Sugo alla Bolognese Recipe

'Sunday Gravy' and the Italian-American Sunday Dinner:

    Close Knit Italian-American families especially on the East coast reserve Sundays for a large family meal where multiple generations, extended family, and close friends gather together to socialize and share a feast of Italian-American favorites. This Sunday meal revolves around 'Sunday Gravy' or 'Sunday Sauce'; a simmering cauldron of tomatoes, garlic, onions, herbs, meatballs, sausages, and other meats such as pork ribs and braciole that fills the house with a heavenly aroma and the promise of incredible food. Sunday Gravy (and the subsequent Sunday Dinner) is time consuming and a lot of work but well worth the effort. With preparation of the meal starting early in the morning and lasting until service (typically around 2pm) this incredible Sunday feast is truly a labor of love! 
    Every Italian-American family has its own recipe for 'Sunday Gravy' or 'Sunday Sauce' - each placing their own stamp on this staple of the Sunday meal. Most families fiercely guard their recipe only sharing it with family passing it down from one generation to the next as a point of tradition.
    The recipe shared here (with permission) was taught to me by my Italian-American Aunt who lives in New York City and still holds the tradition of Sunday Dinner every week at her home which typically starts with Antipasto (literally translated as 'before the meal'); plates of charcuterie (cured meats / cold cuts), cheese, preserved vegetables (pickles), olives, bruschetta, and any other family favorites set out to nibble on with a glass of wine. This classic starter is followed by the main course which is typically broken into two parts: the Primo (first) and Secondi (second course). The primo is always pasta served with the sauce and crusty bread but sometimes includes soups and risottos. The Secondi is a collection of meat and fish dishes (including the meats simmered in the Sunday Gravy) served with countless sides. This is followed by the salad and then comes dessert along with fruits, nuts, and after dinner coffee. All of this is followed by amazza-caffè (literally translated as 'coffee killer'); a small glass of liqueur such as Limoncello or Mirto meant to 'kill' the flavor of the coffee and consumed as a digestive.
    The meal lasts for hours and is an amazing dynamic of laughter, conversation, and love; Familia! - I just wish I lived closer so that I could be there to share in this wonderful weekly family feast!

Sugo alla Bolognese
AKA: Italian Sunday Gravy
(Hearty Italian-American Meat Sauce)
Submitted By: Taz

Yield: Apx 4 quarts of sauce + Meats
(Though I may not have a large family to share Sunday dinners with, I still make a large batch of Sunday Gravy to maximize the reward for the time and effort it takes to make it. It freezes well and can serve many a meal over a month or two)


2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage
1 lb Boneless Pork Ribs
18-20 Meat Balls (Recipe Included)
3 28oz Cans Chopped Tomatoes (no added salt or sugar)
2 28oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes (no added salt or sugar)
1 12oz Can Tomato Paste
2 whole bulbs Fresh Garlic - minced
1 whole bulb Fresh Garlic - crushed
1 Medium Yellow Onion - diced
1 Medium Yellow Onion - rough chopped
1 ½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbs Dried Basil
1 Tbs Dried Oregano
1 Tbs Kosher Salt
1 Tbs Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Dried Thyme

1 lb Lean Ground Beef (90 - 95% lean)
1 lb Ground Pork
1 lb Ground Lamb
5 cloves Fresh Garlic - crushed
½ Medium Yellow Onion - fine diced
½ Medium Yellow Onion - chopped
1 Cup Fresh Bread Crumbs
½ Cup Water
½ Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese - grated
¼ Cup Flat Leaf Parsley - fine chopped
2 Large Eggs
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil
  3. Add water to bread crumbs- Mix well and set aside
  4. Whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and set aside
  5. Place garlic and chopped onion in a blender or food processor and purée into a smooth paste
  6. Place all of the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  7. Add soaked bread crumbs, egg mixture, and puréed garlic/onion
  8. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until the consistency is moist and it holds together well - DO NOT SQUEEZE THE MIXTURE
  9. Again, using your hands, separate mixture into 20 equal portions and roll into balls - DO NOT PACK TIGHT, you are not making snowballs!
  10. Place on baking sheets with at least 1 inch spacing all the way around and bake for 10 minutes - Turn each meatball over and bake for an additional 10 minutes
  11. Remove from oven, cover, and set aside
  1. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a large pot (8-10 quarts) over medium heat
  2. Add boneless pork ribs and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes to a side or until browned all over - Remove browned ribs to a clean plate, cover with foil and set aside
  3. Add 1 Tbs (remaining) olive oil to the pot and add sausages - Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes to a side or until browned - Remove to plate containing ribs re-cover and set aside
  4. Add diced onion and minced garlic and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened
  5. Add tomato paste - Fill tomato paste can with water and add - Mix well and allow to cook for 3 minutes
  6. Add the crushed and chopped tomatoes - Fill 1 tomato can with water and add to mixture
  7. Place chopped onion and crushed garlic in blender or food processor and purée until smooth
  8. Add onion/garlic purée along with crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaves, dried basil, dried oregano, salt, black pepper, and chopped parsley to tomato mixture - mix thoroughly to combine
  9. Add browned pork ribs and Italian sausage - Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer
  10. Allow to simmer for 3 hours stirring occasionally
  11. Add meatballs and allow to simmer for an additional hour stirring occasionally
  12. Ready to serve with pasta of choice!
If serving all at once for a traditional 'Sunday Dinner', remove all of the meat from the pot and serve on a large platter so diners can select what they want.

For 'storage', I leave the meatballs out of the final step (still simmering the gravy for 4 total hours) and freeze them separate from the sauce. Before storing, I cut up the sausages into 2 inch pieces and return the pieces to the gravy.
 I typically portion out the gravy (24-36oz for two to four people) and freeze in individual containers. I portion out 4 meatballs (for two-four people) into separate containers and freeze. When ready to serve, thaw the desired portions and heat the sauce and meatballs together over medium heat until meatballs are warmed through - Remove the meatballs from the sauce and place on serving plates - Toss cooked pasta with the gravy and transfer to serving plates - Heaven!

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