Red Sausage Gravy

I’ve posted several times about my Sunday or red gravy. I tend to crave it, as well as the process of making it, when the weather starts to turn cooler in the fall. 

The types of meat I use to flavor the gravy sometimes depends on what I have in the freezer. That happened to be hot Italian sausage in two forms this past Thursday. In addition to the usual links, I had a pound of ground sausage on hand and used it to make meatballs. I fried both those and the links up in a pan the night before so I could just throw them into the pot once the gravy was ready the next day. 

Here they are along with a can of the San Marzano tomatoes that I normally use and a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano that I’d be grating into the gravy. I also grabbed some of the last Italian parsley and basil we have in our herb garden for the season and stuck it into a cheesecloth pouch. I use those because I don’t enjoy chopping fresh herbs. The pouch enables you to get the flavor without having to chop. Just remove it at the end of the cooking process.

The links are beneath the meatballs, which are also made out of ground hot Italian sausage.
Using a cheesecloth pouch gives you the flavor of fresh herbs without having to chop them or worrying about stems.

When I was ready to start making the gravy, I sautéed a sweet onion that I had also chopped the night before in extra virgin olive oil until it was just starting to brown. I threw a few cloves of chopped garlic into the pan when the onions were almost ready, letting them go for another minute before adding two-thirds of a cup of red wine and letting it boil down by about half.

I added red wine after the onions had softened.

At that point, it was time to add the tomatoes, the herb pouch, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, sugar and grated cheese. I stirred everything in and let it go for just a couple minutes before adding the sausage links and meatballs.

Once the gravy hit a boil, I turned down the flame and let it simmer. That was at about noon. I returned periodically to stir and check on it, but did nothing else aside from mixing in a tablespoon or two of tomato paste to thicken the gravy at one point until finally turning off the flame around 5:30 p.m.

I have to say that the house smelled divine all afternoon. I suspected the final product was going to be good.

Putting the gravy together.
Everything was in the pot and the simmering had begun by noon, when this photo was taken.
This is what it looked like five-and-a-half hours later. I skimmed some of the unavoidable grease off before taking the shot.

I boiled up some pasta – orecchiette – to al dente for dinner and spooned on a little gravy with a sausage link and meatball. After adding more grated cheese, I was ready to dig in.

I couldn’t have been happier with the result. While I’ve made a lot of red gravies the past few years, I don’t think any of them have surpassed this one. Good ingredients and patience get the job done when it comes to making this kind of food.

As much as I loved it, I didn’t want to have to eat it in the same form every night for the next week. So the following day I headed over to a local grocery store and picked up a long – steak or hoagie – roll and a little sliced Provolone cheese. 

I intended to make either a sausage or meatball sandwich – or perhaps one with some of both. At the last moment, I opted to stick with meatballs and heated up four of them with a little gravy, which I loosened by adding a bit of water, in a pan. While that was going, I sliced the roll, topped it with a couple slices of cheese and pre-heated our toaster-oven.

I would be grating more cheese onto the meatballs just before eating the sandwich.

When I was satisfied the sausage meatballs were heated through, I spooned them onto the roll with some sauce and stuck the sandwich into the oven just long enough for the outer crust to gain a little body and the Provolone to fully melt.

Once again, I was mighty pleased with how it turned out. I may do that again with one or two of the sausage links before I run out. 

In the meantime, I had boiled enough of the pasta that first night to last for several servings. By the end of the week, I should be full of enough gravy and sausage to hold me over for a month or two. That’s about how long I expect it to take until I start craving it again and cook up another batch. 

Red Sausage Gravy

serves 6


Four tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound hot Italian sausage links

1 pound ground hot Italian sausage

1/3 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 sweet onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2/3 cup red wine

One 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, preferably with D.O.P. on the label

Fresh Italian parsley and basil to taste, either chopped or in a cheesecloth pouch

Salt, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste

Cooking Steps

  1. Mix the egg and breadcrumbs in with the ground sausage and form your meatballs. I generally make them large enough to get eight.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a frying pan and add your sausage links. Brown them on all sides before removing to a plate or container. Do the same with the meatballs. This can be done the night before if you find that more convenient.
  3. Heat the rest of the olive oil in your sauce pot. Add the chopped onion and let it go, stirring periodically, until it just starts to brown. Add your garlic at that point.
  4. After the garlic has had a minute in the pot with the onions, add the red wine. Let it come to a boil and reduce by about half.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir over a medium flame. After a couple minutes, add the sausage links and meatballs and return to a boil. Reduce the flame and let the gravy simmer, stirring periodically. It should simmer for at least four hours.
  6. Serve over pasta with more grated cheese or on hoagie rolls with Provolone cheese.

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

4 thoughts on “Red Sausage Gravy

  1. YUM!

    Did the long cooking time tame the sausage’s heat somewhat? Also, how toothsome were the onions? I’m weird about food textures and would’ve been tempted to put the sauce in the blender for a moment before adding the meat.


    1. To tell you the truth, I never notice the onions when I eat one of my gravies. Between sauteeing it in oil until it’s soft and simmering it in the sauce for so long, I don’t think you’d have anything to worry about.

      These weren’t exceptionally hot sausages to begin with. There is a butcher in south Philly that makes very hot Italian sausages, but I got both the links and ground sausage at the supermarket this time. I’m always happy with the flavor of their hot sausages. The ground sausage was prepackages from one of the big meat companies in this part of the country.


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