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Pressure Cooker Sunday Gravy, Italian Ragu Sauce over Pasta


Being a native Californian, with a combination of German and Mexico roots, I'd never heard of-- yet along-- tasted "Sunday Gravy". From my research, I've learned it's an Italian-American dish. The "gravy" is more of a ragu and is served with various meats. There are many variations of this recipe, to be found in so many Nonna's kitchens. Braciole, (a pounded out piece of beef, that is stuffed with ingredients like raisins, pine nuts, cheese and prosciutto) is a traditional meat ingredient for Sunday Gravy. It's also a lot of work to make, so America's Test Kitchen came up with a recipe that is easier to make, without sacrificing flavor. Instead of simmering the sauce for hours, on the stove, ATK has converted their recipe version to slow cook in the oven-- which requires less stirring and maintenance. I took this one step further, and used my electric pressure cooker. I was able to cook the Sunday Gravy in less than an hour, instead of three hours! Preparing Sunday Gravy does involve about an hour of prep work, no matter which process you use. The end result is worth the effort, especially if you love pasta as much as we do. I will provide directions for stovetop cooking, in case you don't own a pressure cooker (and you should, as I use mine often with great results). Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen Season 10. (Click on the recipe source to see how I made this, on my food blog "A Feast for the Eyes.)

The "gravy" is more of a ragu and is served with various meats.

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  • SAUCE:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 rack baby back ribs (about 2 1/4 pounds), cut into 2-rib sections
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage links
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2-cups)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4-teaspoons)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (Six tablespoons of plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons of milk can be substituted for the buttermilk.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound meatloaf mix* (I used a combo of ground beef and pork)
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped fine
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • PASTA:
  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 tablespoons table salt
  • Grated parmesan cheese for serving


Servings 8
Preparation time 60mins
Cooking time 150mins
Adapted from


Step 1

Notes: I made the meatball mixture, first, since my pressure cooker time was 45 minutes. If using the stove top method, you will have 2-1/2 hours of time to make the meatballs-- which are absolutely delicious on their own!

Note: Prosciutto and cheese are added to the meatball mixture to mimic the flavor of the brasciole.


Pressure cooker method:
Do not preheat the oven, as you won't be using it. Using browning cycle, follow steps 1 to 6 (below).

Traditional method:
Adjust oven rack to lower- middle position and heat oven to 325°F

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add half of ribs to pot and brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer ribs to large plate and brown remaining ribs.

After transferring second batch of ribs to plate, brown sausages on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer sausages to plate with ribs.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions and oregano; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until very dark, about 3 minutes.

Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add crushed tomatoes and broth, scraping up any browned bits. Return ribs and sausage to pot; bring to simmer, cover, and transfer to oven**.

Cook until ribs are tender, about 2½ hours**.

**Pressure cooker method:
Once the meats have been browned, and the sauce made, cover and lock on the pressure cooker lid. Pressure cook on high for 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the meatballs.


Meanwhile, combine bread cubes, buttermilk, parsley, garlic, egg yolk, salt, and red pepper flakes in medium bowl and mash with fork until no bread chunks remain.

Add meatloaf mix, prosciutto, and cheese to bread mixture; mix with hands until thoroughly combined.

Divide mixture into 12 pieces; roll into balls, transfer to plate, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use.

When sauce is 30 minutes from being done, heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Cook meatballs:
Add meatballs and cook until well browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towel-lined plate to drain briefly.

Oven version:
Remove sauce from oven and skim fat from top with large spoon. Transfer browned meatballs to sauce and gently submerge. Cover, return pot to oven, and continue cooking until meatballs are just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Pressure cooker version:
When the pressure cooker beeps, release the pressure and carefully remove the lid. Skim fat from top with large spoon. Transfer browned meatballs to sauce and gently submerge. Replace the lid, and lock it, and pressure cook for 3 minutes. Release the pressure and carefully remove the lid.

Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and salt and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water; drain pasta and transfer back to cooking pot.

To serve: Using tongs, transfer meatballs, ribs, and sausage to serving platter and cut sausages in half.

Stir basil into sauce and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Toss pasta with 1 cup sauce and reserved pasta cooking water so that sauce lightly coats pasta. Serve pasta, passing remaining sauce and meat platter separately.

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