Sunday, April 10, 2016

Nonna's Sunday Gravy #recipe @ljkarst #giveaway

Lucy Burdette: I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of Leslie Karst's new book, Dying for a Taste. I loved it and hope you enjoy it too--along with this amazing-sounding sauce! Welcome Leslie!


Nonna’s Sunday Gravy by Leslie Karst

Nonna Giovanna is the 86-year-old grandmother of my protagonist, Sally Solari. Tiny but feisty, Nonna is never happier than when, having spent the day cooking, she gets to scold guests in her thick Tuscan accent that they need to eat more: Mangia, mangia! Luckily for Sally’s family, however, when it’s Nonna’s mouth-watering Sunday Gravy on the menu, not much scolding is ever necessary.
This hearty, tomato-based stew is called “gravy” by many Italian-American families, as it’s traditionally eaten as two separate courses.

The sauce (i.e., “gravy”) is served over pasta as the primo, or first course:

And the braised meat is served as the secondo, or second course, with a vegetable or salad contorno (side dish):


(The following recipe is excerpted—with slight changes—from those included in Dying for a Taste. But unlike in the book, you get photos of the process, here!)


¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ pounds beef chuck or short ribs (slightly more if bone-in)
1 ½ pounds pork chops or shoulder (slightly more if bone-in)
1 pound sweet Italian sausages
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (2-3 cloves)
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onion (2 med. onions)
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 28-oz. cans plum tomatoes
½ bottle hearty red wine (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
salt and black pepper

cooked penne, rigatoni, or spaghetti
grated Parmesan, Romano, or other hard Italian cheese


Cut the beef and pork shoulder into three pieces each and season with salt and pepper.

In batches, so as to not crowd the pot, fry the beef, pork, and sausages over a medium-high heat in half the olive oil (2 tablespoons) until golden brown on all sides. Nonna Giovanna likes to prepare her Sunday gravy in an enameled Dutch oven, but any large, heavy pot will do. (Note that it’s best to avoid cast iron, as the acid in the tomatoes can leach out the iron, imparting a metallic taste to the gravy. As you’ll see from my photos, however, I forgot this important fact, only remembering after the dish had been braising for several hours. Since my pot is well-seasoned, however, the dish tasted fine. But don’t you make the same mistake!) Remove the meat to a large plate once browned.

If needed, add the rest of the olive oil to the pot, and sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat until the onions are just beginning to brown.

Add the can of tomato paste and stir into the onions and garlic, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the paste turns a deep, reddish brown (about 5 minutes).

Add the two cans of tomatoes, with juice, to the pot. Using a fork and sharp knife, cut the largest tomatoes into quarters and the smaller ones in half.

Then add the wine, sugar, and herbs, and stir.

Add the meat (along with any liquid on the plate) back to the pot, and stir to cover the meat. If needed, add water so that the liquid in the pot just covers the meat.

Simmer over low heat, partially covered, for 3 hours, stirring occasionally to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When done, the meat should be almost falling apart and the sauce fairly thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the meat from the pot if you are going to serve it as a separate course. If not, you can cut the meat into smaller pieces and mix it into the sauce, being sure to remove any bones.

Serve the gravy over cooked pasta, topped with grated hard Italian cheese. Garnish with more of the chopped herbs, for added color and flavor. (See photos at top of post.)

Buon appetito!

Readers: Does your family sit down together regularly for a traditional meal prepared by your nonna (or abuela, or nana, or babushka)? If so, I’d love to hear about the dishes you eat! Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of DYING FOR A TASTE!

BIO: Leslie Karst is the author of the culinary mystery, Dying for a Taste, the first of the Sally Solari Mystery series (Crooked Lane Books). A former research and appellate attorney, Leslie now spends her days cooking, gardening, reading, cycling, singing alto in the local community chorus, and of course writing. She and her wife, Robin, and their Jack Russell mix, Ziggy, split their time between Santa Cruz, California and Hilo, Hawai‘i. Visit her at Leslie Karst Author for more.


SYNOPSIS: After losing her mother to cancer, Sally Solari quits her job as an attorney to help her dad run his old-style Italian eatery in Santa Cruz, California, but soon finds that managing the front of the house is far from her dream job of running her own kitchen.

Then her Aunt Letta is found stabbed to death at Gauguin, Letta’s swank Polynesian-French restaurant, and Sally is the only one who can keep the place afloat. When the Gauguin sous chef is accused of the crime, however, Sally must delve into the unfamiliar world of organic food, sustainable farming, and animal rights activists—not to mention a few family secrets—to help clear his name and catch the true culprit before her timer runs out.


  1. What a great family recipe! My family sits down for special occasion/holiday meals, and there's always recipes included in the menu from my grandmother (RIP).

  2. During the holidays when I was a child, my family would have dinners and use recipes from my grandmother.

  3. My Mother and Aunt, who always did the cooking for family meals/special occasions are no longer able to cook. I can make some of the dishes but not as well as they did. My two adult daughters some times ask for those dishes when we get together which isn't often. One lives 4 hrs away and the other is half way across the U.S. from where I live.

  4. Recipe sounds great! And yes, we do sit down for one meal a day, everyday! Lack of time makes it hard for three, but one is required.

  5. Yummy recipe, Leslie, and it's great that Nonna shared it with her family and with us! My grandparents and mother are long gone, so no more family/special occasion meals for me. I do have some of my mother's recipes but I live away from my remaining family, so there's not much opportunities to make any of these family-shared meals and eat with them. Thanks for the chance to win! grace dot koshida at gmail dot com

  6. Thanks for visiting Leslie--I'm just waiting for the right occasion to make this. Going to have to leave out the sausages because of the salt:(. And best wishes for the new book!!

