Italian Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Italian gravy on pasta with Italian sausage on top.

Every Italian American household has a version Sunday Gravy sauce and everyone will tell you theirs is the best. We all guard the recipe with our lives so don’t expect to see one here, but what I will give you is the story of one of the most treasured family traditions and a few tips on how to get it done. And if you don’t want to cook your own, PASTA REA sells it by the quart so just give us a call.

Sunday Gravy is more Italian American than Italian and features generous portions of beef or veal, pork, and sausage. Most Italian families who immigrated from the old country rarely prepared recipes with beef. Once they settled in the states and prospered financially, beef became more of a staple ingredient and you will often find beef braciola included in many recipes. Our family’s gravy relies on the flavors of the family meatball recipe which includes quality pork shoulder and handmade sausage.

Sunday Gravy is so much more than just another day’s meal. Typically the sauce was placed on a slow simmer for hours early in the day. The Sunday meal was usually served around 2:00 in the afternoon. While the gravy simmered on the stove various family members would arrive to the house in anticipation of the meal allowing us time to catch up on the past week’s activities. The house would fill with the aroma of garlic, garden fresh tomatoes and basil. Of course the gravy had to be tested for quality insurance. This process would include a small plate with a ladle of gravy mopped up with a generous portion of crusty Italian bread passed around to whoever was in the vicinity. On occasion a meatball might make it to the tasting plate but very rarely. If you were caught “tasting” on your own while Mom stepped away from the stove you would receive a swat from the same wooden spoon used to stir. God forbid we ran out and there was not enough to go around. But that was the funny thing about Sunday Gravy, there was always enough to go around for those invited and for those who just dropped in and usually there were leftovers.

Two or three times a month we would enjoy our meal and then head out to visit our aunts, uncles, and cousins. My mother’s father lived with us and her brother and sister would usually join us at our home.  My father was the youngest of 7 and being the youngest, he would show his respect by packing us into his car and making the 30-minute trip spending about 45 minutes at each home. No matter how full you were from your mom’s gravy you were still expected to eat more. Each of my father’s sisters married a man from a different part of Italy so each home had a different preparation. One was spicy, one had raisins and pine nuts in their meatballs, one preferred boxed pasta and one handmade and so on as traditions dictated. Our tradition on those visits was to always visit Auntie Ann’s home last because she was the baker in the family. To this day I have never seen a larger display of Italian cookies and pastries than the ones that were displayed at many cousins’ weddings.

Here are a few tips when preparing Sunday Gravy which is a very simple recipe to create. Be sure to use only fresh ingredients. Brown the meat, (but never the meatballs) in a quality olive oil, allow simmering for hours until the pork is fork tender and then add the meatballs and sausage until just done. That is a very important step because the flavors imparted from those meats during the simmer make the sauce. The final product should be thicker than marinara so a little paste is ok if you like but the slow reduction will help with consistency. Be sure to have lots of quality bread, grandpa’s wine and of course PASTA REA pasta. I don’t know why they call it gravy instead of sauce but that is a great topic to debate while it simmers.

Mangia Bene!!

Chef Tony

 

Roasted Beet Pasta with Chèvre Cream, Garlic & Chive

Roasted Beet Pasta With Chevre Cream, Garlic & Chive is a beautifully colored Fall pasta dish and it is equally delicious!  We particularly like the chèvre cream, garlic,  and chive sauce to enhance the flavor of the ever so subtle beet flavor of the pasta.  Our fresh Pasta Rea pasta cooks in only 3-4 minutes so this is a quick and easy dish for busy week nights or it’s impressive as a dish for entertaining guests.  A simple salad and a crusty loaf of bread is the perfect accompaniment to Roasted Beet Pasta.

Roast beef pasta on a white plate.

And if you want to get fancy, mimic the chive “spikes” in our photo! 

Roasted Beet Pasta Recipe:

4 servings

½ gallon water

1 tbsp sea salt

10 ounces PASTA REA Roasted Purple Beet pasta

4 each cloves of roasted garlic, mashed into a paste

2 tsp olive oil

3 ounces white wine

6 ounces heavy cream

5 ounces of a quality soft chevre cheese

2 tbsp. fine grated Romano cheese

2 tbsp. chive, chopped

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Sea Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Preparation:

Bring the water to a rolling boil and add sea salt.

In a medium sauté pan, add the olive oil and garlic. Sauté stirring constantly so not to burn for about 1 minute.

Add white wine and reduce by half.

Add heavy cream and reduce to thicken, add cheese and stir to a smooth consistency.

Cook pasta to al dente and strain, reserving some pasta water. Add strained pasta, salt, lemon juice and chives to the cream and cheese mixture stirring with a large pasta fork until well coated with sauce. You may use some of the pasta water to adjust sauce consistency if needed.

