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"Gravy" or "sauce"?

post #1 of 99
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I was watching an episode of Cooking Live while I was on the treadmill today. Sara Moulton had a guest with her who had won a competition for what I would call ragu: tomato-meat sauce with meats cooked in it for a long time. There was a spirited discussion about whether to call the concoction "gravy" or "sauce". Several people, including the prize-winner, call it gravy if there is meat in it; otherwise, it's "sauce". One caller said it was a regional name, but no one was sure.

I lived for 18 years in a town with a large Italian population, and never heard them say it was gravy. What's with the use of the term "gravy" for a tomato-based sauce with meat?
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post #2 of 99
In my readings, gravies are a subset of sauce. In general they seem to be a quick sauce involving the pan drippings but without much reduction and no skimming. Often a "rustic" and unrefined sauce relying on a starch thickener.

As few tomato sauces are made in the gravy style that does seem odd.

The meat issue is a new one to me.

Phil
post #3 of 99
Mezzaluna,i`m interested in this item you have mentioned.My initial training,years ago,was in classical French cooking.
There were some Italian dishes on the course.To me,the sauce you describe sounds like a variation of Provencale sauce.The only tomato flavoured gravy i can think of is a jus-lie,which is slightly thickened.Maybe i`m getting old and forgetful,but i certainly would not see this item as a gravy.I`ve made more gravy than i care to think about!Some people here in Britain nearly drink the stuff!Leo.
:chef:
post #4 of 99
According to the Epicurious.com Dictionary which is based on the Food Lover's Companion all gravy is a sauce but not all sauces are a gravy.
post #5 of 99
Cchiu,it`s not just Antonin Careme who refined sauces.Don`t forget Auguste Escoffier,who at the turn of the last century was in charge of the Savoy hotel on London.Escoffier was once described as "The king of chefs and the chef of kings".
His sous chef,Jean Saulnier,compiled the Repetoire de la Cuisine,based on Escoffier`s recipes,which is still used today for references purposes.Apparently,Ceasar Ritz was the general manager there at the time.Leo.
post #6 of 99
My mother is an off-the-boat Italian and I once asked her if she called it sauce or gravy. She told me that it was gravy if the tomato "sauce" was cooked with meat. Marinara, which is meatless, is referred to as a sauce.
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post #7 of 99
Hi Leo,

The above definitions are quotes. Thanks for sharing the additional information.

:)
post #8 of 99
Classic alla Bolognese (the one typically served with tagliatelle) is referred to as meat-based ragù in many italian cookbooks.

The Americanized versions of Bolognese, or even the Canadianized versions for that matter, are much thinner, making them perfect with spaghetti.

Just my two cents...:rolleyes:
K

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K

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post #9 of 99
The use of the word 'gravy' to mean a meat based red sauce seems to have originated with the New York Italian Americans (Correct me if I'm wrong!), who used the word to mean a long cooked, meat based tomato sauce, usually served on Sundays or special occasions. I've heard it referred to as 'Sunday gravy'. Perhaps Pongi can find an Italian 'root' recipe where it originated! Probably the abundance of meat here in the States as opposed to what was available in Italy, gave them the luxury of using all the different meats in this dish.

This is from 'The North End Italian Cookbook', by Marguerite Dimino Buonopane:

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
2 lbs. meatballs, made up but not cooked
4-5 lean pork chops
1 lb. lean spareribs
1 lb. piece of beef or pork
1/2 cup olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
pinch of dried basil, red pepper flakes, oregano, and mint
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 28-oz. can peeled, crushed tomatoes
1 28-oz. can water
salt/pepper

Brown the meats in 1/4 cup oil in a heavy saucepan, and transfer them to a platter. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil to the juices in the pan; when teh oil is hot, saute onion, garlic, and seasonings til transparent. Stir in tomato paste and blend well. Add tomatoes and stir til blended; stir in an extra 'pinch' of the seasonings. Add water til the sauce remains the thickness you desire.

Let the sauce come to a full boil, add salt/pepper and more herbs. Return the meat tot he pan, simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for at least 1 hour or til all the meat is fully cooked and fork tender. Stir gently every 15 minutes or so, to prevent the bottom burning.

Remove the meat from the sauce and place on a platter, cut in serving size portions. Skim the excess oil off the top of the 'gravy'. Serve the 'gravy' over your pasta of choice.

I learned a version of this when I lived in the 'Little Italy' section of Cambridge, Mass, way way back in the 60's :D . The only addition was a piece of pepperoni, cut in bite size chunks, that was cooked along with the rest of the meat; it added a wonderful flavor to the sauce!
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post #10 of 99
WOW! That recipe really sounds worthy of a Holiday feast, Marmalady.

