I love the idea of Italian Sunday gravy–meaty tomato sauce that cooks all day on very low heat. It conjures this romantic image of a tiny Italian grandma stooped over a pot older than she is, masterfully babysitting the bubbling, savory sauce while the house fills up with the sounds of idle chatter and clinking glasses.
My own experience has been much less romantic. I splattered myself and most of the stove with tomato seeds as I attempted to squish them over the pot as instructed. (As I’m typing, I just noticed I actually have tomato juice on my foot.) Even worse, all the aggressive clanging as I frantically chopped aromatics and heaved them into the pot scared the dog into the far corner of the house. I guiltily coaxed her back into the living room with a hunk of cheddar cheese, reassuring her I wasn’t a total lunatic. But it all felt worthwhile as the house filled with the aroma of meaty browned bones, sweet San Marzano tomatoes, pungent onion and garlic and the faint acidic tang of white wine.
The funniest (and worst) part about the long hours spent procuring ingredients, browning them and then waiting while they bubble away at a snail’s pace is the day doesn’t even end with me eating the dreamy sauce. Instead, it’s one of several ingredients going into a braised pot roast that we’ll eat over rigatoni tomorrow.
Oh, sauce. Why must you tease me?
adapted from chef Michael Symon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs. meaty beef or pork bones
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups dry white wine
2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
2 bay leaves
Method: In a 5-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium high until it slides easily around the bottom. Add the bones and sear them, turning occasionally, until brown all over.
Add the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of salt, and sweat for about 3 minutes, until softened. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Crush the tomatoes with your fingers and add them and their juices to the pot.
Add the red pepper, oregano, bay leaves and another large pinch of salt and bring the sauce to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to its lowest possible setting, cover and cook the sauce until it’s reduced by one third, about 8 hours. (You don’t want the sauce to simmer; instead, you should see a bubble rising to the surface every now and then.) Remove the bones and discard.
This complex, deeply savory sauce would be wonderful pureed and served with pasta, Italian sausage and torn basil, or for adding to any braised meat. It will keep in the fridge for about a week or up to 2 months in the freezer.