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  8. This recipe brings back memories! My Italian family had many Sunday meals like this. My favorite meat was the braciole that was in the sauce!

  9. My Mom would have loved this recipe. Being from WV, she loved everything with gravy. It does sound very yummy. I think I will have to make it for my hubby some day.

  10. This recipe looks delicious! My grandmother and mother have been long gone, so now I'm the grandmother who prepares the special meals for gatherings. I usually serve whatever I'm in the mood to cook, so nothing traditional. Except on Christmas we always have tamales...from Costco :) Since I already have your book (and it's an amazing read!) you can exclude me from the giveaway. Congrats on your new book and best wishes for great success!

  11. My grandma lived out of state, so an extended family meal wasn't possible pre-Skyp. But, growing up my mother always made a wonderful Sunday dinner....meatloaf, real mashed potatoes, peas, and often a pie topped with ice cream for dessert. Her meatloaf, simple, but delicious!

  12. Now that my siblings and I have all moved to different parts of the country we don't have family meals. But I do try to make a special meal for my husband on Sundays.

  13. My grandmother is long gone. I think the most traditional meal we have is Thanksgiving. We basically have the same meal every year with a few variations in the number of sides and deserts.

  14. When I wa a kid we used to go to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving. My aunt and my grandmother would cook a big meal.
    sgiden at

  15. I have never had the opportunity to do that in my memory. Probably when I was very small but my paternal grandmother died when I was barely 5 and my maternal grandmother lived across the country. Mom's specialty was her fried chicken which she stopped cooking once we all left home. Just immediate family sat down for our family dinners nightly.
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  16. When I was a little kid my Bobbeh who lived with us made traditional and wonderful meals for the family. She was a great cook and baker. My favorite meal was Cabbage Rolls. So delectable, tasty and savored every mouthful. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  17. Nonna is too little to be eaten in two courses! I love the cover of this book. I love cycling and the beach and food, of course, so this looks like a perfect for me. sandysheley@gmail(dot)com

  18. Family meals were every weekend and this involved a great deal of preparation and delegation. I helped with the meal but didn't cook as my mother and grandmother and aunt were deeply involved. We had roast chicken, vegetables, and an apple cake for dessert. Loved every minute of these meals and miss them. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  19. Thanks, all, for the comments! (Just getting up, here in California, after being up late last night hosting a dinner part for 12--oy!).

    My extended family, alas, no longer has many meals together either. But when I was a kid we always had a huge spread for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. I envy Sally and her family's Sunday dinner (is it okay to envy your own characters?).

  20. Welcome to the Kitchen, Leslie! Alas, we were the branch of the family that moved away, and didn't get many of those extended family opportunities. But as fiction writers, we get to create those experiences on the page!

  21. Sunday gravy!!!!! Used to have that at neighbors growing up!!!!!!!!!

  22. When I was young I loved going to my grandmother's house for prime rib roast with Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes!!! A must have for Sunday dinners!

  23. Welcome to Mystery Lovers Kitchen, Leslie! What a fabulous recipe. Everyone would gather around to partake in these wonderful dishes!

  24. Thanks for joining us at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, Leslie! This recipe made my mouth water. It reminds me of my grandmother's sauce (she never called it gravy.) We had Sunday dinners at her house when I was young and we'd have soup, pasta, meat, salad, fruit and nuts and pastries. Then groan as we got up from the table!

  25. We sit down for meals together on holidays, or whenever mom feels like cooking. Lol. Her specialty is lasagna.

  26. Used to, but now I live alone on the East coast. My son and his wife live in Seattle.

  27. What a super family dinner recipe. When I was a young child we always had family dinners with my parents and grandparents---but I had no siblings and my parents and grandparents have passed so now it's just the hubby and me.
    Thanks for the great recipe and contest.

  28. PoCoCat--Prime rib and Yorkshire pud is what our family always had for Christmas after spending a year in England when I was a youngster-yum!

  29. I bet this would work well in a slow cooker--just don't tell Nona!
    Italians really know the art of eating.

  30. I was blessed with two wonderful grandmothers from two very different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. My father's mother was Mexican American. My favorite food memories is watching her make tortillas for the day - always first thing in the morning. My mouth would salivate as we waited for her to give us a tortilla with butter, sheer bliss. And then my favorite meal was her tamales, especially her sweet tamalas with pork and raisins. Ironically that leads to memories of my other grandmother who was from a German American farm family. She made the best sweet dressing with raisins and prunes and a pork roast that melted in your mouth. She loved to garden and she had green beans she made with fresh parsley and creamed them, yum. But everybody's favorite was her cold-packed (jarred) pork - fried with onions and served over mashed potatoes. And people wonder why I have such a hard time loving restaurants but I say nothing can live up to these two amazing women and their cooking.

  31. My grandma was an excellent cook! She cooked for her family during the Great Depression. I remember her chicken dumpling soup! I wish I could sit by her table again!! This new book sounds so good! I want to read it!

  32. Mary, your description of your abuela's tortillas with butter made me salivate just reading it! I lived in Mexico for a while as a kid, and remember buying hot tortillas from the woman who'd go house-to-house delivering them, and we'd slather them with butter and eat them rolled up. Heaven!

  33. Recipe sounds so good about now. Thanks for sharing. I love new recipes.

  34. My sister and I still make a lot of the holiday foods that my mom use to make for holidays, such as ham, kielbasa, sweet and sour cabbage, corn and fruit salads and rye bread. The holidays won't be the same without the traditional holiday foods and the memories of the holidays with mom and dad.