Sunday, August 29, 2010


between The Mamma and The Cucina
with an introduction by Gravy Wars author, Lorraine Ranalli

You know what happens when very passionate cooks duke it out in the kitchen?

Those of us standing on the sidelines win!

Be prepared to win big in the latest war between the Mamma and the Cucina. These dueling cooks are about to go spoon to spoon in Gravy Wars! Yes, inspired by my book (pause for a little pat on the back), Una Mamma Italiana and Cucina Domenico are preparing to unveil their secret gravy (or sauce, if you will) recipes to the entire universe.

They want you to vote on whose recipe is best. It’s a virtual taste-test. You will be asked to judge based on your interpretation of the info presented in the very near future by our beloved bloggers of cookery.

This, my friends, is the crux behind “Gravy Wars | South Philly, Foods, Feuds & Attytudes!” You don’t need to be Italian, a professional chef, or a native of Philadelphia to be sucked into legitimate kitchen competition. All you need is a passion for food and a mild interest in preparing it, and before you know it, you too will become competitive and possessive in the kitchen.

It truly is a phenomenon to behold!

Oh, if only we could get the Mamma and the Cucina to dole out their signature sauces to the entire social media world at some place like the Superdome. Ah, maybe someday. Alas, we’ll have to settle for the online battle.

Be sure to get your friends, relatives, co-workers, Farmville competitors, and acquaintances of all types to weigh in on this match. Who knows? With enough hype, we may just get these two to Louisiana yet!
~Lorraine Ranalli

NOW, let the gravy war begin!!!!!!!
Dom's Sunday Gravy
I have made countless pots of gravy since I was literally a kid, but only in the past few years have I really zeroed in on a specific recipe. However, I have never followed a written recipe. It was always from memory, or whatever mood I was in that day. Although I found it a bit painstaking (as I believe this should be a free-form dish), I documented every measurement while making this version of my gravy.

First, let me address the whole gravy versus sauce issue. There are countless opinions on the subject. When I hear "sauce," I think Marinara. Quick. Delicious, nonetheless...but quick.You heat your oil and garlic, add your tomatoes, onions, seasonings, maybe even some meat or even shrimp, and in 20-30 minutes you have a tasty meal. Gravy, on the other hand, is a bit more complex. My guess (and this is only a guess) is that the term comes from the flavors of the meats that are incorporated. The "other" gravies (beef, turkey, chicken and pork) are, of course, made from meat drippings. So when you add your meats to your red sauce and let it simmer for a few hours, the meat flavors the sauce to make it a red gravy. But the main difference to me is the time, patience and love that you put in to your gravy (I was gonna go with blood, sweat and tears, but that would be gross). You treat your pot of gravy as if it were a child. You raise it and nurture it, from it's infant stage until it matures.

I always add meatballs to my gravy, usually with either sausage, boneless country spare ribs, or brasciole (thin steak stuffed with a breadcrumb mixture and rolled up). I also prefer to bake my meatballs and sausage, instead of the traditional frying. It's just as tasty, healthier for you, and frees up some quality time.

Before we get into the actual'll notice that I suggest adding two baby carrots to the gravy. This is an old trick that I learned a few years back. The carrots add a natural sweetness to the gravy, while at the same time they soak up some of the acid from the tomatoes.

One last note...if you decide to try either of our Sunday Gravy recipes, we would be delighted. But if you decide to alter our recipes, and add your own flavors or ingredients, we would be overjoyed. Experiment, adjust the flavors to your likings, and most of all have fun. And be sure to share your version of the recipe with us.


2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 29-oz can tomato sauce (plus one can full of water)
1 6-oz can tomato paste with Italian herbs
olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tblspn Italian Seasoning (marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano and basil)
1 tblspn sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 beef bouillon cube
2 baby carrots
1 cup red wine(whatever you have opened)
1 loaf crusty Italian bread

Drizzle bottom of sauce pot with olive oil to coat on medium-high heat. Add chopped onion; stir for 1 minute or until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic; stir for about one minute. Add the two cans of crushed tomatoes, one can of tomato sauce plus one can of water, and one can of tomato paste; stir. Add Italian seasoning and sugar; stir. Heat and occasionally stir until slowly bubbling. Add bouillon cube, baby carrots and splash of wine; stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat, slightly cover and simmer for one hour. Add cooked meats; simmer partially covered for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Sip and enjoy the remaining cup of wine as you dip some bread into the gravy while it's cooking.
Serve over your choice of pasta and enjoy!

The Mamma's Sunday Gravy

Let me begin by saying that Sunday gravy is a lot like a marriage - the more love you put into it, the better it gets. A good gravy recipe perfects itself over time, and my recipe is definitely age old. My great grandmother taught it to my father, who taught it to me, and NEVER with a recipe! So like Dom, I had to endure the sheer agony of writing down my measurements and step by step instructions. I kid you not, people, this took me a week. It's hard stuff when you're assuming that some gravy crazed paisan out there is reading this recipe and isn't quite sure what a 'pinch' or a 'shake' of something is. (who am I kidding - neither do I). The fact is, there are not any words to describe the attention to detail that goes into my "Nonni's" recipe for red gravy.

