Thursday, September 22, 2016

Spaghetti & Gravy: Not Your Mom's Red Sauce

by Marit Schroeder

Although Louisiana food is best known for unique flavors, there are more food styles than just Cajun and Creole.

Independence, a little town in Southeast Louisiana, started as an Italian-American community with many families coming from the island of Sicily. Now famous for its Sicilian Heritage Festival every March, the town is still working hard to remember their roots.

My family roots come from Independence, and we do our best to honor our ancestors by cooking. When my great-grandparents wanted to remember where they came from, they got together with other people in town to make a red gravy-- the Sicilian version of red spaghetti sauce. While there’s no significant difference between red gravy and red sauce, most Sicilian Americans will agree that the correct vocab is important!

I had a really fun time talking to my mom and grandmother about our family history and getting involved in the cooking process. I’ve grown up eating spaghetti and gravy around three times a month and it continues to be a big affair that involves friends and family coming over for dinner. Usually when we have family dinners though, it can take an extra push to convince my grandmother and great aunts that we aren’t tired of spaghetti so they will cook it again. 

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Red Gravy
Spaghetti and Meatballs with Red Gravy

Serves 12-18

Red Gravy:
2 medium onions, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 (12 oz.) cans tomato paste
8 (12 oz.) cans warm water
1 ½ tbsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. basil (optional)
Dried spaghetti or linguine

2 lb. ground sirloin
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Garlic powder (optional)
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 cup hard breadcrumbs, moistened
½ cups Romano cheese, grated

Gravy: Sauté onions in heavy pot in olive oil. Add tomato paste. Fry mixture at medium temperature for 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently so that the tomato paste does not burn or stick. Add water and mix. Add salt, pepper, sugar and basil. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning after 60 minutes. If sauce is too thick, add water one cup at a time to desired thickness.

Meatballs: Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl add ground sirloin, eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley. Soak hard bread in water. Squeeze water from bread and separate bread into small fine pieces. Add this and Romano cheese into beef mixture. Shape beef mixture into 18-24 meatballs, which are tacky. Arrange meatballs on a baking pan with a rack. Put in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until all sides are brown. Drain well and add browned meatballs to sauce. Leave sauce and meatballs at simmer for another 30-45 minutes.

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