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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Four tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound hot Italian sausage links
1 pound ground hot Italian sausage
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
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
- Mix the egg and breadcrumbs in with the ground sausage and form your meatballs. I generally make them large enough to get eight.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve over pasta with more grated cheese or on hoagie rolls with Provolone cheese.