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!