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Searching for an Italian Gravy Recipe with tangy sweetness

I was at a friend's bithday and she served this fabulous rich red colored sauce that had a sweetness to it but overbearing. She said it's a "family" recipe so will not disclose any of the ingriedients. It was very dark deep red and smooth as can be. She served it with buffalo meatmalls. I am dying to re-create the sauce at home. Please let me know if you have a killer sauce/gravy recipe that this may be. Thanks much!

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  1. i don't know if this will help, but your description of color and sweetness and smoothness makes me think that her family recipe is an old school east coast italian-american deal. you get that color, smoothness, and sweetness in part by using somewhat copious amts of tomato paste in the "gravy" recipe, rather than fresh tomatoes or canned whole or crushed tomatoes. if you have a fave recipe for "gravy," try adding or upping the tomato paste, and see if you're starting to get closer to your friend's sauce.

    7 Replies
    1. re: soupkitten

      She is from East Coast..I don't have a recipe I currently love.

      1. re: drewb123

        Search Google for Sicilian spaghetti gravy recipes. Many of those tend to the sweeter side without being candy sweet. The Italians in my family (and there's a bunch of 'em) would never call it spaghetti sauce so your friend is at least familiar with the proper term.
        This one looks pretty good, but I'd reduce the sugar by about a teaspoon.
        http://sandrasjuneau.com/recipes-from...
        OR:
        1 large can (16 oz.) crushed tomatoes, pureed
        2 cloves garlic (chopped)
        1/2 tsp. oregano
        1 cup mushrooms, sliced or chopped
        1 tsp. basil
        3 cups water
        2/3 cup dry red wine
        2 tsp sugar
        1 medium onion, chopped
        3 Tablespoon Olive oil

        Heat olive oil in skillet
        Saute the onion and garlic in the heated olive oil (careful not to brown the garlic)
        Combine remaining ingredients and add to the onion/garlic.
        Simmer for 2 - 3 hours, adding boiling water in small amounts periodically to maintain desired consistency.
        During last 30 minutes of cooking, taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.

        1. re: todao

          I'm half Sicilian and I never heard the term gravy. It was sauce.

          1. re: roxlet

            As far as I remember sauce is without meat...sunday "Gravy" has a number of cuts of meat, meatballs, and perhaps braciole, and is not quickly simmered like a sauce, but braises for a long time infusing the "Gravy" with beefy porkiness!

            1. re: ChowFun_derek

              Not in my family. We never called the long, slow-simmered sauce anything other than sauce, and this was a 100% Italian household -- half Sicilian, half Neapolitan. No relative on either side ever called it gravy. It was a term I was completely unfamiliar with. Gravy was what you put on Thanksgiving turkey.

              Now, as to the OP, you can make this sauce very, very simply. Get some peeled Italian tomatoes, put them in the blender to puree them, add them to a pot in which several cloves of garlic have been very lightly browning. Add some tomato paste and salt. Then add your meats -- meatballs, sausage, a piece of pork sauce meat, and perhaps braciole. Cook for several hours at a very low simmer. Remove the meat, and serve. The sauce will be dark and rich from all the meat juices. If you want it to be super smooth, you can let the sauce cool, and then run it through the blender again before heating and serving.

            2. re: roxlet

              Well, I suppose it's not all that important, but, controversial as the subject is, there are those who are quite passionate about the difference in terms. I'm not Italian and, with the Italians in my family, I've learned to avoid arguments. Those beautiful people can get pretty worked up over a subject; even one that is as seemingly insignificant as this one.

              http://italianfood.about.com/od/pasta...

        2. re: soupkitten

          I agree that paste is probably part of it. Also the smoothness you describe leads me to think she uses tomato purée. Here us what we do. Heat a few tablespoons oil and brown one pound sweet Italian sausage links and 1/4 of a chopped onion and a couple tsp of chopped garlic. Add one large cans purée plus two cans water and two small cans of paste. Cover top with dried basil and black pepper and simmer three hours until thickened.

        3. frying the tomato paste before beginning the rest of the sauce adds color, sweetness and complexity of flavor.

          she may also run everything through a food mill to make it smooth.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            East coast sauce from a nonna who immigrated at age of 17 caring for her orphaned brothers and sister. She started with a sofrito of 1/2 cup minced onions and 2 crushed garlic cloves sautéed in 4 tblspns butter/olive oil mixture. When transparent she added a large can of tomato paste and stirred it into the flavored oil. Over low heat she let that cook down for 30+ minutes stirring gently until burgundy colored. Meanwhile in a stockpot she started 2 large (28 oz) cans of best whole tomatoes she could afford (including her own). Crush tomatoes into chunks and add in 1cup of red wine (Zinfandel or Chianti were her choices). She would insert a couple roasted (leftover) pork bones from an economical shoulder cut served the day before along with a good pinch of salt, a couple grinds of pepper, and a couple tablespoons of fresh minced basil from the garden. All that would simmer together until the tomato paste mixture was really really dark and then everything would be. Combined into the stockpot for another hour simmering. Remove the pork bones and toss in meatballs and maybe a few links of sweet fennel sausage. What a killer sauce but takes 3 hours of prep and slow low simmering.