At Home In the Kitchen with Italian Gravy!

At Home In the Kitchen with Italian Gravy!

I’m not sure if this is an authentic Italian recipe or a Northeast American Italian recipe. I do know this, though: there are as many traditional family variations of this pasta sauce as there are Italian Nonnas. What is common is the freshness of the ingredients. Freshly diced onion, minced garlic cloves and fresh basil leaves are used in place of dried herbs and spices. I use Italian canned tomatoes, but if you’re being totally authentic, you can peel and hand-mash sweet plum tomatoes into the sauce.

Where the difference lies is in the meat. If you add meat to the sauce, it’s called gravy. And get a load of this gravy — it’s not finalized yet, but the aroma filling your kitchen is going to make you wish it were!

I like mine with beefy short rib, Italian sausage and of course, meatballs like these!


Others prefer to slow cook braciola in the sauce. Both Sunday sauce and Sunday gravy benefit from slowly simmering all-day long. This can be accomplished in a large pot on the stovetop, in a slow cooker or my preference, in a Dutch oven, cooked in my oven, set on low heat. Regardless of which you use, the pot does matter. You need a heavy pot to handle the day-long cooking.

Browning the meat is essential to get those yummy flavors into the pot, as well as searing the tenderness into the beef and sausage. In contrast, when you add the onions and garlic to the pot, you want softness, not too much color. Make sure to turn down the heat so you don’t burn the veggies. Deglazing the pot with a bit (or a lot) of wine, gathers all those tasty brown bits for the start of the sauce.

Whichever sauce you choose, make a big batch. Leftover gravy not only freezes well, but you can use the sausage and meatballs in hoagies; the short rib meat is an excellent filling for ravioli. Making Sunday Gravy on Sunday is freeing! The recipe allows you to prepare it in the morning and walk away for hours. When it’s time to call the family to the table (and they will be pestering you all day from the aroma wafting around the house), drop the pasta into boiling, salted water and take the top off that simmering pot. The rich sauce is done and ready to ladle. If you’re more of a visual learner check out my #AtHomeIntheKitchen segment below…

Making Italian style gravy: a short video

And here’s the recipe for nonnas, nanas or just about anyone who loves a good pasta!! A disclaimer, though: a starving grandchild ate every last meatball from my plate before I took this shot…

Sunday Gravy
Serves 6 or more
All Day Cuisine

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 meaty beef short ribs
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
4 links Italian sausage
2 large white onions, peeled and diced, about 2 cups
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
2 cups red wine
2 (28-ounce cans) crushed tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 quart homemade beef stock, or prepared low sodium broth
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
12 (2-inch) meatballs (see Cook’s Tip for recipe)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 pound dried fettucine pasta
Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown the short ribs on all sides until they are well browned. This should take you about 10 minutes. Transfer the short ribs to a platter.

Cut the sausage links in half creating two smaller links. Cook the sausage in the oil until well browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the same platter as the short ribs.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions to the oil, and cook until softened and beginning to turn golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Pour in the wine. Simmer until the wine almost completely disappears. Pour in the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste. Pour in three cups of the beef stock. Stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Add the short ribs and sausage back to the sauce. Cover and simmer on very low heat until the rib meat is falling off the bone, 4 hours or more on the stove top, 8 hours on low in a slow cooker, or 6 hours in a 250°oven.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the meatballs onto the baking sheet and gently roll them in the oil. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the outside are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Gently place the meatballs into the sauce. Add the fresh basil. Simmer for at least another 30 minutes. If your sauce is too thick, you can add more beef stock. If your sauce is too thin, you can stir in more tomato paste. Taste and add more salt if you like.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta and pour into a large bowl. Ladle some of the Sunday Gravy over the pasta and toss to coat the noodles. Ladle more sauce over the pasta and include the short rib meat, sausage and meatballs. Sprinkle with additional fresh basil. Serve family style with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

Cook’s Tip
You can purchase prepared meatballs in the butcher department of the grocery store. But, if you would like to make your own, it’s easy to do. Soak 2 to 3 slices of bread with about ¼ cup milk for 10 minutes. Place ¾ pound of lean ground beef with ¾ pound ground pork in a small bowl. Season with ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add the bread and any excess milk to the meat. Use your hands to gently combine all the ingredients and form into 2-inch balls. The gentler your hands, the fluffier the meatball.

A thick slice of warm sweet cake…

A thick slice of warm sweet cake…

Oh, my, my! It’s time to bake and share…. You know, those gifts that you have ready when you need something for a friend at work, or a favorite neighbor. My recipe for Blueberry Poppy Seed Loaf with Jammin’ Berry Jam fits the bill for a bake a share holiday treat. An excellent way to present this sweet and heavenly loaf of thoughtfulness is to wrap it in a linen kitchen towel, and tie it off with a sprig of holly.

