This is ongoing among my friends and in my family growing up my grandmother from Italy called it gravy.Could both be correct?
I believe both are correct, but if you are a true Italian you will call it gravy.
Both are fine - it's English, not Italian! The "true" Italian name of whatever version you're talking about will vary depending on the region of Italy it comes from and the type of sauce/gravy you're making. And there are a million versions because Italian cooking is so regional and so diverse. So it's kind of a silly debate among Italian-Americans. In general I've noticed that northern Italians like my family call it sauce while southern Italians call it gravy so there may be some regional difference that started the debate but I really don't think that makes anyone less truly Italian.
Call it whatever your grandmother called it and don't sweat it.
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
I completely agree with kircon's answer. This is a case of Old World meets the New World. And unless you live in New Jersey or Queens it's not "gravy". The generic term in Italian would be sugo or salsa. How "gravy" entered into it, I don't know. But it is an interesting piece of food history.
Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking
There's a wonderful cookbook by Nancy Verde Barr called We Called it Macaroni: An American Heritage of Southern Italian Cooking. She grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where many Italian-Americans called south Italian ragu "gravy" and all their pasta "macaroni." I think ragu is sugo with meat, is that right pierino?
Chris, Italian-American is almost "suis generis", that being it's own thing different from the exact regional cuisines of Italy. The great wave of Italian immigration to the US began before the first World War so there is more than 100 years of history behind us. Northern v Southern as a distinction is almost meaningless, at least in this context. Ragu (or is it the French ragout?). Yes, ragu does imply meat. How "gravy" got into it I don't know. It's an American thing. That's what happens when people dare to cross borders and bring their ideas with them.
Gravy probably happened when they wanted to sound more American. My generation of Italian Americans were never taught to speak Italian, even though their grandparents spoke no English. They were fiercely proud of being American. (at least in Marin County in the 50's).
And don't forget the Japanese, Mexicans, Koreans and so many others who think of themselves as proud Americans. I salute you my brothers and sisters!
I didn't mean to exclude any other nationality...it's just that the area where I grew up was Italian and were proud to be American. If anyone asked about their ancestry it was Swiss Italian...not just Italian, but Swiss Italian!
If either the sauce, or the gravy, is very good and tasty - then I call it a "beverage" !
In Italian, it is called 'ragu' or 'sugo' ('o rau' in Neapolitan dialect). Sugo came from the word 'succo', which means juice, implying the sauce is flavored with the juices (drippings) of meat (the base of any ragu, sugo, sauce, gravy, etc.) This holds true with any ragu from any region of Italy. My guess is that 'gravy' came into play because it is the closest English word with the same meaning (as it is known in America; i.e. 'biscuits and gravy' - where the gravy is made from the pork drippings). Keep in mind, many of the immigrants were from Southern regions of Italy (Calabria, Sicilia, Naples, etc.) where they speak a very different dialect from proper Italian (spoken mostly in the North). That's the main reason for all these Italian-American terms (gravy, gabagool, fazool, etc.); they're mostly just mispronunciations of how they heard it from their grandparents because, as mentioned, most of them were not taught Italian as kids (they just heard it spoken among the adults). So, it's pretty much "slang" that comes from "slang" (it's all screwed up. lol.).
And 'salsa' is a word used in Italian that can refer to (literally) ANY sauce, tomato-based or not. It's a very generic term.
So to answer your question, there's no 'right' or 'wrong' answer. But that doesn't mean you can't tell all your friends you asked a bunch of people over the internet and they ALL agreed with YOU...white lies right?
...Frig that was long and kind of jumbled..sorry folks.
Not to worry, some of us love this kind of discussion. Language, culture, immigration, food. Of course it's long and delightfully jumbled.
No it wasn't. My friend Nico il Matto makes some really good points here. The "dialetto" being one of them. Another late an lamented friend, the actor Vincent Schiavelli wrote a wonderful book "Bruculinu,America" which is about growing up Sicilian in Brooklyn. I hope it is still in print. A kind and generous man, now interred in Sicilia.
Recently I interviewed Gustavo Arellano the author of the column "Ask a Mexican!" and in discussing food I would use the word "real" as opposed to "authentic". Immigrants to our country bring along with them ideas about food and not "recipes". It becomes an adaptation to what you find here. Think of the tomato as traveling from America to Spain and onto Italy and then coming back again with some new insights along the way.
Pegeen is a trusted home cook.
PazzoNico, not to worry. (And who knows where that phrase came from!) These threads are always great, reading everyone's responses. How we learn.
ALL of my Italian friends call it gravy and now that I have to think about it, they're all from southern Italy or Sicily. And they all know that calling tomato sauce "gravy" makes me crazy, because in my background and family, gravy means a lot of work based on beef, pork or lamb drippings, onions, a roux, etc. quite a bit of tending.
It makes a lot of sense that it was an Americanization by Italian immigrants to call sauce "gravy" ... maybe it started when Italian immigrants began to open restaurants and wanted to make menus familiar to other groups.
I always think of gravy as something started with a roux. A sauce, to me, is thickened by reduction. Well...that's the way I think of it!
Please enter a valid email address.
Well played. You deserve a cookie.
The "Thanksgiving" Menu Genie's back—only now it's time for latkes and hams
Plan Your Holiday Feasts Here
Life Saving Shortbread
A Magic House for Growing Plants
The Illustrated Biographies of 16 1/2 Desserts
Gifts as Unique as Snowflakes
prevented successful signup:
We'll never post anything without your permission.
prevented successful login:
Thanks for signing up!
Connect with us to get more Food52!
Sign up for our useful, inspired emails and we'll
give you everything you need to eat and live better—including
recipes, how-tos, and exclusives and great gift ideas from our
kitchen and home shop.