Authentic Sunday Gravy Recipe for Perfect Family Dinner

If you’re a lover of Italian food, then you’ve probably heard of the North End in Boston. This vibrant neighborhood is known for its authentic Italian cuisine, and one dish that stands out above the rest is the famous North End Sunday Gravy. This hearty meat-based sauce has been a staple in Italian American households for generations and is perfect for sharing with your family and friends.

I know from personal experience just how comforting this dish can be. The aroma of garlic, onion, and tomato wafting through my kitchen always reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking. The North End Sunday Gravy is more than just a recipe—it’s a tradition that brings people together.

In this recipe article, I’m excited to share with you my take on this classic dish. I’ve spent years perfecting this recipe to ensure that it captures the essence of traditional Sunday gravy while incorporating some of my own personal touches.

So grab your apron, turn up some Frank Sinatra, and get ready to cook up a storm with this mouth-watering North End Sunday Gravy recipe.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

North End Sunday Gravy
North End Sunday Gravy

Are you tired of your usual Sunday dinner routine? Look no further than this North End Sunday Gravy recipe. Not only is it a delicious and hearty meal that will leave your family satisfied, but it also has a rich history steeped in Italian-American culture.

One reason why you’ll love this recipe is the combination of different meats used. Ground pork and beef, pork neck bones, and Italian sausage all come together to create a complex and flavorful tomato-based sauce that will have your taste buds dancing.

But what sets this recipe apart from others is the long simmering process that creates a homemade Italian gravy with an unbeatable taste. This recipe has been passed down through generations of Italian families and is a staple in North End Italian cuisine. It’s virtually impossible to replicate its unique flavor in any other dish.

Not only does this recipe make for a fantastic Sunday dinner, but it’s also perfect for meal prep. You can easily make extra sauce and freeze it for future use. It’s an absolute lifesaver on busy weekdays when you need to whip up a quick and easy pasta dinner.

To top it off, this recipe is incredibly versatile. You can make small tweaks like adjusting the spice level by adding more red pepper flakes or swapping out the type of meat used to suit your preferences.

Overall, if you’re looking for a meal that’s not only delicious but also steeped in tradition, this North End Sunday Gravy recipe is the way to go. Don’t be surprised if it becomes a regular addition to your meal rotation!

Ingredient List

 A simmering pot of North End Sunday Gravy is enough to make anyone's mouth water.
A simmering pot of North End Sunday Gravy is enough to make anyone’s mouth water.

Before we start cooking, let’s take a look at what you will need for this North End Sunday Gravy recipe. This dish is a staple in Italian-American households and has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s important to note that this recipe calls for a variety of meats, herbs, and spices that give the sauce its rich and savory flavor. Let’s dive into the list of ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 1 pound of pork neck bones
  • 1 pound of Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cans (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans (6 ounces) of tomato paste
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon of dried parsley flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the meatballs:

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅓ cup dried breadcrumbs

Note: If you don’t have access to pork neck bones or don’t want to use them, you can substitute with country-style pork ribs or chuck.

These ingredients are easy to find in most grocery stores and provide the base for a delicious and authentic North End Sunday Gravy. Remember to check your pantry before heading out to the store to see if you may already have some items on hand.

The Recipe How-To

 Freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds the perfect finishing touch to this hearty dish.
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds the perfect finishing touch to this hearty dish.

Now, let’s dive into the most exciting part: cooking! As you might expect from Italian Sunday gravy, there are quite a few steps involved in making it. Don’t get intimidated though; it’s nothing that we can’t handle with enough patience, love, and passion.

Making the Meatballs

To start, I’ll share with you my recipe for meatballs featuring savory herbal taste thanks to the addition of dried basil and dried parsley flakes. These meatballs will definitely be the star of your North End Sunday Gravy.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients well.
  3. Scoop up the mixture into a ball slightly smaller than a ping pong ball.
  4. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes until browned.
  6. Carefully remove them from oven and set aside.

Making the Sauce

Here comes the fun (and slightly messy) part where everything comes together into one big pot of deliciousness.

Step 1 – Cooking the Ground Meat

  • Pork neck bones (1 pound)
  • Chuck (1/2 pound), country style remove fat and dice meat into small pieces
  • Pork (1/2 pound), country style remove fat and dice meat into small pieces
  • Olive oil (4 tablespoons)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add pork neck bones and brown on all sides.
  3. Remove pork neck bones from pan.
  4. Add diced beef chuck and pork to pot and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the cooked meats from pot with slotted spoon.

Step 2 – Prep Work for Tomato Sauce

Before diving in with tomato sauce, there are some veggies that require our kind attention.