Visually it works, and taste bud wise it totally works. I can all but guarantee nothing’s better with your morning skinny latte than a thick slice of warm, sweet cake with a slather of tart berry jam. It’s a combo that makes your tongue want to slap the roof of your mouth!

The jam is super fresh, owing that to a total of two pints of fresh blue and blackberries, zesty citrus and hint of mint.

This recipe works well, printed out and tucked into the gift of a new electric mixer. In my book, SUNDAY BEST DISHES, I recommend this Kitchen Aid – and since you’re already on Amazon, go ahead and get my cookbook while you’re at it. I can guarantee a personalized bookplate if you order before Christmas. But without further adieu…

Blueberry Poppy Seed Loaf

with Jammin’ Berry Jam




1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon table salt

½ cups whole milk

⅓ cup canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine the milk, canola oil and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Stir in almond and vanilla extracts. Mix in the flour. Stir in the poppy seeds and blueberries until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until the loaf is golden on the top and a tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely.



1 pint fresh blueberries

1 pint fresh blackberries

½ cup granulated sugar

Zest of 1 medium lime, about 1 to 2 teaspoons

Juice of 1 large lime, about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Place the berries, sugar, lime zest and juice into a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the berries are mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the mint and cook until the berries break down completely, about 5 minutes more. Pour the jam into a bowl and cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container.


A Winner for Your Cookie Xmas Exchange

A Winner for Your Cookie Xmas Exchange

I’m not psychic. I’ve just lived through a whole lot of Christmases, so I’m sure there’s a cookie exchange party in your future. Peanut Butter Chunk Cookies are my go-to when I want to give the gift of baked goods, and there really is no greater gift, seeing as the gift of baked goods is, essentially, the gift of your time.

So far as cookie recipes go, my PBCs (what I call this recipe for short) is a classic. I use the basics: sugar, flour, margarine, eggs and add whatever nuts and chocolate I have on hand. The chunkiness of the cookie, I’ve found, is all due to using margarine in place of butter. Shh! Don’t tell the health nuts – unless you can find a way to add more actual nuts to this recipe, lol.

Oh, and be advised when you make these lovelies, that just about any candy or specialty chips work in a batch 🙂 You’ll find many, many versatile and FUN recipes in my new cookbook, which of course gets plugged even in a cookie post. BUY Sunday Best today and I sign TODAY, wink, wink!

Peanut Butter Chunk Cookies


2 ¼ cups whole-grain pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon table salt

1 cup margarine (2 sticks), room temperature

1 cup smooth peanut butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits

4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°. Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl.  Use an electric mixer to combine the butter, peanut butter and sugars until smooth. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Pour in the flour and stir. Mix in the oats, peanuts, chocolate chips and white chocolate.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or you can use Silpat liners).  Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into about a 2-inch ball. Use your hand to gently flatten the cookies. Bake until they are golden, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for several minutes.  Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.


A Creamy Tomato Soup to Power You Through Xmas

A Creamy Tomato Soup to Power You Through Xmas

No matter your winter activity, albeit ice skating, ice fishing (well, maybe I’ve got some fans in the frozen tundra), or just plain exhausting shopping and decorating, there’s nothing better than a piping hot bowl of soup. My recipe for Roasted Garlic Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons comes from the “Pic Niques” chapter of SUNDAY BEST DISHES. If you’re lucky enough to live in Florida, this DISH OF THE DAY is perfect for a spur of the moment winter break picnic, and if you don’t live here with me in the tropics? A hearty tomato soup with cheesy croutons is just the best in a snowed in cabin, too! It’s the perfect meal to serve as you gather friends and family to decorate the tree.

Myself, I’m going to need a big warm comforting bowl of this soup, to finish wrapping gifts and signing my autograph. My beautiful bookplates are here! Email me soon for your signed copy of Santa’s favorite cookbook, and be sure to include your address so he and the reindeer can find you!

Now go make soup!

Roasted Garlic Tomato Basil Soup

with Grilled Cheese Croutons



3 heads garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut off the top third of each head of garlic and discard. Place the heads onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle the cut side with olive oil, salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence. Fold up the foil around the garlic, leaving a small hole at the top. Place into the oven and roast until the cloves are golden, soft and popping out of their skins, about 30 to 40 minutes.



3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced, about 1 ½ cup

2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed and chopped, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

4 cups homemade chicken broth, or prepared low sodium chicken broth

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

¾ cup tomato paste

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot.  Stir in the onion and carrots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the veggies with flour and cook for several minutes more.  Stir in the broth, crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste.  Cook until the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Add the roasted garlic and basil and cook for 1 minute more.  Cool the soup. Transfer the soup in batches to a food processor (or blender) and pulse to emulsify.

