Tag Archives: gravy

What kind of pot is best for making sauce (gravy)?

image source - flickr.com/photos/myhsu
image source – flickr.com/photos/myhsu

I love the enameled, cast iron Dutch oven from Le Creuset.

The proper pot is important when making a tomato-based sauce, especially one that cooks for a number of hours like a ragù Bolognese or a traditional Sunday gravy. High-acid foods require high quality cookware, and tomatoes are high on the acid scale. A low quality pot may not last with continuous high-acid cooking, and elements from an inferior pot may even contaminate the food that’s in it.

A pot with a thick bottom is a must when making a sauce with a long cooking time. The two best choices here are stainless and enameled cast iron. Both are great at retaining heat, even over uneven heating sources. Stainless is the choice for most restaurants because they are not only lighter than cast iron, but quite a bit cheaper. For home use, I recommend a high quality enamel-coated, cast iron dutch oven like Le Creuset.

I’ve got to hand it to the French on this one; the quality of Le Creuset is unsurpassed. There are a number of other companies that make enamel-coated, cast iron cookware, but quality varies between them. Staub is another high quality brand, but beware the cheap knockoffs. When it comes to cast iron cookware, you do get what you pay for. My first pot was one from the celebrity cookware line of a certain domestic goddess (you know, the one who did a little time some years back), and after my first few times making sauce, not only did the inside of the pot begin to discolor, but the enamel began chipping off. Luckily, none of those chips ended up in my sauce. Le Creuset has a lifetime guarantee on their cast iron products and is resistant to chips and discoloring. Not to mention, clean up is a breeze.

I know, I know. Le Creuset is pricy, and spending upwards of 300 dollars on a pot is a little hard to justify, but it is possible to find a great LC pot for much cheaper. If you are lucky enough to live near a Le Creuset outlet store, you can find great deals on most of their products, especially on discontinued colors and styles. Occasionally, there are sales running where you can save up to 40%. Home Goods is another great place to find discounted Le Creuset. It goes quickly, so you have to be a bit assertive and check the stores early and often. Because they are guaranteed for life, eBay and garage sales are worry-free options, as well. Once you’ve made the investment, you will never (ever) need another pot.

Are you ready for my meatball recipe?

image source - flickr.com/photos/francescarter
image source – flickr.com/photos/francescarter

Yes. Yes, you are.

Well, here’s my first recipe post, and it is one of my favorites…meatballs.

While it is hard to make a really bad meatball, making a fantastic meatball can be a challenge. The first way to make sure your meatballs are full of flavor is to use a mix of both beef and pork. I prefer a 2/3 beef to 1/3 pork ratio, and don’t use a really lean beef. If it’s a healthy meatball you’re looking for, look away. With fat, comes flavor.

Also, use quality ingredients. Though it is more expensive, use real Parmigiano Reggiano over an American parmesan. There is a huge difference.

Don’t over mix or over shape your meatballs. You want them to be tender…overworking them will make them denser. When mixing them, stop when all of the ingredients have just come together. When shaping, don’t pack them tightly. Keep them kind of loose; they won’t fall apart.

Finally, if you are adding the meatballs to your sauce (or gravy!), precook them in the oven. The flavors of the sauce will infuse into them more easily. If you are making them on their own and adding an already prepared sauce, then cook them in a skillet. A nice sear can be delicious, especially in a sandwich.

1 lb. ground beef and pork
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
½ cup plain bread crumbs
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil (if preparing in skillet)

Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix together with hands until just mixed. Season with salt and pepper.

If preparing in oven, preheat oven to 350. Shape meatballs into about 3-inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes turning each meatball over about halfway through baking. After removing meatballs from oven, let sit for about 20 minutes, then add to sauce.

If preparing in a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Shape meatballs into about 3-inch balls and place in skillet. Cook covered for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides. Let cool on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess grease.

Makes about 8 meatballs.

Buon appetito.

Well, which is it?

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Is it sauce or gravy? It’s one of the greatest debates among Italian-Americans.  I am referring, of course, to the sauce (or gravy) that Mom stood over all day, every Sunday.

I thought a simple Google search would find me the answer, but all I found was message board after message board of people passionately arguing that what they call it is correct.  I thought maybe it was a regional thing, either in the US or wherever the family hails from in Italy…but to no avail.  I found a pretty equal amount of Chicagoans and New Yorkers who call it either one or the other.  The same went for Italian regions of origin, whether it be Northern Italy or Sicily.

After asking a number of friends, I received a variety of answers.  One was that it is a gravy if there is meat in the preparation and sauce if there is not.  Another said that it is only gravy if it is made on Sunday…hmm, interesting.  I also heard that it is only gravy if it takes all day to make.

I knew from the start that there is no real answer to the question.  For most, it really just depends on what Mom called it when you were young.  That being said, my own mother would never call it anything other than sauce, while for me, I like the sound of gravy.