  • Onion (1), finely chopped
  • Garlic cloves (3), minced
  • Olive oil (4 tablespoons)


  1. Heat olive oil in the same Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add onion to pot and sauté for two minutes.
  3. Add garlic to pot and sauté for one minute.

Step 3 – Simmer Tomato Sauce

We’ve come to my favorite part of this recipe: SIMMERING!


  • Tomatoes (28 oz can)
  • Tomato paste (6 oz can)
  • Sugar (1/4 cup)
  • Dried mint (1 tablespoon)

Substitutions and Variations

 Slow cooked meatballs in a rich tomato sauce are the star of this recipe.
Slow cooked meatballs in a rich tomato sauce are the star of this recipe.

Looking to add a personal touch to your North End Sunday Gravy recipe? One of the best parts about this recipe is its versatility. You can easily swap out ingredients and adjust it to fit your taste preferences. Here are some substitutions and variations you might want to consider:

– Meat: The original recipe calls for ground pork, ground beef, and pork neck bones. Feel free to adjust the meat ratio or add other types of meat, such as Italian sausage, chicken, or turkey.

– Tomato sauce: If you don’t have canned tomatoes or tomato paste on hand, you can substitute fresh tomatoes or marinara sauce. Just be mindful that the acidity level might vary slightly and adjust the sugar accordingly.

– Red pepper flakes: If you’re not a fan of spicy food, feel free to omit the red pepper flakes. You can also use paprika or chili powder for a milder flavor.

– Fresh herbs: While dried parsley flakes, dried mint, and dried basil work perfectly fine in this recipe, using fresh herbs will take it to the next level. Try adding fresh thyme, oregano, or rosemary for an extra kick of flavor.

– Dairy: The addition of milk and eggs in this recipe gives it a creamy texture and helps mellow out the acidity from the tomatoes. However, if you’re lactose intolerant or prefer a dairy-free version, you can skip this step altogether.

– Pressure cooker method: If you’re short on time but still want to enjoy a hearty Sunday Gravy, you can make it in a pressure cooker instead of simmering it for hours on the stove. Anthony Bourdain’s Italian Meat Sauce recipe is a great option if you’re looking for a pressure cooker version.

Overall, feel free to experiment with different combinations until you find your perfect North End Sunday Gravy recipe. Whether you stick to the traditional ingredients or put your own spin on it, this authentic Italian-American dish will never disappoint.

Serving and Pairing

 The aroma of garlic, onions, and basil fills the kitchen while the gravy cooks.
The aroma of garlic, onions, and basil fills the kitchen while the gravy cooks.

The North End Sunday Gravy is a hearty and satisfying dish that can be served in a number of ways. Traditionally, it is served over a bed of spaghetti or other pasta, with meatballs and sausage on top. The rich tomato sauce is also great for dipping fresh bread into.

To complement the dish, a full-bodied red wine like Chianti or Barbera is the perfect pairing. A side salad can provide a refreshing contrast to the richness of the gravy.

For a complete Italian meal, start off with an antipasto plate featuring cured meats, cheeses, olives, and grilled vegetables. Move onto the pasta course with the North End Sunday Gravy as the main course. Finish off with a classic dessert like tiramisu or cannoli.

But don’t let tradition limit your creativity! This savory sauce can also be used as a base for other dishes such as lasagna, stuffed shells, or Eggplant Parmesan.

No matter how you choose to serve it, this dish is sure to impress any crowd and transport them straight to Italy.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 A heaping serving of North End Sunday Gravy is perfect for a cozy night in.
A heaping serving of North End Sunday Gravy is perfect for a cozy night in.

Are you a meal prep fanatic or just looking to save some time on a weeknight? This recipe is perfect for you! The North End Sunday Gravy recipe can be made ahead of time and stored for future meals. The long-simmering homemade Italian gravy only gets better with time!

To make this recipe ahead of time, simply let the sauce cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. You can store this in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you are ready to enjoy it again, simply thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat on the stove until heated through.

Another great option is to make the meatballs ahead of time and freeze them raw. This way, all you have to do is thaw them in the fridge overnight before adding them into your hot pot of sauce.

When reheating, make sure to use a low heat setting to prevent burning and stir frequently to ensure even heating.

This dish also makes for fantastic leftovers that can be eaten alone or paired with your favorite pasta dish. To store and reheat leftovers, let the dish cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container and storing it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat on low heat on the stove, stirring frequently until heated through.

So go ahead – take advantage of this recipe’s make-ahead and storage abilities to enjoy delicious homemade Italian food with ease!

Tips for Perfect Results

 The homemade pasta absorbs the flavors of the gravy, making for a deliciously hearty meal.
The homemade pasta absorbs the flavors of the gravy, making for a deliciously hearty meal.

