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Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy, a comforting and meaty pasta sauce for Sunday supper.  Beef short ribs cooked low and slow in tomato sauce until fork tender and then tossed with pasta and topped with grated cheese.

Bowl of pasta and meaty gravy

This past Sunday, I made a pot of sauce to serve with pasta.  Sunday Gravy.  It starts on the stove and then goes in a slow oven for 3 hours.  The result is a rich and hearty sauce for pasta, filled with fork-tender pieces of meat.  This gravy is to-die-for good, a sauce worthy of a Sunday family dinner.

Is it sauce or gravy?  I’ve heard both terms and several different meanings and interpretations.  It’s not ground meat, like a bolognese, nor a type of marinara.  Gravy has large pieces of meat that are braised for several hours until meltingly tender.  I have heard it referred to as both Sunday Sauce and Sunday Gravy.

Sunday gravy tossed with spaghetti in serving bowl.

But my Italian friend from the south-side of Chicago says gravy for her sauce, and she uses ground meat.  And my great-grandfather’s ravioli is served with sauce, or gravy, depending on who you talk to in my family, and it has no meat at all in it.  To me, this is Sunday Gravy.  The key word being “Sunday”, a special meat sauce that cooks all day.

What goes into Sunday Gravy?

Ingredients for Sunday gravy labeled on board.

I like short ribs for this gravy, but really, you can use any braising cut of meat.  Beef chuck would work, so would pork shoulder or spareribs.  Sunday Gravy was a way to use whatever meat was on hand, or several cuts of meat, in a slow cooked braise to then serve over pasta.  I would keep it to one to three meats.

You certainly can use what you have on hand or is on sale.  Since I have two in my house who do not eat pork, I use only beef.  Pork would be so good, though.

How to make this Sunday pasta sauce

Browning short ribs process collageBrowning short ribs on stove.

  • Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and brown well in a little olive oil.  Transfer browned short ribs to a plate.

Browning onions.

  • Add the onions, a pinch of salt, cook until golden.

Adding tomato paste and seasonings to onions.

  • Stir in tomato paste, garlic and seasonings and cook a few minutes until fragrant.

Adding tomatoes and getting ready to braise in oven.

  • Add crushed tomatoes and combine, then add a whole carrot and a small piece of Parmesan rind.
  • Then nestle the short ribs and any accumulated juices in the sauce.
  • Bring to a simmer, cover and braise in the oven for 3 hours.

Finished sauce in pot collage, before and after shredding meat.

  • When short ribs are tender, remove to cutting board, cut or shred into bite size pieces.
  • Return meat to pot, taste for salt. Add pasta of choice and toss well, adding some reserved pasta water if needed. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serving bowl of Sunday Gravy and spaghetti.

Recipes Notes and Tips

  • Beef short ribs.  Normally I would opt for bone-in short ribs, for the incredible flavor you get from any meat on the bone.  But I find boneless short ribs a better choice.  They are just as flavorful and less fatty than the bone-in.  Boneless short ribs are easy to shred into chunks when they are done braising.  Even though the bone-in practically fall off the bone when done, they tend to have more grizzle and fat.  Get what you can find, or what’s on sale.
  • Take the time to brown the meat in batches, don’t crowd the pan.  Properly browned meat yields flavor folks, nicely caramelized and brown, not gray.
  • I prefer Italian San Marzano tomatoes which are are meaty and tender.  Buy them whole and crush them by hand.
  • The pasta.  This can cause much debate.  I like spaghetti, fettuccine or pappardelle.  I had spaghetti on hand, so that’s what I used.  Rigatoni and penne would also make an excellent choice with this hearty sauce.
  • Simmer the al dente pasta in the same pot with the gravy for a couple of minutes to completely coat the pasta with the rich, beefy gravy.  Add some reserved pasta cooking water if needed to keep it loose and saucy.
  • Serve with some grated parmigiana reggiano or romano cheese on top.
  • A little red wine in this braise would be really good.  I like red wine but red wine doesn’t like me, I never have it on hand.  If you want, put about a cup of red wine in the pot just before you add the tomatoes.  Let it reduce just a minute or two to mellow the alcohol.

Finished pasta in bowl with grated cheese.