Pour the soup back into the pot over medium heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer over low heat.



1 large hoagie roll

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded, about ½ cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

            Preheat the oven to 350°. Slice the hoagie roll in half horizontally. Spread the butter over the cut side. Lay the cheese on top of one butter-slathered slice of the roll. Place the top on the roll. Smush the roll down so that the cheese sticks to the butter inside. Brush the top, sides and bottom of the roll with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Slice into 1-inch cubes. Bake until golden on all sides, turning every so often, about 3 to 5 minutes total.

Pour the soup into a thermos. Pack the croutons into an air-tight container. Serve the soup with a garnish of basil and top with 1 to 2 croutons.





Dish of the Day: Cupcakes Your Way!

Dish of the Day: Cupcakes Your Way!

Everyone needs a midweek sweet treat. But, at the holidays it’s a MUST HAVE. When you read my new cookbook SUNDAY BEST DISHES you’ll find loads of FUN tips and tricks for the sweetest Christmas ever… Here’s my recipe for Your Choice Cupcakes! Use your family’s favorite flavors to make these cupcakes a holiday winner!

Oh, and P.S. Don’t forget to sweeten the deal by ensuring your copy of SUNDAY BEST comes with a FREE autographed bookplate. We still have 18 days to go on our Xmas shopping. Send me an email ( that includes your mailing address, and the name you want me to personalize!! I think Santa’s sleigh just got a little heavier!

Your Choice Cupcakes


Use this recipe as a guideline to create your special Sunday Best cupcakes.  These are filled with chocolate-nut butter, but don’t hesitate to fill with chocolate ganache, fruit jam, cream cheese or marshmallow fluff.  Top with butter cream frosting, chocolate glaze or just an ample shake of confectioners’ sugar.


1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon table salt

½ cup butter (1 stick), room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¾ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place liners into a 12-cup muffin pan.  Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine butter and granulated sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract and milk.  Pour in the flour and mix until just combined.  Use an ice cream scoop to place the batter into the pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then cool completely on a rack.



¼ cup butter, room temperature, ½ stick

½ cup chocolate nut butter spread (like Nutella, or Jiff Hazelnut Chocolate)

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

            Use an electric mixer to combine the butter, nut butter spread and sugar until smooth. Fill a pastry bag or squirt bottle with the filling.  Insert the tip into the center of the cupcake. Gently squeeze about a tablespoon of the filling into each one or, you can use a melon scoop to scoop out the center of the cupcake. Spoon the filling inside and place the plug back on top.



½ cup butter (1 stick), room temperature

1 cup smooth peanut butter

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter, peanut butter and cream cheese.  Add the confectioners’ sugar in batches and combine until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, you can add a tablespoon of milk.

Spread the frosting over the cupcakes.





The Frantic Holiday Season Calls for These Muffins!

The Frantic Holiday Season Calls for These Muffins!

If you have kids (or grandkids!), you know how busy early mornings can be. You also know how important it is for kids to have a fairly nutritious breakfast. It can be tough fitting that in, especially given the frantic pace of the holiday season. Well, I have the answer! Yummy, tummy- filling muffins.

I swear you can make these muffins (any muffin, really) in minutes! From first banana mash to last scooping of batter, you won’t spend 10 minutes. They bake in about 20 minutes, which is just about the time you need to get everyone washed, brushed, dressed and packed up! If you’re one of those plan-ahead people, you can make a batch of muffins on the weekend and dole them out during the week.

You can add things to your muffins like any kind of nut, dried fruit, grain, oats and fun things, like chocolate chips and candied ginger. You can top your muffins with a sprinkle of sugar or a powdered sugar glaze. It’s all good, and a banankin muffin is way better than a cardboard-tasting, cellophane-wrapped processed bar. At least it is in my opinion!!

Bananakin Muffins

Yield about 12 to 16 Muffins

40 Minute Cuisine (10)

What’s better than combining bananas with pumpkin? Well, nothin’!! So, let’s give into our passion and mix up a batch of moist, yummy muffins to go great with that first, early morning sip.

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 to 4 ripe bananas

2 eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 ½ cups canned pumpkin puree

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place cupcake liners into one or two cupcake pans. You’ll have 12 to 16 muffins depending on the size.

Whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Mash the bananas in a larger bowl. Stir in eggs, vegetable oil, canned pumpkin, and both sugars. Stir in the seasoned flour. Use an ice cream scoop (pictured below) to fill the muffin cups with batter. Bake, until a tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean, and the top springs back when touched, about 20 to 22 minutes.