To make the perfect North End Sunday Gravy recipe, there are a few tips and tricks that you should know to ensure that your dish turns out delicious. While the recipe is rather simple, it’s important to pay attention to certain details to make sure that you create an authentic Italian Sunday gravy that will impress your family and guests.

First, make sure to brown the meat well before adding it to the tomato sauce. This will add depth of flavor to the sauce and ultimately provide a more satisfying meal. Be patient during the browning process, as this can take up to 25 minutes depending on the cut of meat.

Another tip is to use parmesan cheese rinds in your sauce. These rinds can be saved from previous uses and will add a rich, savory flavor to your gravy.

When making meatballs for this recipe, don’t be tempted to overwork the mixture or they will turn out tough. Instead, gently mix together the ingredients until they are just combined and then form them into balls. You can even chill the mixture for a few hours before forming them to help them hold their shape.

One key ingredient in this recipe is garlic, and it’s important not to burn it when sautéing it with olive oil. To avoid burning, keep the heat medium-low and remove from heat once fragrant.

Lastly, let your gravy simmer on low heat for at least two hours. This long simmering time allows for all of the flavors to meld together and provides a rich, thick gravy that is perfect for pasta or dipping bread.

By following these helpful tips, you’ll be able to create an authentic North End Sunday Gravy that will impress even the toughest food critics.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the North End Sunday Gravy Recipe is an essential dish to add to your culinary repertoire. With its rich complexity and depth of flavors, it is a perfect representation of authentic Italian cuisine. The recipe boasts a variety of ingredients that come together in perfect harmony, from the garlic clove and olive oil, to the ground pork and beef, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. These ingredients are simmered for hours to produce a mouth-watering gravy that is the highlight of any family gathering or dinner party.

Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just starting out, this recipe is sure to wow your guests with its delicious taste and heartwarming aroma. So don’t hesitate to give it a try – you won’t regret it! If you’re looking for a perfectly balanced meal, serve this gravy alongside pasta, meatballs or any other hearty dish you prefer.

Moreover, one can play around with different herbs like basil and parsley flakes for more flavors in the dish. The choices are limitless and always enjoyable. You can also experiment with different substitutions and variations on this classic recipe to create your own unique take on this classic Italian recipe.

Overall, I highly recommend trying out this recipe for yourself, as it has been passed down through generations and perfected over time. Once you have learned how to make this dish successfully, it will surely become a staple in your Sunday food tradition. Cheers to adapting this iconic recipe into our modern culinary world!

North End Sunday Gravy

North End Sunday Gravy Recipe

Everyone, I know, has a recipe for gravy that was made by their Italian grandmother and everyone will tell you their family's sauce is the best. This sauce is an adaptation from "The North End Italian Cookbook" by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane. The North End is Boston's Italian neighborhood and the author was celebrated as one of it's best cooks. I thought the original recipe had too much meat and not enough tomato, so I changed those proportions a bit. I don't know if this is as good as your grandmother's but the last time I made this my father and brother-in-law sat down with a bowl of sauce and bread for dipping and finished the entire loaf. The meatballs are from Dom Deluise's cookbook and really are the best I've ever had.
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Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Calories 533 kcal


  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 recipe meatballs (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 lb piece beef
  • 1/2 lb piece pork or 2 -3 lean pork chops
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • dried basil
  • dried mint
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar (to taste)
  • 1 (12 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans ground tomatoes
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans water
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley or 8 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


  • Fry beef and pork in 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large saucepot.
  • Remove meats as they brown and add another 1/4 cup oil to the juices in the pan.
  • Saute the onion, garlic, and 2 pinches each of the seasonings until the onion is transparent.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the paste melts into the oil. This is called "Italian roux".
  • Stir in an extra couple of pinches of the seasonings. Add the tomatoes and blend.
  • Fill the two tomato cans with water and add water until the sauce is as thick as you like it. Remember the sauce is going to cook down.
  • Let the sauce come to a boil and add salt and pepper and an additional 2 pinches of seasonings.
  • Return the meat to the pan and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours. Stir every 15 minutes or so using a wooden spoon.
  • Brown the sausages in some olive oil and add to sauce with sugar to taste. Simmer another hour.
  • Make meatballs and either fry in oil or bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Add to sauce.
  • Cook for an additional hour. Add water as it cooks if you think it needs it, but you should have a sauce that doesn't separate on the plate.
  • Remove meats and let sauce settle for a few minutes until fat rises to the top. Skim as much fat as possible from the sauce. The less fat it contains, the better the sauce.
  • This sauce freezes beautifully.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 471gCalories: 533kcalCarbohydrates: 20.6gProtein: 27.7gFat: 38.3gSaturated Fat: 12.7gCholesterol: 112.8mgSodium: 724.2mgFiber: 3.5gSugar: 8.6g
Keyword European, Meat, Pork, Weeknight
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