Italian Sunday tradition.

May 23, 2010 at 9:40 pm 5 comments

Obviously, for the cool population, tonight is a big night.  Like, super big.  Goodbye to Lost.  D had requested we have a “special dinner” in honor of the occasion.  His suggestion?  Turkey sandwiches.  I told him if that’s what his ass wanted – he could run to subway and get himself the grandest dinner he could imagine.  If not, he’d have to stick to my gravy train.  The request stuck though – not in terms of turkey – but in regard to the “special”.

Growing up in most Italian families mean enjoying a Sunday pasta dinner.  Traditionally, the sauce is simmering all day (probably in meat), filling the home with it’s tomato and garlic fragrance. In my family we participated in “Tomato Day” once each year in August, where we spent a 12-hour day washing, peeling, processing, boiling, and finally jarring plum tomatoes.  It was a grueling day, and one which as children we grew to dread as the end of summer loomed; however the end result of lasting, delicious tomato gravy throughout fall and winter was worth each and every painful moment. If I could bottle up the smell of fresh tomato gravy simmering, I absolutely would.

After I left for college my “duties” were rescinded, and I sadly haven’t participated in “Tomato Day” since. This year I informed my aunt (who runs tomato day) that D and I would like to participate, only to be told that there may be tomato day no more! Why?  Aside from the fact that there are less mouths to feed and less of a demand for the jarred tomatoes, they discovered a new canned tomato that can produce a stove-top tomato gravy that rivals their own.

What is this mysterious tomato that may possibly change the shape of future generations on hot August days?  San Marzano peeled tomatoes, imported from Italy.

Cracking open that can released the aroma of freshly peeled and boiled tomatoes that I recall from tomato day. Inside were about 8 peeled plum tomatoes in their juices.  The smell is absolutely heavenly.  The most important thing for you to remember from this post is San Marzano canned whole peeled tomatoes make a damned homemade good tomato sauce base.

Here’s a quick version of the homemade tomato gravy that I alter and toy with every time I make it. It’s such a treat that I really am considering making this my Sunday meal, of course in the future it will be bolognese style.  Here’s the quick and dirty:


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, slightly blended [used my hand blender]
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp. oregano
  • 1 tbsp. unbleached sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt [more to taste]
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 1 packed cup of basil, sliced

Heat oil over medium heat with onions and garlic until aromatic and softened.  Add blended tomatoes, red wine and spices to boil covered. Lower to a simmer and leave covered 1.5 – 2 hours, until red wine is noticeably reduced. About 10-minutes before you think it is finished, stir in the basil and simmer.

Tada! Then pour over your favorite pasta.

This was really quite a treat, one that I’m going to make happen more frequently. I may even invite my mom over to share it with her – and that’s saying a lot. Give it a try, impress your family. And enjoy your Sunday, whatever the occasion is!

What’s your family’s food tradition? Do you still carry it on?


Entry filed under: italian, pasta, recipes. Tags: , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Helena Marinho  |  May 24, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Oh Hi! ^^
    This gravy looks awesome! *-*
    I’m Already planning next sunday’s meal, and SURE, I WILL get those canned babies! (Not sure about the same brand, but… whatever)
    Thanks for sharing this with us! 😀
    My family used to bake a (please, don’t laugh… it’s tasty, ok?) Onion Pie… All crunchy, melting, creamy and seasoned…. Was our favorite dish EVER! I veganized and bake a bunch little pies every now and then! 🙂


  • 2. Jessica  |  May 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    After I read your first few paragraphs, I was waiting to see if you called it gravy! I never heard that until I lived in Philadelphia. Your recipe looks great.

    I’m working on carrying on some family traditions, and it sounds easy enough because our tradition is for a vegetable plate and cornbread. The problem is that many of the “vegetables” are all casseroles and the rest are seasoned with meat. Currently, I can make a dish I like but most of my family doesn’t. Their loss, they can’t taste the veggies!

    • 3. Amanda  |  May 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      MMm broccoli casseroles are delicious though!!

  • 4. Amber Shea @Almost Vegan  |  May 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    That looks SO good! I love homemade marinara sauce.
    “Red cake” is my family’s tradition. It’s a red velvet cake recipe (with accompanying cooked icing recipe) from my great-Aunt Mary’s mother that we make for everyone’s birthday, year-round. It’s the best!

    • 5. Amanda  |  May 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm

      Uhm yes, red cake is SO divine!! Perhaps you can be the star veganizer and share the recipe with us?? 🙂


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