.
- Place ribs back in pot and cover. Simmer on low heat for about 2 to 2 ½ hours or until meat falls apart and sausage links are tender.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over pasta.
Leftovers and Storage
The best part is the leftovers. Drizzle some olive oil in a large frying pan. Heat the pan and then fry the spaghetti or other pasta until warm and the edges are slightly crisp. Try my recipe for Fried Leftover Spaghetti and you will never make it another way!
I prefer to heat the leftovers in a pan but if you are in a hurry, microwaving them will do.
I always make extra pasta because leftovers are fantastic for lunch the next day. Make sure to keep any leftovers in an airtight container in your refridgerator for up to 4 days.
I don't recommend freezing cooked pasta but this Italian gravy recipe with meat can be frozen in your freezer for a month. Defrost and reheat in a pot for an easy dinner. While the sauce is reheating, you can easily boil some pasta.
More Italian Recipes perfect for Sunday Dinners
- Italian Stovetop Stuffed Peppers with Ground Turkey
- Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta
- Healthier Shrimp Scampi
- Angel Hair Pasta with Blush Sauce
- Italian Pot Roast via Food Fanatic
If you like this Sunday Gravy, please leave a 5-star rating.
Mama's Sunday Gravy
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 to 3 lbs country style pork ribs
- 1 lb pork sausage links
- 6 cloves garlic slivered
- ½ cup red wine
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 28 oz. can tomato puree
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- pinch of crushed red pepper
- salt to taste
- pasta for serving
- In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and brown ribs.
- Remove ribs and add garlic and sausage to the pan. Cook for a few minutes or until garlic is slightly golden and sausage starts to brown.
- Add wine to deglaze pan. Add tomatoes, puree, onion powder, basil, sugar and pepper.
- Place ribs back in pot and cover. Simmer on low for about 2 to 2 ½ hours or until meat falls apart and sausage links are tender.
- Add salt to taste and serve over pasta.
First Published March 2009 ; Updated October 2021
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