Red Gravy

Anyone who has watched “The Sopranos” knows that many Italian Americans of Sicilian extraction call tomato sauce red gravy. Not surprisingly, everyone seems to have their own favorite recipe. Far too many contain little besides tomatoes and are too sweet for my taste. My version starts out with a generous amount of sofritto, the Italian equivalent of the French mirepoix. You will notice that the recipe below is vague on quantities. That is because a good gravy is a work of art that requires the personal touch of its creator. As a general rule the sofritto should be about half onion with the other vegetables making up the other half and there should be about twice as much tomato as sofritto. If you use mushrooms, aim for about half as much as of the sofritto. Check the amount of herbs right after pureeing. Add the sugar and salt at the very end. 






Bell pepper


Celery (optional)




Mushrooms (optional)


Olive oil


Diced canned tomatoes


Dry red wine


Dried thyme


Dried oregano


Dried parsley


Dried basil


Crushed red pepper flakes


Black pepper


Sugar (optional)





Peel the onion and carrot then dice all of the vegetables. Sometimes I get lazy and just throw them all into the food processor and pulse it a few times. Mince the garlic and coarsely chop the mushrooms.

Warm the olive oil over low heat in a suitable sauce pan.  Sweat the sofritto and garlic, covered, until soft but not browned, stirring from time to time. This should take about 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat a little and sauté until they give up their liquid.

Stir in the tomatoes, a cup or so of wine, the dried herbs, and red pepper flakes. Simmer, partially covered, over medium low heat until the tomatoes are well cooked, about 30 minutes.

Off heat use a stick blender to puree the sauce. If you do not have a stick blender you can do this in a food processor or blender but let the sauce cool a bit before doing so.

Taste the sauce and adjust the herbs as needed. Bring it back to a simmer and let it thicken for about a half hour. Season to taste with sugar and salt.


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