This Old School Italian Gravy is made with simple flavors and simmered all day on the stovetop for the best Sunday gravy you have ever tasted. Your house will be filled with the unforgettable aroma of this sauce as it cooks down to create the best Italian gravy recipe for pasta, pizza, or any Italian dish.
**This post was originally published in August 2017, re-published in August 2020 and updated in January 2021
Italian Gravy from Scratch
When I originally started this blog back in 2017, this Old School Italian Gravy was my first post. I chose this recipe because I wanted something authentic, that really represented both myself and the purpose of this blog. Most of my recipes, like this Italian gravy, are influenced by my love for Italian cuisine. At the heart of Italian cooking is a combination of simple flavors, time tested techniques, and most importantly heart and soul. This recipe is just that; simple and hand crafted with love.
How to Build a Flavorful Sauce
When originally doing research for this post, I remembered something one of my instructors said during culinary school. "A well-built sauce is essential to any dish. It can make or break the experience". If a sauce is too salty or the flavors are off, it can ruin a dish. On the flip side, a perfectly crafted sauce can be the key to a truly memorable meal. There are a couple of essential components to building a good sauce. First, you must build the flavors from the very beginning. Building the flavors, ingredient by ingredient will help to develop an amazing end result and of course a tasty dish. Secondly, you must use solid ingredients to build your sauce. This does not mean they need to be the most expensive, but selecting the right type of ingredients is key. If you use quality ingredients, it aids you in developing those flavors.
Italian Gravy Ingredients
There are few key ingredients that I recommend when making this Italian homestyle gravy. Here is some more information regarding them as well as recommendations for adjustments, if needed.
San Marzano Tomatoes
I recommend using San Marzano tomatoes when you make this Old School Italian Gravy. San Marzano Tomatoes are a variety of tomatoes that are both lower in acidity and sweeter in flavor. Both of these characteristics help to build the flavor in this sauce. Most local grocery stores carry a brand that has San Marzano certified tomatoes. You can also find them online, like these Cento San Marzano Certified Tomatoes, it's my go-to brand when making this sauce.
I love using beef bones when building the flavor in this sauce. It adds an extra depth of flavor that goes perfectly with the San Marzano tomatoes. You can usually find beef bones at your local grocery store. Our store usually keeps some at the meat counter, but you can also ask your butcher directly if they do not have them on display. If you need to omit the beef bones for dietary purposes or because you cannot find them, that is fine.
I really like adding a good red wine to my Italian gravy. Just like the beef bones, it adds another wonderful component to the flavor of this sauce. You don't need to use an expensive wine for this, but don't use the cheapest one either. You always want to use a wine that you would drink and something dry as opposed to sweet is best. I like to use cabernet or red zinfandel in my sauce. If you want to omit the wine due to personal preference or because you don't have any, just replace with extra beef broth.
The Best Italian Gravy Recipe
I love making this sauce first thing in the morning and letting it simmer all day to really intensify the flavor and make the best Italian Gravy. I try to let my sauce simmer anywhere from 4-6 hours if I can, but a minimum of 1 hour would also do the trick. If you are in a time crunch, you can reduce the broth by half to make for a thicker sauce. Trust me though, if you can let it simmer for the entire day, you won't regret it!
Making this in a large quantity as reflected in the recipe makes for easy use later for a weeknight meal or Sunday dinners. Do yourself a favor and get a large stock pot like this 12-quart one to use for this recipe. After letting the sauce cool completely, store it in smaller quantities in the freezer in ziptop bags or airtight containers. When you need it for a meal, just pull it out that morning to let it defrost for dinner that night. I haven't ever tried canning this recipe, but I'm sure it would be great! This recipe can be sized down as well if you don't have a ton of freezer space or if you are just wanting to make a smaller batch. I have cut the quantities in half or even fourths to make a smaller batch and it turns out just as delicious.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in the Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
For a quick overview on this delicious sauce, check out my web story for my Italian Gravy Recipe!
Italian Gravy for Pasta
When you think of homemade Italian gravy, you probably think pasta, however, there are lots of other uses for this delicious sauce. Here are some recipes that you can use with my Old School Italian Gravy:
- Cast Iron Pan Pizza
- Oven Baked Italian Meatballs
- Roasted Eggplant & Spinach Penne
- Italian Style Meatloaf with Marinara
- The Perfect Classic Italian Lasagna
- No Fry Eggplant Parmesan
- Braciole with Marinara
Old School Italian Gravy
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium beef marrow bone neck, knuckle or ribs bones
- ½ large yellow onion chopped
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 Tablespoons dried basil
- 2 Tablespoons dried parsley
- 2 Tablespoons dried oregano
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups dry red wine approximately ½ of a bottle
- 2 quarts beef broth
- 2 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 28 ounce cans tomato puree
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat and add in the olive oil. Once the the olive oil begins to shimmer, add in the beef bone and cook till browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the chopped onion and saute for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions become translucent and start to brown.
- Next, add in the garlic, herbs and tomato paste and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes while stirring.
- Deglaze the pot by pouring in the red wine and scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any bits stuck to it.
- Add in the beef broth as well as all of the tomatoes (whole, crushed and puree) and stir to thoroughly combine. Reduce heat to medium low.
