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Jeanne's Sunday Gravy
Over 15 years ago I had a neighbor in my condo complex named Jeanne. She was a widow and lived alone with one too many cats. If you can conjure up an image of a cat lady, she certainly fit the image, but for some reason she took a liking to me. Every Sunday – and I mean EVERY the hallway outside our condos smelled amazing. Since Jeanne rarely left her condo it took months until I ran in to her and asked what she cooked every Sunday. When I did, her face lit up and a huge smile ran across her face. Her reply to my question was, “Sunday Gravy” Apparently she had been making it since she was a little girl and it was a recipe passed down to her from maternal grandmother.

One sunday morning, a few weeks later there was a knock on my door. When I opened the door, Jeanne was standing there and said, ” I need to borrow a large soup pot.” I gave her the soup pot, shut the door, and went about the day breathing the amazing aroma of Sunday Gravy. Around 9PM there was another knock at the door. By the time I got to the door noone was there, but on the floor was my soup pot FULL of Sunday Gravy, 2 boxes of pasta, and a fresh loaf of crusty bread. When I knocked on Jeanne’s door to thank her there was no answer.

I brought the amazing gift inside and immediately ripped off some bread and dunked it into the gravy. This was the MOST AMAZING Sauce…. I mean GRAVY that I had ever tasted. I think I ate half the bread that night.

The next morning I slipped a Thank You note under her door. It was several weeks until I saw Jeanne again. I was glad to run in to her, so I could personally thank her and ask is she would share the recipe. She was thrilled that I loved the gravy, but the recipe was a family, “secret”.

Over the next year at least once a month Jeanne would knock on my door and leave a quart or two of her Sunday Gravy with a box of pasta and bread. It was also over this year that with my brief run-ins with Jeanne that I learned almost all of the ingredients that went into this gravy – just no proportions and no instructions. I did know she cooked it all day. Plus I know she was holding out on me. I also learned how kind, but how lonely she was.

I moved away a little over a year after the Sunday Gravy exchange began. I learned from neighbors that she passed away a few years later. I still think of Jeanne and her one too many cats ever so often, especially when I make my version of Jeanne’s Sunday Gravy. It is so close… but it is missing something…. maybe it is her love that is missing.

It took me numerous attempts to replicate this. It is a treat and it is has the power to calm life with just its’ aroma.

To make this sauce:

  • I first slow braise both a beef chuck roast and pork shoulder for about three and half hours each. 2 to 4 lbs (I will post the recipes for these soon) and pull the meat from the bones.
  • Brown 1 lb of Italian sausage (1/2 hot , 1/2 sweet), slice it and set it aside.
  • Brown 1 lb of Veal stew meat and set it aside.
  • For the Sauce I lightly brown 4 garlic gloves and 1 diced spanish onion in some olive oil.  
  • Add 1/2 cup tomato paste and stir
  • Add 4 cans (28 oz each) of plum tomatoes or use fresh roasted tomatoes and stir
  • Add about 3 cups of water, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add all the meat, and cook on low, partially covered, stirring occasionally for 3 hours
  • While the sauce is cooking make a basic meatball, brown them in a pan and set aside.  They will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • When the sauce has cooked for 3 hours, add the meatballs, a handful of fresh basil and cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Serve over your favorite pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.