Season to taste with Sea Salt.

Portion pasta evenly on four plates and top with a generous portion of cracked pepper. Serve immediately.

Pasta Puttanesca with Shrimp

Pasta Puttanesca  is an Italian pasta dish invented in Naples in the mid-20th century. Its ingredients typically include tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers and garlic making it a very cost-effective dish.  Chef Tony has created a “twist” on the Italian favorite with this delicious version which includes smoked shrimp, capers, and Kalamata olives.  This Pasta Puttanesca version with shrimp is also cost-effective and prepared with our fresh Pasta Rea pasta, it is sure to please.  As pictured here, the dish was prepared with Pasta Rea fiore but any of our fresh pasta will work, including long noodles such as spaghetti.   Our fresh pasta cooks in 3-4 minutes so be sure to not overcook, preparing it to al dente.

Fiore Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca With Shrimp

Serve Pasta Puttanesca with a simple green salad or Caesar salad and focaccia or crusty Italian bread.

Recipe:

1 tbsp.   sea salt

1 gallon purified water

3 tbsp.   olive oil

1 tbsp.   shallots, minced

6 med.   garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp.   red-pepper flakes, crushed

1 can      Italian plum tomatoes, drained and reserved juice, seeded then rough chop

12 oz.    smoked shrimp, chopped

3 tbs.     capers, drained

½ cup   Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

2 tbs.     fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 lb.        Pasta Rea fresh pasta

Bring 1 gallon of water to a rolling boil, add 1 tablespoon sea salt.

Heat oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add shallots, garlic, red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring 1 to 2 minutes. Do not brown or char pepper. Add tomatoes, reserved juice, capers, and olives. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 5- 8 minutes or until sauce slightly thickens. Add shrimp and simmer until shrimp is firm.

Add salt and pasta to boiling water and cook until fresh pasta is al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain well.

Stir pasta into sauce. Cook, stirring, until sauce clings to pasta, about 2 minutes. Stir in parsley and serve.

Serving size: 4

 

 

POMODORO SAUCE

 

A pomodoro sauce is the perfect light tomato sauce for a side pasta dish to accompany a protein such as steak, chicken, fish (particularly “meatier” fish such as swordfish), or pork.  Prepared in just 15 minutes, and with ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen pantry and refrigerator, pomodoro sauce is a wonderful quick, simple, and delicious sauce that the entire family will enjoy.  It will work well with any shape pasta, and please remember that anytime you “sauce” a pasta to toss the pasta lightly in the sauce, coating it well, but not “drenching” the pasta in sauce!  And lastly, our Pasta Rea fresh pasta only takes 3-4 minutes to cook and be sure to cook it al dente’ to appreciate the texture and flavor.

Serving Size:  2 (consider doubling or tripling the recipe and freezing excess sauce for later use)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 oz. olive oil

2 carrrots, peeled and cut in large pieces, about 2″ long and 1/4 thick thick

2 celery stalks, cut in large pieces, about 2″ long

3 tbsp. shallots, fine mince

3 garlic cloves, minced to paste

2 oz.white wine

2 cups tomatoes (peeled and seeded) chopped

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 pinch red pepper flakes

2 basil leaves, ripped

1 tsp.parsley, finely chopped

6 oz.PASTA REA PASTA

 

Cooking Directions

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot.

Caramelize carrots and onions.

Reduce heat and add shallots and garlic, and saute’ until translucent.

Add white wine and reduce.

Add tomato, salt, and red chili flakes. Bring to a slow simmer until carrots and celery are fork tender.

Remove carrots and celery, discard or serve on the side with the pasta.

Add basil and parsley. Season to taste with sea salt, chili flakes or cracked pepper if desired.

Cook pasta to al dente, (3-4 minutes for fresh pasta), coat well with sauce and garnish with romano or parmesan cheese.

MANGIA BENE’!

 

 

The Italian Adventure Ends with Family in Gorga

The Italian adventure has come to an end for the Rea family.  The final week of the trip was in Gorga about 60 kilometers southeast of Rome.  One of the highlights was attending the large festival honoring the patron saint of Gorga, San Domenico, who lived during the 10th and 11th centuries.  A large feast was eaten with family at 1:00a.m. after the festival!

Enjoying food after San Domenico festival 

Chef’s maternal grandparents emigrated from Gorga in 1906 and he still has distant cousins living in Gorga.  The Rea’s spent time with family and enjoyed the beauty of the area. In spite of all the great food some of the family did have to indulge in McDonald’s! (not Chef of course!)   You will see from the picture that the Italian McDonald’s are automated and state-of-the-art!

