Frank Bruni's Italian Meat Gravy

By Kate Krader Posted August 27, 2009

Frank Bruni, in the back, with more Bruni family members

“You had to have a lot of meat going on in there.” That's how Frank Bruni, the former New York Times restaurant critic, writes about the sauce he grew up with in his new memoir, Born Round. “It was 1957; my parents had just been married and were living in San Diego, where my father, then a junior officer in the Navy, was stationed. The first time he shipped out for several months, my mother decided she wanted to surprise him when he got home by making pasta with Grandma's style of gravy. So she wrote Grandma and asked her for the recipe." What the Brunis and many southern Italians call gravy, most people would describe as tomato sauce, with myriad cuts of beef and pork—including cheesy, herbed meatballs, sweet sausages and seared pork loin—all of which are simmered in the sauce until they’re wonderfully tender. Bruni shares the recipe exclusively with Food & Wine here.

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