Sunday Sauce- NEVER Gravy

August 29, 2023
sunday sauce plated in a dish
sunday sauce plated in a dish

Guys, it’s not gravy. It’s just Sunday Sauce.

It’s Sunday and that means we’re making sauce.


Let me say that one more time for my confused Italian friends.


It’s not gravy. Gravy is something that, by definition, is made using the juices from cooked meats and stock.

While there are certainly meat juices in this sauce, it is not a base for the sauce and there most certainly is not any stock in here. Save your gravy for Thanksgiving.

chopping garlic for sunday sauce

Time to get started on the Sunday Sauce!

Start by getting your mise en place…en place.

Dice up all of your parsley. Set aside about 2/3 of it for the sauce and the rest for the meatballs.

Chiffonade your basil and set aside for the sauce.

Mince your red onion. You’ll probably need to wear some sunglasses while you do this, mincing takes a minute and onions are a bitch on the eyes. I make Melissa do it since she’s somehow immune to it.

Smash your garlic cloves with the side of your knife and mince them up.

Empty your San Marzano tomatoes into a large bowl. Use your hands to crush the tomatoes. You want come chunks, but not too large.

meatballs for sunday sauce

Time to start cooking your Sunday Sauce

In a large bowl add your meatball mix, bread crumbs, egg, parmesan, salt, pepper, and parsley. Mix it all together with your hands until it’s well combined. It should be sticking together nicely, that’s how you know. Roll the mixture into individual balls. I usually do a little larger than a golf ball, but that’s a personal choice.

Add a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of your pot; we use a dutch oven and turn to medium heat. Your first step is to sear the short rib.

Season all sides of the short rib and drop it into the hot dutch oven. Cook for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side, or until you have a good sear. Remove from the pan and add another drizzle of olive oil.

Once the oil is hot again, add in your meatballs to sear them. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Depending on how big your meatballs are, you can probably fit six or seven in at a time. Sear on all sides and remove from the pot.

While the pot is still hot, add in your red wine to deglaze the meat bits leftover from the short rib and meatballs. Once the wine has reduced slightly, add in the tomato paste and stir. What you’re doing here is lightly cooking the paste. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add your onion and garlic and cook for another three minutes.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add the crushed tomatoes and seasoning mix. Stir it all in and cover.

short rib for sunday sauce

The finale!

Fill your pasta pot with salted water.
Let the sauce cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it’s begun to bubble, add the meatballs and short rib back to the sauce and cover again. Cook on medium-low heat for another 45 minutes to an hour. Your short rib should be extremely fall-apart tender when it’s ready. If you have a short rib on the bone, it will fall off the bone when it’s ready.

Add your basil and parsley, stir in, and turn off the heat. Adding the herbs at the end like this helps release the flavor without overcooking them.

Drain your pasta.

Serve and enjoy your Sunday SAUCE.

dutch oven with sunday sauce in it

Things we use to make this recipe!


What is the big deal? Sauce vs Gravy?

Some Italian Americans will cause red sauce gravy. Their thought behind it is that gravy is made with meat and sauce is made with just tomato. This is not accurate. Gravy is made from the drippings of meat and not the meat itself.

Can this Sunday Sauce be frozen?

Absolutely! Please do not freeze it with the pasta but you can freeze the sauce alone. We usually do this in a mason jar and it will keep up to 3 months in the freezer! Just defrost and use the next time you make pasta!

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sunday sauce plated in a dish

Sunday Sauce- NEVER Gravy

  • Author: A Couple Bites
  • Total Time: 2 hours


This is sauce. Not gravy, It’s delicious.


Units Scale

For the Sauce:

  • 2 cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (We like Cento)
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • Shit ton of Garlic (10 cloves)
  • Half a red onion, diced
  • 1520 Basil Leaves, chiffonade
  • 3/4 cups red wine (cheap)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Oregano, to taste
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper


  1. Dice your parsley and set aside 2/3rds of it for the sauce. Chiffonade your basil and set it aside. Dice your red onion. Smash your garlic with the side of your knife and then mince.
  2. Empty your large cans of San Marzanos into a big bowl. Once emptied use your hands to break up the large tomatoes. You still want some chunks but nothing too large.
  3. In another large bowl combine your meatball mix, bread crumbs, egg, parmesan, salt, pepper, and 1/3 parsley. Mix this with your hands until well combined. It should be sticking nicely together. Roll enough meat to make about a golf ball size meatball between your hands until round. Repeat this until all the mixture is used and set aside.
  4. Season the short rib on all sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
  5. Heat your dutch oven over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Using tongs add your short rib to the dutch oven. Allow to sear on all sides for about 3 minutes. Once completely seared remove and set aside.
  6. Add more olive oil to the bottom of the pan if needed and do the same for your meatballs making sure to get a sear on all sides.
  7.  Lower the heat on your dutch oven to medium and while it is still hot add in your tomato paste. Toast this on the bottom of the pan for about two minutes or until fragrant. Add in your red wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure to use a wooden spoon to get all the browned bits off the bottom. Once the wine has reduced by half lower the heat to medium-low and add in your tomato mixture. Give it a good stir and cover. Check on this every 10 minutes. Once it starts to bubble add in your short rib and meatballs.
  8. Cook the sauce for about 1 hour stirring occasionally. Your short rib should be falling off the bone. Once you it is you can start to prepare your pasta to box directions.
  9. When your pasta is cooked add the sauce and some meat to a bowl with a ladle of sauce and ENJOY!
  • Prep Time: 30 minutres
  • Cook Time: 1hour 30 minutes
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We’re Matt and Melissa, and this is our food blog, though it may not be the food blog you are expecting. We are here to take you on a culinary adventure through our kitchen, our passions, our stories, and our liquor cabinet. Residing in Monmouth County, NJ (the best county in NJ) we love to cook and create in our kitchen. But we know we’re not the real experts and the only thing more fun than tasting our own creations are tasting others’. When we’re not cooking for you, we’re around town sampling all that New Jersey’s culinary scene has to offer. Let take A Couple Bites!

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