- Continue to simmer the sauce for a minimum of 1 hour, but 4-6 hours is preferred. Make sure to stir the sauce every 30 minutes or so to make sure everything is combined and nothing burns.
- Once the sauce has been cooked down, remove the beef bone and season with salt and pepper, if needed. The sauce can then be used immediately or cooled completely to be frozen or canned. For a smoother texture, use an immersion blender to blend to the desired consistency.
- Beef Bones - Omit if you are vegetarian/vegan or if you cannot find them.
- Beef Broth - Use vegetable broth to make this recipe vegetarian/vegan.
- San Marzano Tomatoes - If you can’t locate these, regular canned tomatoes can be used.
- Wine - You can substitute this with extra broth if you don’t like to cook with wine or don’t have any on hand.
Thank you for such a great recipe! I have longed for this sauce. I had a fiancé when I was younger and her parents were from Italy and eating dinner at their house was incredible..... now I can go down that flavor memory lane!
Thank you Bob, I'm so happy to hear that. Enjoy!
Cut this in half with some adjustments to the tomatoes since I grow and can my own purée and a thick Roma sauce. Used short ribs which worked well.
Sounds delicious! I love adding some fresh tomatoes! Thank you for trying the recipe!
I could only find short ribs, would these work for marrow?
Short ribs have less marrow and gelatin in them, but they will still provide great flavor!
This recipe sounds great! I can’t wait to make it. Question - what kind of beef broth do you suggest?
Thanks Bill! I would recommend something that maybe is low sodium so it doesn't get overly salty when the sauce cooks down. Enjoy!
My grandma is italian and we were raised up on meatballs boiled eggs and sugar in our red gravy that’s what us southern Italians call red gravy. Plus other meats as well. We make a sweet red gravy that is delicious.
That sounds delicious!
Wow! I can't wait to try this Old School Italian Gravy on our pasta or pizza!:) Thanks much!:)
No problem, enjoy!
Michelle | Taste As You Go
Now, this is the way it should be done. Not only is this sauce delicious, but it also makes the house smell amazing! We love freezing part of the sauce for later.
Thank you so much!
This recipe was great. Thanks for posting it!
This is our new favorite recipe, now making it for Christmas! Serving with meatballs and fried raviolis.
This makes me so happy to hear! We will be having it with manicotti for Christmas eve...Merry Christmas!
I have been trying to find out the secret to good Italian red gravy for years. Beef bones and marrow makes sense. There is only one Italian restaurant left in metro New Orleans that has the distinctive taste that means real Italian to me. It’s called Riccobono’s Peppermill and I have to have it whenever I get near it. There used to be others. Tony Angelo’s and Tony’s Spaghetti House are both gone now. Thank you for the recipe. I’m going to try it this weekend.
Not a problem Nikki, enjoy!
Can you please tell me what kind of beef bone?
Neck, knuckle or ribs bones will all work. Ideally you want something with marrow in it as it will melt…
Amanda, i’m trying to place an order to get some meat to make this. Unfortunately they don’t have knuckle or neck bones since I’m ordering from a small grass fed beef farm there is limited choices.
So my options are beef shank, beef back ribs or short ribs. I think the only one of those with any marrow would be the shank but I don’t think there’s much since I would only be using one. They weigh 22 ounces each!
Can you tell me what the best option would be here..? i’m trying to re-create my mom‘s sauce but she used pork and we don’t eat pork. But it sure did impart wonderful flavor with all that juicy pork fat!
Thank you for your help!
Hey Holly! Thanks for your message, I would probably go with the beef shank if you can, but honestly, all of them will still add a ton of flavor to the sauce. Enjoy!
Just to confirm, you use all 6 cans of tomatoes? Peeled, Crushed and Puree? I'm having trouble finding the San Marzano crushed and puree. I didn't know if I could get cans of peeled and crush or puree them my self.
Yes, all 6 cans are used in the recipe. Sometimes I can only find the san marzano whole peeled tomatoes so I just use regular crushed and pureed tomatoes or you can buy them all whole peeled and crush and puree on your own.
This is outstanding. I go “heavy” tablespoons on the herbs & garlic, & 2 full cups of wine.
Use it for ziti, spaghetti, anything.
Heavy on garlic is never a bad idea 🙂 I'm so glad you enjoy it as much as we do!
I thought Saporito was supposed to be somewhat sweet? Do I have this sauce confused with something else? Looking fir a good thick pizza type sauce. Thanks!
Hi Pat! Saporito actually means tasty in Italian. This sauce is an all-around great sauce for standard marinara, pizza sauce, or pasta sauce. If you are looking for a thicker sauce, I recommend letting this simmer for a while to allow it to reduce more or using less broth or both. Enjoy!
Amanda | Saporito Kitchen
Thank you so much Elizabeth! I'm so glad you enjoy it 🙂
What brand/kind of red wine do you use
Amanda | Saporito Kitchen
I would recommend a dry wine as opposed to sweet. It doesn't have to be terribly expensive, but something that you would drink. Cabernet or Merlot would work great!
My mouth is watering as I read this. We've recently instituted spaghetti night every Monday and I think this is going to be implemented immediately!
Excellent! You will have to let me know how it turned out!
Sounds delicious! I am excited to make it and have extras in the freezer for a quick, delicious dinner on a busy night!!!
Let me know how it works for you!