“Can I just get some macaroni and gravy?” – Paulie Walnuts, Season 2 episode 4 Said while dining in Italy and wishing for some traditional Italian-American fare
macaroni = pasta
gravy = tomato sauce
A quiet night at the Colbertorio Familio house? Fuhgettaboutit! Sopranos Sunday Dinner was the theme of the latest Gourmet Dinner Club meal. At the start, the theme seemed just so classic and obvious to us. We loved The Sopranos and were always amazed how a family with so many years of good times and bad blood (literally!) could come together for a civil meal each week. Carmella always did the table upscale, so we planned to do the same. Silver, china, crystal, candlelight, it was a sight to behold. Now to provide lots and lots of good food, and hey, how tough could that be?
In planning the main course, we so weren’t into doing some lame marinara sauce. Much too pedestrian! Oh, our ignorance showed straight away! We tried some braised rabbit, and it was alright, but other than the uniqueness of the bunny, the dish was really lacking any pop. Second try was a lovely veal scallopini kind of thing with roasted tomato and capers on top. Lovely, but even with what should have been delectable flavors, it was bland, bland, bland. Tony would have tossed these straight out of the window! Both dishes were from the same book, you know the kind, great photos but the food just doesn’t quite measure up. Ditched that book and move on.
Other GDC members were also wanting some more direction about the theme, so we lent out selected Sopranos DVDs and got some of the couples hooked on The Family. A quick Google search turned up some wonderful food memories, including one on NPR. Looking at the author, I discovered it was our very own Food Blogga!!! The Food Blogga story on NPR (Susan Russo is a food writer in San Diego. She publishes stories, recipes and photos on her cooking blog, Food Blogga. When she isn’t writing about her Italian family back in Rhode Island or life with her husband in Southern California, she can be found milling around a local farmers market buying a lot more food than two people could possibly eat.) and a few others were shared via email, and we all got into the groove of it. Note to self: do the research up front when planning a traditional meal that no one at the table has actually experienced in person before.
It became clear that Sunday Gravy is not some little marinara sauce, and that if your grandmother made it, she made the best version. Period. How crazy it was to learn about this dish for the first time, knowing it was a tradition in so many other homes. And that idea of cooking the meat in the sauce for hours then removing it so that the meaty flavors remain in the smooth tomato sauce? Brilliant! We had to really shoot for the stars with this dinner, so we also made our own homemade Italian sausage for the Sunday Gravy.
Outcome of the evening? Priceless!
Main Course Dishes (recipes to follow in the next posts):
Italian sausage, country pork ribs