The Sunday Sauce Tradition

I have spent much of my day today shopping for and preparing my family's recipe for Sunday Sauce, more properly a meat ragu that simmers for several hours, filling the house with a smell so familiar I can conjure it from memory.

What some families (but not ours!) call "gravy" is a dish with as many variations as there are people with vowels on the ends of their names. But what's common to all of us who make it is continuing a tradition that began with our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. My version usually contains meatballs, some form of pork, and either beef or a specialty meat like sausage or brasciole.

My homemade Italian sauce. The meatballs do their own version of la tarantella around the edge of the pot.

When I was young, Sunday meant the unmistakable scents of onion and garlic cooking as the base of my mom's sauce. When my boys were little, a big batch of sauce was an economy: once those containers were filled, they provided at least a dozen dinners for our family of five. And despite how fussy young children can be, my kids never turned up their noses at a meatball.

I make Sunday sauce infrequently these days, but spring break is upon us, and I'll soon have three young men to feed. So I took out the big stock pot, mixed up the meatballs, chopped the onion and garlic, and set it all to simmering on this chilly, rainy Sunday. In another hour or so, the flavors will be blended and the meat will be tender. When the kids arrive, they'll take one sniff and know they're home.