I can understand how a ragu sauce called "Sunday Gravy" derived it's name. I can almost picture so many Italian Nonna's making this rich tomato sauce that has been slow cooking for hours on the stove.
From my internet research, I've learned that Sunday Gravy is an Italian-American dish-- very popular on the East Coast. The "gravy" is more of a ragu that has been slowly simmered with various meats. There are many variations of this recipe, each of them touting to be "the best". I've never had "Sunday Gravy" before, though I have heard about it from few Italian-American friends who make this-- which left me longing to make it myself.
One afternoon, one of my most trusted recipe sources-- American's Test Kitchen ("ATK")-- showed an episode for their version of "Sunday Gravy". I was smitten, and book marked their recipe. The mouth-watering components of this dish were enough to finally entice me into make this in my own kitchen-- plus, it's no secret that we love pastas with tomato based sauces.
Braciole, (a pounded out piece of beef, that is stuffed with ingredients like raisins, pine nuts, cheese and prosciutto) is a traditional meat ingredient for Sunday Gravy. It's also a lot of work to do (and recipe I have yet to try making for myself).
The secret is in the sauce, so to speak-- which is more of a "ragu" because it's tomato based, but the slow braised the meats add lots of great flavor. The sauce is thick, and is cooked long and slow for hours on the stove-- which requires stirring and keeping a close eye on it. ATK decided to use the oven (for 2-1/2 hours) so that it could cook low and slow with no need to stir. On some lazy Sundays, I do love to make slow-braised dishes (like Osso Bucco) in the oven because the meat turns out to be super tender, and it's falling off the bone. But, there are times when I want to speed up the process.
That's when I bring out my favorite kitchen "secret weapon"-- my beloved pressure cooker*. I've posted almost two dozen pressure cooker recipes on my "Recipe Index" page and those numbers will continue to grow. So, I adapted this recipe to be made in my pressure cooker for 45 minutes versus 2-1/2 hours! I will, however, provide a printable recipe card that gives you directions on how to make this, in the oven, if you don't own a pressure cooker. So, here we go!
*NOTE: I've used both a stove top and an electric pressure cooker. There are merits to both, but much prefer my electric pressure cooker. I have used an 8-quart oval Cook's Essentials pressure cooker, which is no longer made. Should it ever break, after I quit crying, I will buy this pressure cooker to replace it.
I made the meatballs, first. I've made an ATK Pressure Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe, which is one of my most viewed recipes. This recipe was similar, but with a couple of additional ingredients. First, we begin with a "panade" which is white bread and milk (in this case, buttermilk) that is "smooshed" into a soft paste. (The panade helps to bind the meatloaf mixture (as does the egg yolk) and makes the meatballs soft and tender.)
I found a local grocery store that sells a meatloaf mixture of ground beef and ground pork. You can certainly add ground veal, but leave it out if you can't find it or you have personal beliefs about now buying veal (which I completely understand).
The instructions for using a Dutch Oven or a pressure cooker are the same. Pat the ribs dry, and season with salt and pepper. My electric pressure cooker has a browning cycle, which I used to brown the ribs on each side with a little olive oil.
Using the browning cycle in my electric pressure cooker, I added about 2 cups of diced onion and some oregano, then some tomato paste and fresh garlic. My kitchen was beginning to smell like an Italian restaurant!
Oh, these meatballs! They were so aromatic as I began to brown them, evenly!
If using a Dutch Oven, transfer browned meatballs to sauce and gently submerge. Cover, return pot to oven, and continue cooking until meatballs are just cooked through, about 15 minutes.
I cooked some linguine pasta until al dente, then added about a cup of sauce and a little reserved pasta water to lightly coat the pasta.
grilled. That's not to say they didn't taste good! My husband went for the sausages and had seconds on the sauce. Sunday Gravy is comfort food at it's best. I would definitely make this again, but would try making this with my new Creuset Dutch Oven-- and I'd like to take the time to make braciole. Once again, ATK has developed a recipe that delivers flavor, more simplicity and a dish that I would proudly serve to family and guests.