Knuckles Family Sunday Italian Gravy

In recipes passed down generation to generation, measurements tend to get less precise and more to taste. In the Knuckles recipe, a pinch refers to ⅛–¼ teaspoon of the ingredient. A heavy pinch refers to a ½ teaspoon. Really, it’s about getting comfortable with making the recipe to fit your palate.
Photography By Jennifer Rubenstein | November 12, 2016


Chop celery, carrots, onion and garlic into small chunks. Place in food processor. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 fresh basil leaves and 1 heavy pinch of salt. Process until veggies become paste.

In a heavy-bottom stockpot with a good lid, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper flakes. Add veggie paste. Cook until paste heats through and becomes soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the Pinot Grigio. Cook for about 5 more minutes over medium heat. Add tomato paste. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add crushed tomatoes. Stir to incorporate all ingredients. Add dried basil, oregano and a pinch of rosemary and 1 heavy pinch of salt and a small pinch of white pepper. Add a little bit of either water or wine to gravy if it is too thick. Stir gravy to incorporate spices. Cover with tight lid. Bring to light boil, stirring every couple of minutes to keep from sticking, then simmer and cover and cook for a minimum of 2 hours—up to 4 if you have time. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

Remove the lid during the last 15–20 minutes of cooking to let it reduce. Add 3–4 fresh chopped basil leaves and oregano. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and granulated garlic powder, if necessary.

Just before serving, add about a handful of grated Parmesan cheese and stir.

Serve over your favorite pasta. Add fresh homemade meatballs to make it extra special. (Unfortunately, that recipe is a family secret.)


  • 2 celery stalks, including leaves
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 large onion
  • 4–5 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 heavy pinches sea or kosher salt, divided
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼–½ cup Pinot Grigio
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2–3 large cans crushed Roma tomatoes, preferably organic
  • Pinch (each) dried basil, oregano and rosemary
  • Small pinch white pepper
  • Pinch fresh oregano
  • Pinch garlic powder (optional)
  • Handful grated Parmesan cheese
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