Grandma Josephine's Sauce (Gravy)

submitted by John Edward

I know this is a tough time, but its also an opportunity to reframe pretty much everything in our lives. I am sure we will be discussing this for quite a bit to come, so just for the interim, thanks to one of the Evolve members requests for it I thought I would share.

Food is one of the things that bring us nourishment, nutrients, but it also brings us comfort, emotional satisfaction and nostalgic memories. One of my greatest memories was cooking every Sunday with my grandmother. An Italian American force, who birthed a family that still to this day misses her with every waking breath.

As you are aware, there are different ways to colloquially call the tomato deliciousness cooked and served with your traditional pasta(s) or macaroni as we called it. In my house, if you served it on Sunday, with all the meat in it, it was a pot of gravy. Any other day during the week, Grandma referred to it as sauce. The arguments continue on social media for another day… but here is my adapted (yes, I changed it a bit as I grew up) version.

-John Edward


  • 3 (28 oz.) cans of Tomato Sauce

  • 1 (28 oz.) can of Tomato Paste

  • Olive Oil

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Red Pepper

  • Italian Seasonings

  • Oregano

  • Parsley

  • Red Crushed Pepper

  • Sugar

  • Basil (fresh) or dry

  • Small onion

  • Garlic (fresh) or minced not powder

  • Short Ribs

  • Sausage Hot and Sweet

  • Meatballs

  • Braciola (I never do this, but Granny used to)


In your pot (decent size – one with handles on both sides) pour a pancake size amount of your olive oil. Honestly, I don’t care if its extra virgin or slutty (regular veg oil as it is used in so many iterations)

Dice your small onion into small pieces. So they look like what would be served on a McDonalds burger not Quarter pounder. Throw it into the pot and stir with your wooden spoon. Spray the spoon with some non-stick spray for easier clean up later or wipe some oil onto it. Not your handle part, just the part that goes into the food portion. Allow the onions to become translucent (see thru) and throw in one clove of chopped garlic. (peeled, sliced thin, or diced. If you are using minced the onion should outnumber the garlic by 3/4 .)

Keep turning to make sure that the oil, onions and garlic don’t burn. If you see that there is not enough oil in the pot – add a bit more. NOT a lot. Use your spoon to bring the now delicious smelling mix up and down like an inch or more of the sides of the pot. YES… do this. It will flavor the sides of the pot with the onions/garlic/oil and help to season the gravy/sauce and cleanup will be easier as well.

Once all the onions/garlic are back at the bottom of the pan. Add your 3 cans of Tomato Sauce. If you are feeling froggy, you can use San Marzano whole tomatoes and blend them first into a sauce. If you are feeling like, make it easy for me dude – Hunts Tomato Sauce is my go to. If they don’t have 28oz cans. You will need to do math. It doesn’t have to be exact. A simple rule Granny used was 2 to 1. Two sauce to one paste.

Once the sauce and the paste are in the pot. Stir it for like a minute. Keep the paste can on the side of the stove with water in it to store your wooden spoon. Because of my deli day experience I am always thinking about cleanup. I more than likely have aluminum foil (aluminium for my UK/Aussie folks) all around the stove for easy clean up – as this will splatter.

If your mixture looks toooo thick – add the water that’s sitting on the side where your spoon is living. Refill the can for spoon bath. Time to add the ingredients.

Don’t ask me for how much. This is where you will have to journey into the unknown (frozen2 shoutout) with me.

  1. 12 shakes of salt

  2. 12 shakes of black pepper

  3. 2-3 shakes of red crushed pepper

  4. Cover the top with Italian seasonings, oregano, parsley until you think oh crap this is way to much. Once the top of the red looks mostly green… shake a few more Italian seasoning shakes around the edges

  5. Add your fresh basil. If its dry – add it as part of the above – a few shakes not too many as its stronger dry. If its fresh – take a vine with some leaves – wash it – throw the whole thing in – you will take it out before serving.

  6. Now cover the top 50% with your grated cheese.

  7. Add in a few cloves of garlic cut in half (I do like ten halves)

  8. Sugar – this is up to you. After making Jonathan Louis Sauce – I stopped using big carrots to absorb the acidity and used sugar and liked it better. So you can use 1-2 tablespoons per 28oz can of sauce. So 3-6. You might not like it too sweet. You can always add more so start with less. And for the kitchen warrior who is thinking im going to use stevia – Don’t!!!!! DO!!! IT!!!!! I tried and had to start ALL OVER AGAIN. It was NASTY!

Time to fold all these in. Stir from bottom to top folding the seasonings around the whole pot. Not just clockwise. Like rotate whats on top (seasoning) to the bottom and middle. It will organically move do to heat and cooking.

For the first ten minutes – stir often covered on medium/high heat. Once little volcano like circles appear all over the top of the mixture… lower the heat and cover.

About covering. If you have a sieve/circular/flat strainer that allows the gravy to release moisture and erupt as it cooks GREAT!!! If ya don’t, no worries. Take your pot cover and hang it off a bit to allow the moisture to escape. Whatever angle you use be aware that splatter is GOING to happen. (foil time)

Lower the heat. If it is still bubbling ferociously – add a few ounces of water. NOT a lot. Stir stir stir

Now we let this simmer… (for hours)

Braise your short ribs on each side. Throw them in the pot.

Grab your sausages (STOP…don’t go there) using a fork or knife poke holes into them and fry those bad boys until cooked. When done, throw them in the pot.

Now make your meatballs. (that recipe I will share maybe next week) they too go into the pot.

Let all this simmer together while you stir stir stir a few times an hour.


Grab a piece of bread… dip it into the pot and imagine a little ole Italian lady yelling “GET YA DAMN FINGERS OUTTA THE POT!!!” and if you don’t go “YUUUUUUUUUUUM!” figure out what you need to add into it to tweak it.

Hope this helps with your quarantine.

I literally use this to make baked ziti, lasagna, chicken parm and pizza.

Maybe we do that next…do you want my mojo pizza recipe or meatballs…vote in the comments and let me know.


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