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Readers Respond: What do you call the stuff that goes over pasta?

Responses: 117


Sauce, Gravy....?

—Guest Giuseppe

sauce or gravy

if your irish its sauce if your italian its gravy ..........................................................................................................................................
—Guest anthony


I was brought up in Queens, NY my parents both Italian decent. They always called it sauce. To me sauce over pasta and gravy over meat.
—Guest Margarita

Sauce to me - until Hollywood/HBO

I'm only 1/4 Italian. All thickened tomato-based liquids poured over pasta or rice was sauce. It wasn't until Goodfellas/the Sopranos that I heard references to "the gravy". Ditto for referring to pasta in general as "macaroni". I inferred this must be a regional (New Jersey) vernacular. All my life, gravy referred to meat drippings thickened with butter and flour. Everything else was a sauce. I don't know if there is any etymological relationship between the French term "rou" and the Italian "ragu". But being an affianado of mob-genre movies, and having spent six years living in New Jersey, I started referring to meat-based red sauces cooked for a long time as gravy —much to the consternation of my friends and family here in North Carolina. But hey — I also refer to people at work being fired as getting "wacked". Lol.
—Guest Robert

It makes sense

I was raised with lots of Italian cooking and have now spent a year abroad in Italy. My parents referred to it as both gravy and sauce. In Italian, the word sugo literally translates to gravy. An earlier post said it means sauce; that is NOT true. Sauce in italian is salsa. In Italy, when you make your gravy/sauce for pasta you start with a bottle or can of what Americans would call tomato sauce but in Italian it is called sugo di pomodoro. You then add your other ingredients and seasonings. This explains why it has been translated as gravy. So, if an Italian person speaks English and calls it sauce, he has altered it from what he calls it in his own language. This is completely normal though, as many things are not translated literally because there are different meanings and connotations of words and terms in other languages. Obviously it is just an issue of preference. Many Italian immigrants called it gravy, other call it sauce. Call it what you want to call it.
—Guest Mr. Brown

Gravy or Sugo

I remember that in Philly we called it gravy, or sugo, but didn't usually refer to it as sauce, until years later.
—Guest Donato


gravy growing up. I'm now 80 and its sauce. My grandchildren say gravy and my adult sons, mix sauce and gravy.
—Guest peter


Maxilla, and on the bottom is the mandible, of course......
—Guest brian458666

Salsa o Sugo Sauce or Gravy

Noi la chiamamo Salsa come salsa ala Bolognese. We in northern Italy like Vicenza we call it Sauce, which is a translation for Sauce But we also call it Sugo, which could be translated to Gravy

Gravy or Sauce

Either is correct. It all depends on the type, thickness and yes the region of Italy ones family is from because they speak different dialects and not all the words necessarily translate the same. I've witness many discussions about the varrious translations of diffrent italian words. Not to mention if the family came to America as the first wavy of Italians from the south or the second wavy of Italians from the north. Here in New Jersey born in a primarily Italian neighborhood it has always been called gravy since my great grandparents got off the boat in 1885. That would be before the canned and jarred stuff (made with a large amount of corn syrup today) was invented. Our home made is thick, smooth, very red and made with either pork (my preference) or beef. People here rarely if ever make it with out meat.
—Guest flora74

Gravy or Sauce

The translation of the Italian word Sugo is Sauce. "Gravy" is a bastardization apparently used in certain parts of the Eastern States, and I'd guess by families descended from Southern Italians. I have never heard the term "gravy" in Italy or in the homes of the descendants of Northern Italians, like my husband.
—Guest Cindy


Much of my life was spent on Federal Hill in Providence RI. I have always heard it called gravy. And, that is what I call it today.
—Guest J.H.R


I am fairly certain that it is called sauce vs gravy depending on which part of USA your families settled in as opposed to which part of Italy they came from. My grandparents were from Northern Italy and settled in SW PA. I have never heard GRAVY. It seems gravy is used in Jersey and Philly. I wish all of those calling it GRAVY would tell us where they grew up in the USA.
—Guest Sharon

Sauce, Gravy

Everyone in my family - parents, aunts, uncles, cousins... called it gravy
—Guest JMark

Sauce or Gravy

To bambulady54: Show me one can of "gravy" in the sauce aisle of the store that is "red". Next time you are there, take a good look at all the tomatoe products and you will never see the word gravy on any of them. Someone way back somewhere, referred to sauce, mistakenly,as gravy and from there it was passed on.

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