Italian Sunday Gravy

>> Saturday, March 26, 2016

Italian Sunday Gravy

If you've spent any time around big Italian-American families, you've probably had the pleasure of tasting a thick, meaty Sunday gravy - the end-of-the-week belly-busting dinner that fortifies family and friends for the week ahead. Joe was blessed to know a wonderful cook, Florence, who was Danish but married into an Italian family. From her he learned to make the best Sunday gravy we've ever tasted.

This tomato and meat sauce takes a while to make, but it also makes enough to feed all of the Jersey Shore, or enough extra to freeze for quick weekday meals. Once I start smelling the opera of aromas while it's cooking, I'm nipping off to the kitchen to snatch a little shred of pork here and there when Joe's not looking - it's that tempting.

Next time we make this, you're ALL invited over to dinner. We love nothing better than a crowd around our dinner table.


2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste - Joe likes more)
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
8 cloves of garlic, minced fine or pressed
2 lb pork neck bones
1 lb Italian sausage (or turkey Italian sausage) in casing
2 64 oz cans of diced roma tomatoes
1 6 oz can of Italian tomato paste
4 cups homemade stock - beef, chicken, or vegetable
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp crushed dried sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup good dry red wine (more if sauce is too thick)

1 16 oz box of pasta, such as rotini or farfalle (spaghetti is fine also)
1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese or good Parmesan


Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy stock pot over medium low heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Stir in the crushed red pepper flakes and heat in olive oil for about 1 minute to release the flavor and aroma. (Hot pepper oil can be used instead if it is made ahead.) Toss in onions, carrots, mushrooms and celery; saute until tender. Mix in the minced/pressed garlic cloves and saute for another 2 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium high, and add the pork neck bones, stirring occasionally. Cook evenly for about 8 to 10 minutes until just beginning to brown and cooked through. Pour in the chopped tomatoes with juice, and the stock. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir in the dry red wine. Bring to a very low boil and reduce heat to low, simmering for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.

Italian Sunday Gravy

After 1 hour add the Italian sausage in casings. Stir and simmer for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or longer if you like - Joe has cooked this all day sometimes) checking for thickness as it simmers. If the sauce is too thin add more tomato paste, if it is too thick add some more red wine or stock.

Remove the pork neck bones and Italian sausage links onto separate warm platters. Serve the Italian Sunday Gravy over pasta and the Italian sausage links on the side. Sprinkle with fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Joe likes the neck bones for the tender meat that is on the bones. That is his meat course with a plate of pasta with the gravy.

Serves 8.


Almond-Coconut Macaroons with Dried Cherries

>> Thursday, March 17, 2016

Almond-Coconut Macaroons with Dried Cherries

Every spring a group of friends from my church gets together for a Seder meal, to honor our Jewish neighbors' tradition and experience the kind of celebration Jesus would have had every year. After many years of celebrating between ourselves, we're hosting a church-wide Seder ceremony this year.

Joe's braised leg of lamb is always a big hit, but last year he did a beef brisket and I decided to try a new dessert. These coconut-almond-cherry macaroons are light and tasty and perfect!

If you like quick and easy baking, these are just about the easiest cookies you can make. Stir together a couple of ingredients, bake 20 minutes, and that's it! I wish I had made a double batch, because people couldn't get enough. I was blushing from the compliments.

If you want to go over the top with these, press half a maraschino cherry into the top of each cookie, and then dip the bottoms into melted semi-sweet chocolate.


1 8-oz can unsweetened almond paste
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites, well beaten
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup sweetened coconut


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cover a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

Break up almond paste into a mixer or food processor bowl. Add the sugar and egg whites and blend well. Scrape down the sides. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the sheet. Bake at 325 for 18-20 minutes, until a little golden and puffy. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan.

Makes 15 macaroons.


Greek Meatballs in Avgolemono sauce (Lemon-Egg Sauce)

>> Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gray, chilly March has sunk into our bones. We’re fighting steady against seasonal darkness blues and late winter cold germs, but a dose of sunshine and a glimpse of Greek islands are welcome.

Would like to join us on the island of Santorini?
This recipe is a mash-up of two of our current favorites. Yes, we’re continuing our love affair with the lowly meatball, and we’ll never get tired of the tangy avgolemono soup. This traditional Greek egg and lemon soup turns into a creamy and fortifying stew with our turkey-beef blend meatballs (keftedes). Keftedes are often made of ground lamb, but I just can’t handle the taste of lamb , so it's beef for me!

If we were dining in Santorini, we might order avgolemono because it’s a tradition during Lent, when some people avoid eating meat. We might also lay out in the sun all day until our creaky joints loosen up. I think it’s time for a trip someplace warm!


½ lb. ground beef
½ lb ground turkey
1/3 cup long grain rice, uncooked
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs3 cups chicken stock or broth

For the sauce:
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)


Stir together all meatball ingredients except  the broth. Roll into meatballs the size of a ping-pong ball. Place in a dutch oven and cover with the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Cook for 30 minutes. Pour the broth into a measuring cup and allow to cool slightly. You can keep the lid on the meatballs and keep them warm in the oven while making the sauce.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until light and frothy. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice, then whisk in the broth a little at a time. Pour the lemon sauce over the meatballs and return the pot to very low heat. Allow the mixture to thicken slowly on low heat – be careful not to let the pot boil or the eggs will curdle.
When the sauce is at a thickness you like, remove from heat and serve.
Serves 4.

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