Sugo: The Sunday Gravy of My Childhood

Jerry Finzi from Grand Voyage Italy dishes on an age-old tradition.

This article, written by Jerry Finzi, appears on Grand Voyage Italy.

Nearly every Sunday of my early childhood my Mom made something most Italian-Americans (especially those from Naples) called Sunday Gravy.

Simply put, Sunday Gravy involves making a large batch of tomato sauce and introducing various types of meat into it.

In Italian, the word salsa means sauce. A sauce is made from something other than meat. Like putting a fruit or cheese sauce over meat, chicken or fish. The Italian word sugo means gravy. A gravy is made from the liquids and fat that are rendered from various meats — like using turkey drippings to make a gravy.  

The all-day cooking of meat in tomato sauce gave off a heady scent, that would fill our apartment, and waft out into the hallway for the entire building to smell, “Ahh…the Finzi’s are making Gravy today!”

Sunday Gravy has it’s origins from a beef stew popular in medieval times, way before tomatoes were introduced from the New World; a clay cooker slow cooked the stew of beef and vegetables for hours and hours.

This beef stew turned into a ragù and eventually Neapolitans evolved the dish by the eighteenth century for the noble courts, using very fine meat, such as beef and veal, but no tomato. (Tomatoes didn’t gain popularity right away in Europe as they were thought to be poisonous).

This dish was mainly prepared on Sundays, the sauce used on pasta and meat served as a second course. One historian described a Sugo using tomatoes in 1857 that was being served in taverns in Naples. Read more at Grand Voyage Italy…

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