Italian McDonalds

 

On their last night in Italy, the Rea’s reminisced about their favorite meal while on this extended trip. Each of them shared food experiences that were really memorable… the tiramisu and the wild boar at the Argitourismo, the rigatoni and pizza at Zia Rosa’s, cousin Maddalena’s pastries in Casarea, the fettuccine with truffles that Matteo’s grandfather gathered, (see prior blog posts) the prosciutto hanging in cousin Franco’s cellar, or Cousin Anna’s stuffed zucchini in Gorga… all reinforcing the fact that food brings people together. There’s practically no such thing as a “to go” cup in Italy and eating is almost always an event! The highlight of the trip was eating together, sharing family history, and creating memories.

Prosciutto in cellar

Prosciutto from cellar and wheel of cheese

Fresh cannelloni in Italy

And finally when they returned home, they had a big “homecoming” meal with Chef’s mom and relatives who had been staying with her while Chef and family were away, again reinforcing the love and joy of family. . . . .particularly gathered around the dining table!

 

The children will have great stories to share with friends for years to come and of course chef returns to work inspired by generations of family who have a love of food and serving others!

Chef enjoying dinner at home with family

Rea Family Visits Casarea, Italy

Casarea, Italy has been a highlight of the Italian adventure thus far. The Rea’s had a wonderful time last weekend in Casarea, a neighborhood of Casalnuovo di Napoli about 20 minutes east of Naples and in the shadow of Mount Vesuvias.

The Rea Family and Casarea

Casarea is the birthplace of Chef’s paternal grandfather. It was in 1906 that his grandparents, Salvatore and Nancy (de Falco) Rea, immigrated to the US.  They settled in Mount Kisco, New York and had seven children.  Chef has many first cousins in New York, but all other relatives are still in Casarea which derived its name from his ancestors.

While true for most Italian families, in Casarea it is abundantly clear that cooking with fresh ingredients and love of family is in Chef’s genes!  He has so been enjoying meeting family and learning about their business ventures, predominantly in the food industry.  Antonio Rea (yes, many relatives with that name!) who is a nephew of Chef’s grandfather, was a produce purveyor. His daughter, Felicia, still works a patch of land in the communal gardens.  In addition, Chef and family have also met a cousin (another Antonio Rea), who operates the family pizzeria, Pizzeria da Rosa.  Antonio’s sister, Maria Maddelena manages Magda Cakes, a fabulous cake and pastry shop.   Can you imagine keeping all the Anthony’s, Antonio’s and Tony’s straight on this trip?

In the photo gallery below you will see Chef with his cousin at Pizzeria da Rosa, images of the fantastic pizza at Pizzeria da Rosa, and Maria Maddelena serving a pastry from Magda Cakes.

Magda Cakes , Chef with Cousin, pizza whole and by the slice, and (below) Chef in front of pizza oven

 

For information on Pizzeria da Rosa please visit www.facebook.com/pizzeriadarosa.

The family has been in Rome and enjoying another week of Italian adventures before heading home.  Stay tuned for updates and follow on Facebook!

Italian Adventure for Rea Family Continues at an Agriturismo

As the Italian adventure continues, Chef Tony and family are staying at an agriturismo, Il Selvatico, in Poggi del Sasso, a hilltop town near Grosetto in the Maremma region of Tuscany. The owner of Il Selvatico, Guilin, restored and expanded his grandfather’s original farmhouse by himself over a 6-7 year period. It’s quite extensive and includes a vineyard, olive farm, garden and more. Guilin and his mother are hosts, caretakers, hunters, farmers, and chefs. The agriturismo is half-board with breakfast & dinner included with everything coming from the land. The Rea’s first meal was antipasto with polenta & ragu (From a mix of meats including fallow deer) bruschetta with portabellos, housemade pasta, wild boar, tiramisu, espresso & grappa. Yesterday they visited a sheep farm and enjoyed an assortment of cheeses.

About Il Selvatico – A Restored Farmhouse & Vineyard

The owner of Il Selvatico, Guilin, restored and expanded his grandfather’s original farmhouse by himself over a 6-7 year period. It’s quite extensive and includes a vineyard, olive farm, garden and more. Guilin and his mother are hosts, caretakers, hunters, farmers, and chefs. The agriturismo is half-board with breakfast & dinner included with everything coming from the land. The Rea’s first meal was antipasto with polenta & ragu (From a mix of meats including fallow deer) bruschetta with portabellos, housemade pasta, wild boar, tiramisu, espresso & grappa. Yesterday they visited a sheep farm and enjoyed an assortment of cheeses.

Antipasto at Il Selvatico

Antipasto at Il Selvatico

Six month old Harper enjoying pasta with her father!

Six month old Harper enjoying pasta with her father!

