If you don’t know how to make a hearty red sauce that can be poured over pasta, marinated with meatballs, or sopped up with a giant hunk of crusty bread, according to my mom, you can’t even call yourself Italian.
Knowing how to create a basic red sauce, or gravy depending on where your ancestors originated from, is something I think everyone should know how to do (even if you don’t have Italian heritage), so allow me to lay down the basics.
First and foremost, you need to begin with a few cans of ripened, peeled tomatoes. I prefer to use a reputable brand and stick with plain as I like to add my own spices. I also opt for a can or two of tomato puree. I have nothing against the store brand and love to save my pennies whenever possible, but I’ve found the store brand of puree is often watered down.
Next up are carrots, onions, and garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. Don’t go for the pre-chopped garlic that you find in the jars. Grab a few fresh cloves of garlic, so you can really get the full flavor. I also like to use either a yellow onion or a sweet onion. Red onion has a time and a place, but this is not one of them.
For spices, I have tried to venture outside of the traditional basil and oregano on multiple occasions, but I always come back to the tried and true. My secret weapon, though, is a teeny tiny pinch of cloves, which really sets things apart from other sauces. Just like I add a few squares of chocolate to my chili, the cloves give this sauce a unique flavor profile that can’t be beat. You can toss in a bay leaf or two as the sauce is simmering, but don’t forget to remove it before serving.
The great thing about this sauce is that it doesn’t have to simmer on the stove for hours like I remember from Sunday dinners at Grandma Rosalie’s. And you don’t have to add meat if you want to keep it vegetarian friendly, but if you do, opt for grass-fed beef or a quality Italian sausage. My mother always pairs her homemade sauce with a braciola, which is a rolled flank steak. I have not yet perfected this, so I stick with meatballs. Which I have perfected. 😉
Easy Italian Gravy Made With Ingredients From Your Pantry
- 2 cans (28 ounces) tomato puree
- 1 can (28 ounces) ripened peeled tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 8 cloves of garlic
- Heaping Tbsp basil
- Heaping Tbsp oregano
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ cup parmesan/Romano cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)/butter for sautéing
- Add both cans of puree and can of tomatoes to a saucepot and set to medium heat.
- Sauté chopped onion, chopped carrot, and sliced garlic in butter and/or EVOO.
- Add onions, carrots, and garlic to saucepot with tomato mixture.
- Add spices and continue to simmer.
- Add parmesan/Romano cheese and continue to simmer.
- Once everything has had time to marry, use an immersion blender to create a uniform consistency.
- Continue cooking until ready to serve.
Homemade Italian Sauce/Gravy Nutrition Facts:
- Calories: 980
- Total Fat: 33 g
- Total Carbohydrate: 154 g
- Fiber: 31 g
- Protein: 44 g