This is appropriately called gravy because of the fact that it is derived from the juices of MEAT. In our case, we're talkin pork shoulder and meatballs. Check out the recipe, copy it, change it, whatever you please - just don't miss out on the opportunity to start a Sunday gravy tradition in your family! Buon Appetito!

3 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
Extra virgin olive oil (enough to sear the pork and then to barely cover the onions)
3 TB butter
2 lb. pork shoulder
2 onions, chopped
8-10 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cans water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TB sugar
2 TB Italian Seasoning

Season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Start with enough e.v.o.o. in a pan to sear the pork on both sides. Remove the meat and set aside. Throw in the onions (then the garlic about 5 minutes later) adding enough oil to just barely cover the onions. It looks like a lot but it is the emulsifier you need to get this sauce good and creamy once blended. Add the butter at this point to aid in simmering the veggies. *disclaimer: Lorraine Ranalli, Gravy War QUEEN, might be judging me right about now, but all I can say is WATCH OUT! because butter is quite possibly my second favorite thing to cook with (the first, of course, being my hubby)!

Mix in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cans of tomatoes and the water. Mix together then blend with hand blender until smooth. Put the meat back in. (at this point, you would add your meatballs too, if you made them. I like to fry my meatballs and sear the pork in the same oil. Then I would set aside BOTH meats until after the sauce is blended. Then add the meats back to the sauce pot.)

Season the sauce with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and sugar. Simmer 2- 3 hours, or until the meat is cooked thoroughly. 1/3 hour before serving, double check your seasoning and make adjustments accordingly.

How to serve?
Over pasta and with a big chunk of Italian bread to soak up the gravy with. Is there any other way?

One last note from Chef Condo...
If you decide to try either of our Sunday Gravy recipes, we would be delighted. But if you decide to alter our recipes, and add your own flavors or ingredients, we would be overjoyed. Experiment, adjust the flavors to your likings, and most of all have fun. And be sure to share your version of the recipe with us.

Friday, August 20, 2010

60 years together

Last weekend, my family and I took a trip across the country to visit my dad's side of the family. Great Aunts, Uncles, and cousins came from all over the East coast to celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. I could not resist a post on this.

60 years of wedded bliss is quite an accomplishment - especially these days! My grandparents have always showed our family the example of the love and respect it takes to make it that long. They are beautiful people and we were so grateful to be able to celebrate with them. After all, when Italian families get together - no matter what the occasion - you know there's gonna be good food and good company.

Here's some photos from the experience to share with you. I always say - you know you're Italian when you photograph the food at your party! Che bella!

The happy couple!

My brother, my cousins, and my son posed with me for a picture!

My cousin 'initiated' my son by repeatedly tackling him and then giving him his first wedgie. What an honor....?

My grandfather playing the squeeze box - just like I grew up with.

My daughter found her new BEST friend in my cousin Sean...

Two generations of Pusateri's and Savino's

Uncle Frankie on the accordion...

Congratulations on 60 years
to my wonderful grandparents
Frank and Helen Pusateri.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

EASY Italian Herb Foccacia Bread

this Italian herb focaccia recipe is one of those quick ones you can throw together with whats already in your pantry. I like to cut them into bread sticks and OF COURSE serve them with pasta:) In two hours (including prep time, rising time, and baking) you can have this ready in time for dinner.

2 1/2 - 3 cups all purpose flour
1 TB dried Italian seasoning
1 TB sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp (or one package) active dry yeast
3 TB e.v.o.o.
1 cup very warm water

2 TB e.v.o.o.
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mix the flour, Italian seasoning, sugar, slat and yeast in a large bowl. Add the 3 TB olive oil and the warm water and beat on medium speed with electric mixer. Stir in remaining flour until dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl.

Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead 5-8 minutes till dough is springy.

Place dough in a greased bowl covered in plastic wrap and allow to rise about 30 minutes.
Grease large cookie sheet and divide the dough into two flattened rounds. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Make depressions into the dough rounds with your fingers, about 2 inches apart. Brush tops with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and grated cheese and bake 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Food Challenge results are in!

A big GRAZIE to everyone who voted on our FIRST EVER "Mamma Meets The Cucina" Food Challenge! I am humbly grateful that you considered my recipe to be a "winner" but the truth is that both recipes were winners. It's Italian food, people - there's no such thing as a losing dish!

So a heartfelt congratulations goes out to my opponent, CUCINA DOMENICO for his cheating...I mean, CREATIVITY in using TWO ingredients from our poll! His conniving... I mean, CLEVER skills were put to the test (and clearly he's got skills in the kitchen)! Chef Condo is a better chef than I'll ever be, but to make myself feel better, it is likely that I will rub my victory in his face periodically on this blog - no biggie.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...