The Impoverished Chef: Close Enough Italian Gravy Recipe

The Impoverished Chef: Close Enough Italian Gravy Recipe

Last updated on April 14th, 2018

A ‘Close Enough’ Italian Gravy Recipe

Italian Gravy. Red sauce. Spaghetti sauce. Ragú. Whatever you want to call the recipe, tomato-based sauces are a cornerstone of American cuisine, and are used in countless tasty recipes. Besides, who doesn’t love spaghetti?

Too bad so many people are doing it wrong.

Most supermarkets have a large portion of an aisle dedicated to pre-canned red sauce, indicating a pretty high demand. I know, I know… it’s so simple to boil some noodles, dump some of this crimson stool on top of it and call it dinner, right?

Well, without much more money or effort, you can create a red sauce that will make you wonder how you ever settled for anything else.

Traditional Italian gravy, or “Sunday gravy,” generally contains ingredients like pork neck, spare-ribs, veal, and other things you and I don’t want to spend money on.

Instead, we’re going to make Italian gravy the Impoverished Chef way: Cheap.


2 lbs. Italian sausage

Olive oil

1 white onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 (14 ounce) cans diced “Italian style” tomatoes

2 (6 ounce) cans of tomato paste

2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce

2 cups water

3 teaspoons basil

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper

1 pound pasta

Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping. (optional)

A Crock-Pot (optional, but nice to have)


To prep, first chop up a white onion. I highly recommend that you first slice the onion into paper-thin slices, and then mince it. You want the onion to be almost translucent, because you don’t want huge chunks of onion in your finished sauce; you want the onion to melt into the sauce itself.

Dump your Italian sausage into a skillet and brown it over medium heat.

Then, add the Italian sausage to the Crock-Pot.

Wipe the inside of your skillet out with a paper towel. Now, throw in your onion and a little olive oil, and sauté until the onion is almost transparent, but not burned.

Dump the onion in the Crock-Pot.

Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet, and toss in your 2 teaspoons of minced garlic. Sauté for about 2 minutes, or until golden-brown. Do not burn the garlic, or it will taste bitter.

Dump the garlic in the Crock-Pot.

Scrape out both cans of tomato paste into the skillet, and sauté until the paste becomes warm, soft, and pliable.

Add your cans of Italian style diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the paste. Whisk until well blended.

Add about 2 cups of water. You will want to increase or decrease the amount of water you use based upon how long you want to cook the sauce, but these adjustments can be made as you become used to the recipe. For your first time, just add 2 cups.

Toss in your basil, parsley, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Whisk until well blended.

Turn up the heat to medium-high, and barely bring the sauce to a boil while whisking.

Pour your sauce into the Crock-Pot and stir it all up.

Turn your Crock-Pot on high until the sauce begins to boil. Then, turn the Crock-Pot down to low heat, cock the lid, and let the sauce cook for about 8 hours.

You cock the lid to facilitate ventilation, allowing water to evaporate, which is why you want to adjust the amount of water you add depending on the cook time. If the sauce becomes too thick, you can always add more water.

You can do this just as easily in a traditional pot, but that would require leaving your stove on for hours at a time which may not be optimal.

Boil your pasta of choice. I don’t use spaghetti, because spaghetti sucks. It doesn’t hold any sauce at all. I recommend using bow-ties, penne, rotelle, or every kid’s favorite… 


Thanks for checking out The Impoverished Chef! Next time I’ll show you how to turn your leftover sauce into baked ziti or lasagna.

Be sure and follow J.C. Wigriff on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out more Recipes here.


Writer, guitarist, gamer, alchemist. Editor at, and host of the INT Spec Podcast. Be sure to follow him on twitter.

View my other posts

Leave a Reply