Sunday Gravy – a very meaty sauce from Napoli

The guy on the left is not me. It is Andy Rafferty, who was the chef at our restaurant for several years.

They call this sauce “Sunday Gravy” or Sugo di Domenica. The story is that in Naples, where this sauce originates, Nonna uses the week’s leftover meats to make this sauce (sugo) which she typically cooks all day. Others say its roots lay with the Italian-American immigrants, pointing out that the impoverished southern Italians had little meat to cook with. It is a traditional dish in Napoli today, probably brought back by those who came home to visit. All I know is it’s amazing!

Meat, meat, meat!

This recipe is very flexible as far as the types of meats used. Just use a lot! Some people even add chicken livers. If you use any tougher cuts of meat, it is important to cook the sauce long enough to tenderize them.


8-10 servings
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage (in casing) –sweet or hot
1 pound pork country ribs or boneless spareribs
1 pound beef stew meat (or lamb)
1 batch of meatballs–optional (homemade or store bought)
1 large onion—chopped
3-5 cloves fresh garlic—minced
1/3 cup red wine
2 – 28 oz. cans Whole Peeled Tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano (or 2 tablespoon fresh) or Italian herb blend
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley—chopped and divided
1 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt)
1 teaspoon sugar (or more to your taste)
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 to 2 pounds of pasta (I like rigatone, spaghetti or tagliatelle)
grated cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano


  1. Put on some Italian music and pour a glass of wine.
  2. Mise en Place—Cut up meats in bite size pieces. Prepare onions and garlic. Measure out salt, sugar, wine and herbs. Open tomatoes.
  3. In a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Brown all meat (except meatballs) in three or more batches (adding additional oil as needed). Do not crowd the pan. Brown meat on all sides. Each batch should take 5-6 minutes. As each batch is browned, remove to a platter with paper towels.
  4. Add more olive oil to the pan drippings. Add onion. Stir and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for one additional minute.
  5. Add wine to deglaze. Scrape and stir for 1-2 minutes until wine partially evaporates.
  6. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hand. Add tomato paste, oregano, half of the parsley, salt, and sugar. Return all meat to pot. Reduce heat to a slow simmer. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and stir in.
  7. Cover and allow sauce to cook for a minimum of one hour, or up to five hours.
  8. Heat water for pasta; 4 quarts water with 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
  9. Cook 1-1/2 pounds of your favorite pasta until al dente.
  10. Drain pasta. Do not rinse. Toss with sauce and serve with freshly grated cheese. I recommend Parmigiano-Reggiano or a good quality Pecorino Romano. Garnish with remaining parsley.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It’s worth it. Buon appetito!

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