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Jan 10, 2022

Slow Cooker Italian Sunday Gravy

This slow cooker Italian Sunday gravy is an easy and delicious take on a classic Italian-American dish.  

Slow Cooker Italian Sunday Gravy serving.

This slow cooker Italian Sunday gravy is a rich and hearty tomato sauce enriched with red wine and many different cuts of meat. 

In fact, it's more like a meat sauce flavored with tomatoes... thus the name "gravy." It's called gravy because the meat totally dominates the ingredients, way more than even Bolognese sauce. 

Typically, Sunday gravy simmers for hours on top of the stove, and includes pork, beef, and Italian sausage. Often, meatballs can be added halfway through. 

Slow Cooker Italian Sunday Gravy in a mixing bowl.

Serving Italian Sunday Gravy:

If you are a traditionalist, you serve Sunday gravy by separating the meat from the sauce and serve the sauce over pasta as the first course, or Primo.... not to be confused with the appetizer (aperitivo) or antipasto courses, naturally. 

Next, you serve the meat that has been cooked in the "gravy" as the next course without any pasta. The meat course (secondo) could include braciole, which is a rolled and stuffed flank steak dish that has been cooked in the gravy. 

If you serve meatballs, I've heard they can be served alongside the pasta but not on top of it to make sure the courses are separated. 

In this case, we skipped the braciole and the meatballs, and cooked the gravy with two kinds of Italian sausage, flank steak, and country-style pork ribs. We then shredded the pork and beef, and sliced the sausage, and served the mixture over pasta, kind of a mash up of the first and second courses. 

Hopefully, the Italian food police won't issue a citation!

Sunday gravy with pasta in a bowl.

This sauce is thick and rich, and completely meaty. It included aromatics such as onions and lots and lots of garlic, and a big handful of fresh chopped basil. 

The sauce also includes canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Be sure to drain the diced tomatoes so that the resulting sauce is not thin and watery. 

Because you are cooking this sauce, er, gravy, in the slow cooker, there is no evaporation. 

Italian Sunday gravy in a bowl.

This recipe makes sixteen servings and is perfect for a crowd. It also freezes well and adapts well for making casseroles with the leftovers. 

Suggestions for Leftover Sunday Gravy:

One of my favorite ways to use the leftovers is to stir some together with al dente pasta, top it with mozzarella cheese, and bake it in a 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. 

You can also stir white beans and a small amount of pasta into the mix and serve it like a thick stew. 

I even thinly sliced some of the cooked sausage and used it to top a pizza. 

Slow Cooker Italian Sunday Gravy in a bowl with a fork.

For the pasta, we tried the sauce with spaghetti, rigatoni, and elbow macaroni, although I'm pretty sure noodles would work too. 

I still have about six cups in the freezer, and I'm looking forward to getting creative with it. Maybe I'll make some meatballs to go with it!

Welcome to our #NationalSlowCookerMonth Celebration! 

January is National Slow Cooker Month and this week we are celebrating all things slow cooker! We have delicious recipes from across the country to fill your meal plans with delicious slow cooker recipes!

Slow Cooker Italian Sunday Gravy in a bowl.

Recipe adapted from The Best Slow and Easy Recipes: More than 250 Foolproof, Flavor-Packed Roasts, Stews, and Braises that let the Oven Do the Work (2008), from Cook's Illustrated

Would you like to comment?

  1. If this recipe is a sin, I will sit down with you and enjoy every bit of it, sinning together, getting that citation with a smile!

  2. I love me some Sunday Gravy and the slow cooker is a perfect way to not be tied to the house while it simmers away.

  3. Sunday gravy - this sounds amazing and perfect for Sunday family dinners. I think I would enjoy the leftovers even more!

  4. Three words for you -- mangia, mangia, mangia!! So so delicious!!

  5. I have not tried a Sunday gravy before and I love all the sausage and tomato flavor! This sounds amazing.

  6. This is something my husband would really love. He is all about the meat and he loves Italian dishes. We have an Italian grocery store we go to and he could find some authentic sausages to use, too.

    1. Oooh, I wish we had an Italian grocery store nearby! We used to shop at one every Sunday when I was a kid.

  7. There really isn't much as flavorful as Italian sausage in my mind--and this is a meat lover's dream! (Hmmm, maybe I should go back to keto!) Interesting info on the tradition of separating the meat and sauce!

  8. The gravy sounds and looks YUM!

  9. 6 hours on low but 9-10 hours on high? Is that right?


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