Would you mind telling us the name of that recipe?
K

«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
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K

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«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»
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post #11 of 99

In the NY Italian Vernacular...

Gravy = Ragu. Usually somewhat long cooked, replete with meats and extremely rich in flavor. Courses can consist of an antipasto, pasta, and the meat served as its own course.

Referring to a ragu as gravy is a colloquial term used by many of my fellow (past and present) Brooklynites. We had "gravy" every Sunday with various types of pasta. Husband is from the west and thought I was going to serve a pot of brown stuff when I said I was making him "gravy" for the first time.

Heck, can you blame us for not wanting to call it Ragu?
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post #12 of 99
Mezzaluna, I saw that episode too, awhile ago. MAN OH MAN you HAVE to make her gravy. I printed it off the foodtv site and have been making hers' ever since. IT'S A WONDERUL RECIPE, no wonder why she won! I think she mentioned publishing a cookbook on her own, I'd buy it.

Her meatballs are perfect. And the technique makes wonderful sense, cooks them just right.....

She calls it gravy and I'm not about to argue with her knowledge on the topic.
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post #13 of 99
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Wendy, I will!
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post #14 of 99
Kimmie - It's 'Sunday Gravy' - of course!

Chif - Thanks for the back up! I knew I'd hear from a native NY'er!
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post #15 of 99
It's very hard for me to have an opinion about this question, firstly because I'm not familiar enough with the American culinary therminology, and secondly because the corresponding Italian terms of the words you mentioned actually have a different meaning.
A "salsa" (Italian word) is NOT just a "sauce". Our use of this term is more restricted and, independently from the ingredients, indicates something homogeneous and smooth, lacking solid parts. In example, a "tomato sauce" are tomatoes, cooked or not, with or without other ingredients, processed or pushed through a sieve to a cream.
If the "sauce" contains pieces of anything, it's a "Sugo". So, your "meat sauce" in Italian is "Sugo di Carne"..or "Ragù di carne", a term which language purists hate as it has been stolen from French with a wrong meaning (a "Ragout" in Italian is a "Spezzatino") but which is extensively used.

But..what do we Italians mean with the word "Ragù di carne"?
ANY pasta sauce made of meat, tomato and vegetables, independently from the cooking time (which, in any case, must be quite long) and the size of the meat pieces...I mean that "Ragù" is the Bolognese one, where the meat is minced, but ALSO the Ragù Napoletano and the "Tocco" Genovese, where a whole piece of meat is browned in oil and then cooked in tomato sauce with its gravy for many hours, after which you serve the "sauce" with pasta and the meat, sliced, as a main course (as you know, pasta in Italy is not considered a main course but a starter).
So, the recipe mentioned by Marmalady is a real Italian one, although our versions are usually less rich in different meat types.

So, maybe I'm wrong but if you say "Gravy" I think to something without tomato and not to a "Ragù", a word that personally I'd translate with "Meat Sauce"...

Pongi
post #16 of 99
Sometimes with food i think that there can be a a lot of problems caused by 'translation' of food. In the Uk gravy is a meat based sauce used to pour over meat, mostly roast meat such as chicken, Lamb, pork etc,etc. Tomato would be in the gravy if it had been used while cooking the meat. Anything with pasta isn't gravy but sauce. My own opinion (based on my limited knowledge of languages other than English, rather than culinary abilities) is that once a 'foreign' food is used in a country, the descriptions for it will never be adequate, and sometimes it's best not to worry about it.
I have just sat and watched a TV programme where a respected chef (who is magnificent with food) made a 'paella' in a flat pan which he continually stirred. What he made was lovely but it wasn't paella as they are NEVER stirred. Again the language that we have in English fails us, or Rick Stein made a Cornish Paella. ;)
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Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO...
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post #17 of 99
P.S. In Spanish Spanish (as opposed to Mexican Spanish, which I know nothing about ) everything that 'runs' is sasla. Chicken curry is 'chicken in curry salsa', anything with pasta is 'salsa'. Any kind of meat with what I would call gravy on it is 'salsa' in Spanish - a failing of the language in my opinion, but then in English we have a lot of failings too.
Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO...
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Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO...
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post #18 of 99
Rachael, in the States in general, the word 'gravy' is indeed used to mean a 'meat-based sauce' served over meat, and potatoes or bread. It's only the Italian-Americans who came to America who dubbed the meat/tomato sauce 'gravy'!
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post #19 of 99
Rachel,i`ve seen the programme where Rick Stein made "paella".First he made his version of lobster stock,which contained saffron.Then he added squid,lobster meat,prawns,i`m not sure if they were Langoustine and monkfish.
He used Arborio rice,i wondered why,like you,did he stir it so many times?:confused:
I would like to know where he got his recipe from?Leo.:chef:
post #20 of 99
His head??? (or another part of his anatomy?) certainly not anywhere in Spain. But i would use arboro rice or any kind of risotto rice for paella as the Spaniards always use short grain rice. The only time I've seen paella with long grain rice is in tourist traps.
Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO...
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Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO...
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post #21 of 99
Just to add one more New York voice: yes, that red stuff is, indeed, "gravy." At least, that's what my friend Anne Compoccia, who was born and raised in "Li'l-Itly" and used to own a restaurant there, said. :lips: :lips: :lips: :D
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post #22 of 99
could i perhaps add a comment.

