Is gravy an­other name for pasta sauce?


Spe­cial to the Whig

Dear Li­brar­ian: My friend says his Ital­ian grand­mother makes lasagna with home­made gravy ev­ery Sun­day for a fam­ily din­ner. I thought gravy was some­thing brown you put on mashed pota­toes, but he swears it’s full of toma­toes, sausage, and basil. What is he talk­ing about?

Dear Reader: Your friend’s fam­ily seems to have cho­sen their side in a cen­tury-old de­bate, which is a timely topic with Na­tional Lasagna Day right around the cor­ner! While there’s no def­i­nite an­swer to this ques­tion, his­to­ri­ans have come up with a pretty good guess.

Around the turn of the 20th cen­tury, ap­prox­i­mately four mil­lion Ital­ians came to Amer­ica. They brought a recipe sim­i­lar to the one de­scribed by your friend. Dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies had slightly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of this recipe, but the core in­gre­di­ents and cook­ing process were the same. Toma­toes, garlic and fresh herbs melded for hours and hours with home­made meat­balls and sausage, pro­duc­ing a thick, de­li­cious con­coc­tion meant to be poured over pasta, lay­ered in lasagna or even scooped up with some crusty bread.

At some point, an Ital­ian im­mi­grant tried de­scrib­ing this sub­stance and didn’t know the English word to do so. You may know it as “sauce,” but for many Ital­ian fam­i­lies, even to­day, it’s “gravy.” While the word “gravy” usu­ally brings to mind a flour-thick­ened liq­uid made with meat drip­pings in­stead of toma­toes, meat and herbs thick­ened through long sim­mer­ing, the end re­sult is still a fla­vor­ful top­ping for your dish of choice. Sauce, gravy. Potato, po-tah-to. No mat­ter what word you use, there’s noth­ing like lay­er­ing it with meats, pasta, and cheese for a true Ital­ian din­ner.

If your friend’s fam­ily serves it with red wine, garlic bread and a fresh Cae­sar salad, you can only hope he in­vites you to come along. If he doesn’t, don’t worry. You can still cel­e­brate Na­tional Lasagna Day by check­ing out a cook­book from your lo­cal branch of the Ce­cil County Pub­lic Li­brary. Hope­fully you find that what you call it doesn’t mat­ter nearly as much as how it tastes! Lidia Bas­tianach’s Lasagna Napo­le­tana in­cludes home­made pasta and hard­boiled eggs for a uniquely au­then­tic taste. Find it in “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Ital­ian Cui­sine: Every­thing You Need to Know to Be a Great Ital­ian Cook.” Or try the rich taste of béchamel sauce and veal in Lasagna with Meat Ragu from Rachael Ray’s “Ev­ery­one Is Ital­ian on Sun­day.” There’s even a Roasted Veg­etable Lasagna, chock full of egg­plant and ri­cotta, found in Ina Garten’s “Make it Ahead: A Bare­foot Contessa Cook­book.”

CCPL also of­fers nu­mer­ous dig­i­tal mag­a­zines to down­load to your com­puter or de­vice, in­clud­ing “Food Net­work Mag­a­zine,” ” Saveur” and “Eat­ing Well” with the li­brary’s Zinio ser vice. Buon ap­petito! Last Week’s Trivia Ques­tion: What adult fic­tion au­dio­book was checked out by the most Ce­cil County Pub­lic Li­brary pa­trons in 2015? An­swer: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

This Week’s Trivia Ques­tion: Which comic char­ac­ter has de­scribed lasagna as “na­ture’s most per­fect food?”

Up­com­ing Event: News­pa­per Chair Chal­lenge at the Ch­e­sa­peake City Branch. Tues­day, Au­gust 2 at 4 p.m. Use only news­pa­per and tape to make a chair sturdy enough to hold you or your friends. Ages 11-17. Call 410-9961134 to re­serve your spot!

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