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

Responses: 117


From the article: Pasta:
A while back Jennifer wrote to ask:

"I was witness to a heated discussion at my brother's dinner table last evening. We were raised that it is sauce; my sister-in-law was raised calling it gravy. I've spoken with Italians who have called it sauce, and some who have referred to it as gravy. Is it a regional thing? Is it gravy when it is cooked with meat? (I've received that explanation). Please advise and potentially stop a divorce from occurring."

excuse me

Sicilians do not call it gravy!! That is not a Sicilian word!! Its sarsa(spoken in Sicilian phonetically). Gravy is a brown sauce American people put in meatloaf or turkey. The term gravy is an American/Italian word!! My father who has a Sicilian accent can't even say theword gravy correctly!! Go to real Italian or Sicilian or Sardinian ,people ask for gravy and they will laugh in your face!!!
—Guest Agata Bianco

gravy or sauce?

Its tomato sauce,( sugo) gravy you put on steak or mash potatoes or turkey,it doesnt sound righ pass me some tomato gravy!! you says pass me some tomato sauce!!! i am full blood Italian!! and proud!!! lol
—Guest julia parente

Gravy or Sauce

My family came from central and southern Italy, Bovino,Naples, & Sicily, and we know it as Gravy. However, that was if it had meat in it, otherwise it is called Madanad (marinara). As time has passed, the Madanad has been referred to as sauce. The crap in the bottles should be labeled as that.......Crap. But hey, if you don't know any better I guess it's good. You will not see a can of Tomatos referred to as Gravy, because society political correctness and uniformity to call it sauce. No matter what it's called, if it's made right, and everyone likes it, who really cares what it's called. Vheck out this video of the Bensonhurst Spelling Bee, and learn how to pronounce these item properly, plus its pretty funny. Pass the Ramano let's eat. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qcp8rN-YqLw
—Guest Ken D'Ademo


Gravy!!! I am 100% Italian. Grandparents from both Northern and Southern Italy and settled in CT.
—Guest Allison

gravy or sauce

Some in my Italian American Family call it Sauce some call it Gravy we are all right and none of us wrong as long as it taste wonderful.
—Guest joanne

La Bella Salsa de Pomodoro

My Tuscan heritage never heard of tomatoe gravy....su la pastasciutta....!?!
—Guest Jim Vettori

Sauce v gravy

Umm! Don't be dissing Sicilians. I am Sicilian and I call it sauce. Gravy is for turkeys at Thanksgiving here in America. Even my non italian friends call it sauce. I know 2 people that call it gravy, and they are italian but they are not Sicilian so don't be knocking my people!
—Guest Danielle


My Sicilian Grandfather & Tuscan Grandmother call it SAUCE.
—Guest Jennifer

If you're ITALIAN, it's SAUCE!!

Dumb freakin' Sicilians call it gravy...they are not Italians!! It is also called "macaroni", not pasta!!
—Guest Sharon

'Salsa v Gravy' debate

This isn't an Italian-American v Italian debate - it's US English v UK English debate. I was raised in Sicily and have worked all over Italy, from north to south and in Italy the word GRAVY is not used by any Italian to describe any sauce! It's Salsa (di Pomodoro) or Ragú (di Carne). Gravy, to describe a sauce is American, not Italian. It comes from an old french word for a meat broth thickened with grains - GRAVÉ. It came into the English language in 1066 after the French conquest of England. A 17th century English dictionary describes it thus: 'GRAVEY, BROTHY DRESSING FOR MEAT OR FISH'. The Pilgrim Fathers brought the word GRAVY with them when they arrived on the East Coast in the 1600s. East Coast Italian migrants adopted it from English in the 1860s, as a direct translation of DRESSING. If Americans want to call Salsa Gravy, what's the problem? As long as they don't really believe it to be an Italian word. It's old English! Besides, THERE IS NO LETTER 'Y' IN THE ITALIAN ALPHABET!

Salsa v. Gravy Debate

I'm English-Italian and grew up in Sicily. I've spent my life working in Italy - GRAVY isn't used by Italians North OR South to describe any pasta sauce! It's Salsa (tomato) or Ragú (meat). Gravy is an American term, not Italian. But this isn't really a US v Italian debate - it's US English v UK English. Originally from an old french word for a meat broth - GRAVÉ - it came to England after the French conquest of 1066. A 12th century dictionary describes it thus: Juices exuding from flesh during & after cooking. When the Pilgrim Fathers arrived on the east coast in 1620 they brought the word GRAVEY with them. When Italians arrived in the 1860s they adopted some English and used GRAVY to describe SALSA (TOMATO only, never for Alfredo, Carbonara etc) There are many differences between UK English & US English: Candy v Sweets, Cookies v Biscuits, Biscuits v Scones etc this is another English word that amongst some US Americans has a different meaning - but it's not Italian, it's English...


I believe most of us 1st generation Italian--Americans called it gravy because that is how it was translated to our parents - at home, we all called it ragu (our parents' way). Whatever, it is still good - go with your own feelings - why should anyone care? About pronouncing words incorrectly - that REALLY bugs me! If you know the correct Italian pronunciation, do not listen to others - they mostly got it from dialects - you do not drop the final vowel - you pronounce it! Some of those "words" so confused me, I had to ask my mother what they meant - she laughed and said "they are dialects". So be it.


It was gravy when I was a girl in the Bronx and it is Gravy for me now in Massachusetts. No 2 ways about it, you can take this girl our of the Bronx but you can't take the Bronx out of this girl!
—Guest Anna Bucciarelli

Touchy, touchy, people!

Sauce, gravy, it's what you grew up with. NEITHER is wrong. And in my Italian immigrant grandmother's kitchen, it was called gravy, and the tradition continues in my family!!
—Guest Donna

Sauce, Gravy?

If it has meat, it is gravy. If it is plain tomato "sauce", it is sauce.
—Guest historicalpast

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