Cavatelli with Sunday Gravy and Pork/Sausage

Getting to the “Root” of Food

Do your kids know where their food comes from?  If the answer is “the grocery store”, think again.  I recently made up a game with the kids where one person named a food and the rest had to determine how it was made or grown.  To my disappointment, they actually did not realize that Rice Krispies were, at one time, actually rice.  Although we were all a bit stumped when Mac asked “how do they make Soy Milk from edamame?”.  I’ll have to get back to you on that one….

Sunday Gravy:  Don’t be intimidated when italians tell you they make their gravy themselves, you can too.  Now, this recipe doesn’t start with fresh tomatoes because frankly, we just don’t have time.  However, I guarantee you will enjoy it!

  • Get a big sturdy pot (I use my grandmother’s and if it could talk….) and heat up some fresh garlic in some olive oil (don’t brown it).
  • Chop 1/2 an ONION very well and grate a CARROT (for sweetness) into the pot and add a drop more olive oil.
  • If you want:  I like to add a drop of tomato paste that I keep in a tube in the fridge, I hate to waste a can just for a tablespoon or so.
  • Cook mixture for about ten minutes or until it is soft.
  • Add two cans of CRUSHED TOMATOES (I like San Mazano or Tuttarosa).  You can use peeled tomatoes and crush them in your hands too. 
  • Add salt, pepper and basil to taste (a sprinkle of crushed red pepper will not be too hot but adds flavor too).
  • If you have a BAY LEAF, drop it in but don’t eat it!
  • Bring to boil and then reduce heat and cook it on LOW for 30 minutes or 6 hours!

Note:  My grandmother made her gravy with tomato paste and water instead of canned tomatoes but it took a lot longer to cook.

PORK CHOPS/SAUSAGEI didn’t have any ground turkey or beef for meatballs, but I found some pork chops in the freezer.
Defrost the pork chops (or sausage) partly in the microwave, then if you leave them on your granite counter on Saran wrap, they will defrost the rest of the way very quickly.

  • Cut into 3 pieces and brown the pork chops or sausage in a frying pan (cast iron if you have it) with a drop of oil
  • Pour meat into the gravy to finish cooking (cook all the way if you are not cooking your sauce at least an hour)
  • Variation:  try taking the sausage out of the casing and frying it like taco meat.  Then, pour into gravy – fabulous!

My favorite is CAVATELLI or in my family, “GUV-A-DEEL”.  Although my grandmother would call any/all types of pasta , “macaroni”!

I flipped to a cooking show in italian today and watched as the chef put literally a FIST full of salt in his pasta water prior to boiling.  I may not have understood what he was saying, but I got the picture – load up on the salt in the water, it does actually make the water boil more quickly!

  • Always use a large pot of water and add, of course, salt
  • Cook according to directions – be sure not to overcook
  • Add a little gravy and grated cheese and stir and serve

Veggies:  Make a salad or serve some baby carrots on the side.

How Can the Kids Help?

  • Help use the “chopper” to chop onions (we wear swim goggles to avoid crying)
  • Grate the carrot into the sauce
  • Learn to use the can opener to open cans of tomato
  • Add spices to the tomato sauce
  • Test the pasta to see if done
  • Make the salad
  • As always, get the drinks and set the table

Did You Know?

  • Americans were the first to serve spaghetti WITH meatballs.  Italians always served their meat and pasta separately.
  • The rich in the 1500’s believed tomatoes were poisonous.  Their fancy plates/utensils were made of pewter and foods high in acid content (tomatoes) would cause the lead to leach out into the food causing lead poisoning and death.  The poor ate off wood plates so they had no aversion to tomatoes whatsoever.

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