A refrigerator case with a selection of Italian cheeses

Selection of Italian cheeses

Enjoying the Wines of Tuscany

Chef and family are also enjoying wines that are becoming quite well known from this southern region of Tuscany, Montecucco. The wines in Montecucco are primarily made from the sangiovese grape as in many other Tuscan regions.  Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico are all made from the Sangiovese grape and yet they are all unique.

Sangiovese is an impressionable grape variety that easily takes on characters from the specific soil or terroir so although most of the wines from Tuscany have this grape as a base there is a never ending flow of different styles, flavours and aromas. Sangiovese is one of Italy’s most widely grown grapes but it is in Tuscany that it is most prominent. The conditions are right to make really excellent wines unlike any others in the country of Italy.

In Montecucco you can still find excellent wines at a very reasonable prices but as the wines from the region become better known, no doubt prices will increase.

 

Casarea Italian Adventure for Chef Rea and Family

Chef Tony and his family are about to embark on an Italian adventure of pasta, pizza, and family! The adventure begins after completing two catering events today. We’re not sure when he had time to pack! Chef Tony, Susan, and their young children, Nicolas (Nicky) and Lilianna (Lily); adult son, Anthony, fiancé’ Alisha, and their 9 month old daughter, Harper, (Chef’s granddaughter) depart for Italy tomorrow. The last family trip to Italy was in 2011 to visit Chef Rea’s mother’s ancestral home. This is a long anticipated family trip to visit relatives in the Rea ancestral town of Casalnuovo di Napoli (Village of Casarea). They are looking forward to meeting and spending time with distant cousins, exploring the area, eating fresh pasta and seafood, and enjoying pizza at Pizzeria di Rosa, a pizzeria owned by Chef’s cousin.

Casalnuovo di Napoli

Casalnuovo di Napoli is a municipality in the Metropolitan City of Naples in the Italian region Campania, located about 13 kilometres northeast of Naples with a population of about 50,700. The municipality of Casalnuovo di Napoli contains the frazioni Casarea, Tavernanova, and Licignano.

Follow the Family

Experience the Rea’s vacation with us as we will keep you updated with posts along the way. We wish Chef Tony and his family a safe and fun-filled much deserved vacation. It has been a very busy year and we hope they can relax, enjoy time with family, and indulge in wonderful Italian cuisine and wine. We’re looking forward to new ideas for pasta recipes.

In the meantime, our kitchen will, of course, be rolling out our delicious fresh pasta available at the Uptown Farmers’ Market every Saturday and available by special order by calling us at 602 485-9924. Special orders can be picked up at Uptown Market or at our kitchen at 1825 West Crest Lane. We can live vicariously by eating Chef Rea’s pasta here locally!

,

TRY THIS CHEESE CANNELLONI RECIPE FOR A DELICIOUS MEATLESS MEAL

We receive a lot of requests for meatless meals. We think you’ll enjoy Chef’s Cheese Cannelloni recipe. Serve with a Caesar salad or mixed greens and you have a delicious meatless meal.

Cheese Cannelloni
Serves 4-6
3 each PASTA REA Spinach Lasagna Sheets – 6.5” x 8.5”
3 each PASTA REA Egg Lasagna Sheets – 6.5” x 8.5”
2.25 lb. PASTA REA Ravioli Cheese mixture
24 oz. PASTA REA Vodka Sauce
6 oz. Mozzarella Cheese
8 oz. Grated Romano Cheese
1 oz. PASTA REA Basil Pesto

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Lay out pasta sheets one at a time on a flat surface with the shorter side facing you.
3. Fill a pastry bag with PASTA REA Ravioli Cheese mixture. Do not use a pastry tip.
4. Pipe in about 3 oz. of Cheese mixture in an even line from one side to the other.
5. Roll pasta over the cheese to form a cigar shape tube then cut. You should end up with 2 each 6.5” tubes per pasta sheet.
6. Repeat this process using both spinach and egg pasta sheets resulting in 6 each spinach and 6 each Egg cannelloni 6.5” long and about 1.5” thick.
7. In a 9 x 9 baking dish ladle 6 oz. of PASTA REA Vodka sauce.
8. Place 3 spinach and 3 egg cannelloni on top of sauce alternating colors.
9. Top cannelloni with 6 ounces of PASTA REA Vodka Sauce.
10. Top sauced cannelloni with 2 ounces of mozzarella, 2 ounces of Romano cheese
11. Repeat process.
12. Cover with plastic wrap then foil.
13. Bake in 325 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until sauce bubbles on the side.
14. Remove wrap and foil and bake to melt top layer of cheese, about 5 minutes.
15. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
16. Cut into 4 or 6 portions. Place a portion on each plate and garnish with Romano Cheese and a drizzle of PASTA REA Basil pesto.