NOT to be confused with red-eye gravy,
which is delightful in it’s own right, just not a tomato sauce to put on macaroni.
This is not Sunday Gravy which always has meat, just basic marinara. Because Italian isn’t as nearly as much one language with dialects as it claims to be, as several languages that have a common Italian accent. The words for sauce/gravy include sugo/salsa al/di pomodoro or pummarola ...and there are more, and that’s barely getting us out of something with tomatoes that goes over pasta type sauce, and there is a world of others….little wonder they translate into so many variations….not so much”same meat/different gravy” as “Same gravy/different names”.
Back to the story….
One of the things I discovered when I moved out on my own that as a single, the pantry and proportions of food I grew up within a large family were completely wrong.
I had to start over and reinvent the wheel.,
Or at least the rotelle…
Especially the rotelle – and all the other macaronis. (Back in the day, we called them ‘macaronis’: we were macaroni eaters )
My mother’s red gravy – or tomato sauce as we say now – was a BIG BATCH affair. Since I’m the oldest of six… and four of them were growing boys – with no dainty appetites – well, let’s just say this didn’t translate well for a single, especially one who decided to be a vegetarian.
But I had been reading about Italian food…..trying to find the dishes and the tastes that my family cooked and talked about.
We talked a lot about food. I thought everyone did. All the time. I am an not a foodie, thank you very much, I am Italian.
Don’t be fooled by my Irish face – but back to the gravy.
James Beard to the rescue.
Red Gravy (for Winter)
28-oz can whole tomatoes (in puree)
2 small onions, diced*
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil (or one frozen stalk)**
4 Tablespoons Butter***
- Put the diced onion and basil in your saucepan.
- Open the can of tomatoes (make sure to wash the top of the can first, and when was the last time you cleaned that can opener?) Says the voice in my head – maybe it’s just a Big Sister thing…).
- With your impeccably clean hands, pick out the tomatoes and crush them directly into the pan. No finger licking until the last tomato is in!
- Pour in whatever puree remains in the pan, and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.
- Add the butter at the end, letting it melt and enrich the sauce.
- If you use the frozen basil stalk, fish it out before serving.
- If you want a super smooth sauce, puree in the food processor or force through a strainer. I never want a smoother sauce more then I don’t want more dishes…
- If you’ve started a pot of water for your macaroni at the same time everything should be done together.
James Beard. Beard On Pasta. Alfred A. Knopf. 1983. p.73.
* He says sliced. He doesn’t say garlic, which I add a clove or two, well chopped.
**I freeze basil in the summer – it turns black and scary looking, but leaves a great basil taste. JB suggests that oregano or tarragon could be used. Oregano is fine – with or without basil; I would go so far as to suggest even a very little rosemary or the merest pinch of a fresh sage leaf. A pinch of cinnamon is very good, too. Tarragon?? It would seem that Mamma Beard was NOT from Italy.
***This was the very first time I had ever seen butter and tomatoes together in a pot. I used olive oil for years, and one day got brave….it IS very good.