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Italian Cuisine Truisms


10 of 10

In Italy They Call It Gravy
Sugo alla Bolognese in the Making

Sugo alla Bolognese in the Making

It being pasta sauce, and the answer is no, simply because gravy is an English word (sorry).

In Italy there are sugo and salsa. Sugo derives from succo (juices), and refers to pan drippings from the cooking of meats, rich meat-based sauces along the lines of sugo alla Bolognese, or thick vegetable sauces (which often, though not always, go over pasta). A salsa is a semi-liquid-to-liquid raw or cooked sauce that's used as a condiment. It can go over pasta, for example pesto alla genovese, but can also be used to season other dishes. For example, salsa verde is wonderful over boiled meats or potatoes, as is mayonnaise (salsa maionese in many cookbooks). If a sauce is especially delicate, it may be called "salsina."

The passage from sugo/salsa to sauce/gravy must have occurred when immigrant families settled into new neighborhoods in the US, and is, I expect, an Italian-American family/neighborhood tradition more than anything else. Some immigrants translated the Italian for what they put on their pasta as gravy, while others translated it as sauce, and the translations have been passed down through the generations, becoming law in the process. People get amazingly passionate over things like this.

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