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TIP OF THE DAY: Sunday Sauce Or Sunday Gravy & A Spaghetti Dinner

[1] Serve a Sunday spaghetti dinner with GIY (garnish-your-own) platters of meats and vegetables (photo © DeLallo).

[2] You can roast just a few vegetables or a whole feast of them (photo © Pampered Chef).

[3] Add shishito peppers to pasta? Consider them a substitute for crushed red pepper flakes. Here’s the recipe from Nutmeg Nanny (photo © Nutmeg Nanny).


Today’s tip is about Sunday pasta dinner, and the “Sunday sauce” made for it.

We also expand the idea of a spaghetti dinner, with a DIY addition of meats and vegetables.

If you come from an Italian-American family, you know what Sunday sauce is.

While there are as many ways to make sugo della Domenica (Sunday sauce) as there are families who eat it, this much is agreed:

It is grandma’s (or Mom’s) special tomato sauce, hearty and homemade for Sunday dinner pasta.

If you add meat, it’s called Sunday gravy—although this latter Americanism is inaccurate*. Stick to Sunday sauce.

Recipes for Sunday sauce have different types of meat; often the “big three”: beef (ground or meatballs), pork and Italian sausage. Each of the cuts enhances the richness of the sauce, as they simmer away.

Some cooks add a bit of red wine to the sauce. Others are sure to add fresh basil and rosemary, in addition to dried bay leaves and oregano.

Why dried oregano? It’s actually better-tasting.

  • The flavor difference between most fresh and dried herbs is huge. Fresh herbs are typically lively and complex.
  • Dried herbs can be bitter, even tasteless (check out the difference between fresh and dried parsley, if you need convincing).
  • But dried oregano has a refreshing flavor that proclaims its presence without dominating the other ingredients.

    There are many recipes online for Sunday Sauce recipe. This one from DeLallo uses imported San Marzano tomatoes, pork ribs, vegetables and spices—just like grandma used to make.

    Since good tomatoes aren’t available year-round (and have gotten very pricey), imported canned San Marzano tomatoes make the best sauce.

    Since October is National Pasta Month, we’d like to expand on the idea of Sunday sauce on pasta.

    For a festive pasta dinner, we like to serve a basic spaghetti-and-marinara with DIY platters of meat and vegetables.

    We actually prefer linguine (flat) to spaghetti (round), because it’s easier to twirl.

    Our modern approach to a spaghetti/linguine dinner is to serve the pasta, tossed with the sauce, on individual plates, with each diner choosing his/her preferred add-ons from meat and vegetable platters.

    Prepare what you like from this list:

  • Meats: meatballs, sausage, pork chops, pork ribs; if you prefer chicken, cook it outside the sauce.
  • Roasted vegetables: artichoke hearts, bell peppers, carrots, eggplant, mushrooms, garlic, onions, parsnips, squash, zucchini.
  • Fusion: Hatch chiles† from New Mexico, shishito peppers from Japan (now grown in the U.S.).
  • Grating cheeses: There are more choices than parmesan (the generic variety of the great Parmigiano-Reggiano). Check out Asiago and Grana Padano. For a more tangy sheep’s milk cheese, try Pecorino Romano.
    Buon appetito (enjoy your meal)!



    *Many Italian-Americans call the sauce “gravy” because it has meat in it; the rest of us seeking an alternative to Sunday sauce would simply call it “meat sauce.” While the Italian word for sauce is sugo, and Sunday sauce is sugo della Domenica, the equivalent term for gravy is sugo d’arrosto, which means “juice of a roast.”

    †Hatch chiles are seasonal, harvested in the Southwest from August until the end of September, although sometimes a few weeks earlier and later, depending on the weather.

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