There you have it, Sunday Gravy.  Gather the family around the table, serve up this Italian pasta with meaty gravy, enjoy the forks clanking and slurping sounds, and treasure the smiles and laughter.  Best, Kelly🍴🐦

You might also like these pasta dishes:

Spaghetti twirled on fork in bowl with Sunday sauce.

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UPDATED: Originally posted in June, 2015, recently updated in December, 2019, with spruced up photos and copy.  No changes to original recipe.

Finished sauce in pot.

Sunday Gravy

Beef short ribs cooked low and slow in tomato sauce until fork tender and then tossed with pasta. A comforting and meaty pasta sauce for Sunday supper.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Pasta, Pasta Sauce
Cuisine: Italian/American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 8
Author: Kelly Wildenhaus | the hungry bluebird

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 - 4 pounds boneless beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Small piece of parmesan rind, about an inch
  • Two 28-oz. cans of Italian San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 whole medium carrot, peeled
  • 2 pounds spaghetti (or pasta of choice)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 300º
  • In a large enameled cast-iron dutch oven, heat olive oil over moderate heat until shimmering. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Add to the pot in one layer and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer short ribs to a plate.
  • Reserve 1 tablespoon of fat in pot. Add onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato paste, garlic, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper, stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices, the carrot and parmesan rind. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer.
  • Return the short ribs and their accumulated juices to the pot. Turn a few times and nestle into the sauce. Bring back to simmer, cover and transfer to oven.
  • Braise in the oven for 3 hours until meat is very tender. Remove from oven. Skim fat from top, leaving some, again, for flavor.
  • Transfer meat to cutting board. Discard carrot and parmesan rind. With two forks, shred meat into 1-inch chunks. Return meat to sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  • In large stock pot of boiling, salted water, cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Transfer pasta to pot of gravy and toss and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add some pasta water if it seems too thick. Serve immediately in large bowl with grated parmesan cheese.

Notes

  • Normally I would opt for bone-in short ribs, for the incredible flavor you get from any meat on the bone. But I find boneless short ribs a better choice. They are just as flavorful and less fatty than the bone-in and easier to shred. Even though the bone-in practically fall off the bone when done, they tend to have more grizzle and fat. Get what you can find, or what's on sale.
  • Take the time to brown the meat in batches, don't crowd the pan. Properly browned meat yields flavor folks, nicely caramelized and brown, not gray.
  • I prefer Italian San Marzano tomatoes which are are meaty and tender. Buy them whole and crush them by hand.
  • I like spaghetti, fettuccine or pappardelle. Rigatoni and penne would also make an excellent choice with this hearty sauce.  
  • Serve with some grated parmigiana reggiano or romano cheese on top.
  • If you want, put about a cup of red wine in the pot just before you add the tomatoes. Let it reduce just a minute or two to mellow the alcohol.
Keyword: Sunday gravy, Sunday sauce, beef short rib pasta sauce, Sunday sauce for pasta
Did you make this recipe? Please comment, rate it and share! And mention me on Instagram @thehungrybluebird or tag #thehungrybluebird so I can see!

Adapted from Food & Wine, September, 2014

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Recipe Rating




Toni

Monday 3rd of August 2020

I love this gravy. Ive done it with sausage, brasals beef ribs pork ,veal meatballs all kinds of things I double it and then I freeze it into 5 different containers. That way I have it for whenever for a pasta night. It is great.the san marzano tomatoes are a little pricey but I don't buy any other kind.

Alyssa Rosenblatt

Saturday 20th of June 2020

Could you add meatballs and italian sausage to this

Kelly

Sunday 28th of June 2020

I think so, but if they are already cooked, add them near the end.

Jodi

Sunday 12th of January 2020

We make this often - it’s our favorite Sunday Gravy! We switch out pork and beef - always get compliments. We use a couple roughly chopped carrots and leave them in the gravy when serving. Kids love it!

Kelly

Friday 28th of February 2020

It's so delicious and comforting!

Matt Freund

Tuesday 7th of January 2020

This sauce looks great. Im gonna have to try this.

Kelly

Friday 28th of February 2020

Let me know if you make it and what you think.

Connie

Sunday 23rd of December 2018

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My husband now thinks I’m an absolute cooking goddess! I did add a few tablespoons of red wine after sautéing the onions since I had seen that in other recipes. We will definitely be having this again! Cheers and Merry Christmas :)

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