The standard for "gravy" would be that the end product is either cooked in or originates from the raw product.

vis a vis: gravy is the pan dripping of the roast and thickened with a starch, et al

or: tomato is cooked with the meat adding to the sauce.

so, by my definition, if the meat in the dish itself is either cooked with or adds to the sauce (or by definition "gravy), then it must be gravy. If the sauce contributes to the dish, but is made from commodities apart from the dish itself, then it must be a sauce (i.e. a good example is demi glace - made from beef, but not from the dish or cooking metho itself.)

im open to opinions.
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post #23 of 99
The word "Gravy" for a meat based tomato sauce is a Italian American regional term pertaining to New York, and parts of New England. I first heard the term while attending Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. I also occasionally hear it in the Boston area.

I have lived in many parts of the US and have never heard the term used anywhere else, although I am sure there are people who moved away from these areas that still use it.

Imagine being invited to a Sunday dinner at someones home and having the host tell you that they are preparing "Gravy" for you.
And oh, by the way......we always serve gravy on this day.

It helps when you understand what it is.

I love being invited over for gravy.......or if I see gravy on a menu in Bostons North End I am not freaked by the description.

Now, if someone in Topeka, Kansas, or Walla Walla, Washington invites me over for gravy....then I may have to pass. Or, eat something before I arrive for dinner.

Chef Nosko
A Fresh Endeavor
Boston, MA
post #24 of 99
I am new to this board and am not a chef so what does "sous" mean?:confused:
Leisa
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post #25 of 99
The "sous chef" is the second-in-command in a professional kitchen. Very often has the responsibility for overseeing the actual cooking, while the "chef de cuisine" (the executive; in other words, the big boss of the kitchen) does the creative stuff. A sous chef may also handle some of the administrative work, such as ordering, taking inventory, training staff, etc. So the sous chef has to know every dish the chef comes up with -- what the ingredients are, how they are prepared for cooking, how the each component part gets cooked, and how the whole thing is plated.
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post #26 of 99

My family speaks Italian and said the word gravy can not be translated into Italian therefore it is sauce... My theory is when some Italians came here someone translated the word wrong and it stuck for some.. I like to stick to traditional ways and call it sauce.. It is a Condiment.. Gravy is American for meat and potatoes:O)  Tp me saying gravy sounds like Italian ebonics lol  

post #27 of 99

I was born in Italy and have traveled to many regions there.  I have never heard of ANYONE in Italy calling a tomato based condiment anything that even resembles "gravy".   It is "salsa" "sugo" "ragu"...I've even heard of people calling it "brodo di pomadoro" which in translation means tomato soup.  I would take any of those terms as long as it is not called "gravy".   Please, if you are going to question it, talk to a real Italian...someone who was born and lived there.  Some person that was born in "little italy", unless they have lived in ITALY, would have no clue what to really call it.  "SAUCE"

post #28 of 99

Imari,

How can an Italian know what a word is in English?  When an italian-american from the northeast says spaghetti with gravy, he means tomato sauce which may or may not have meat in it.  (Most american pasta sauces had meat so i think maybe that's why the term stuck for meat sauce.)

 

Of COURSE no one in italy calls a tomato sauce anything that sounds like "gravy" - because "gravy" is English and italians speak Italian! 

There is also nothing that sounds like the word "eggplant" in italian - they say melanzana.  So?  if i want to make eggplant parmesan, is that not an italian dish and is it not melanzane alla parmigiana? 

 

 I don't get it

 

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #29 of 99
" Your mama makes gravy, I make sauce!" A chef I worked for liked to say that anytime a server asked for gravy. It has since become a favorite saying of mine. I saw this as an opportunity to share it with you guys.
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Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.  - Ben Franklin
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post #30 of 99

The older Sicilians who arrived in New York on Ellis Island and some who still live in the old neighborhoods still refer to it as GRAVY. and if you hung out with the guys from Brooklyn or Queens they would invite you over for "Sunday Familia Dinner" where grandma made the gravy that she started to cook the day before. Marinara on the other hand is a quick sauce concoction that was started when the men signaled the woman on shore, with raised flags on their boats that they had a catch and were coming in.

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Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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