How Rachael Ray Really Feels About The Sauce Vs. Gravy Debate

Italian Americans are responsible for many foods served in restaurants and home kitchens today. If you visit Italy, you might be shocked to notice that you won't find veal parmigiana, spaghetti and meatballs, or even Italian dressing. All these are modifications created by Italian-Americans of foods found in Italy (via Flavours Holidays). Often, those changes were made by home cooks using what was available to them.

This is where the debate over whether a red sauce served over pasta is called sauce or gravy ensues, and it can get hotter than a lasagna fresh from the oven. Those who call it sauce say gravy is what's poured over mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, while others insist gravy — sometimes called red gravy — is made from tomatoes and served over pasta.

You can't settle this debate by asking native Italians. In Italy, a red sauce is called sugo or ragu if it contains meat, and salsa if it doesn't (via Matador Network). There's no word in Italian for gravy. The closest translation is sugo di carne — meat sauce. It's believed Italian immigrants used the word gravy to better fit into their new country 

Rachael Ray's take on the debate

Rachael Ray is a Food Network star, cookbook author, editor-in-chief of her own magazine, and host of the "Rachael Ray Show." Ray, whose full name is Rachael Domenica Scuderi-Ray, is of Italian descent, and she has a pretty strong opinion on the gravy vs. sauce debate.

On Sundays, Ray's Italian grandfather would make spaghetti topped with red sauce or what she refers to as "Sunday Gravy," (via Food Network). You'd think Ray would be on team gravy in the gravy vs. sauce debate, but she says she has no opinion either way. "It's such a silly argument to me," Ray says in a video on her website. The culinary queen's opinion on the argument is that there shouldn't be one.

What determines what you call the tasty pasta topping? According to What's Cooking in Italian Style Cuisine, much depends upon your upbringing. If your nonna called it sauce, it's sauce. But, if she said it was gravy, you'll call it gravy. Nobody argues with nonna. According to Hard Core Italians, some people may even consider it an insult to their family if someone argues with them over what it should be called.

A traditional Sunday meal

Whether they called it gravy or sauce, there is one tradition Italian Americans, like Rachael Ray's family, hold dear — Sunday dinner. Often served right after Mass, this is a time to gather after a long week — usually the only day off all week — enjoy favorite foods together, drink wine, and give appreciation for the bounty on the table (per The US World Herald). The noontime meals frequently consisted of six courses starting with appetizers and ending with an after-dinner digestif. This weekly meal would often last until the dinner hour, with many family members lending a hand in its creation (via Your Guardian Chef). The Sunday dinner tradition was passed down from generation to generation and was a time to experience the fellowship of family and friends despite any differences they may have had.

So, the next time someone takes you to task for referring to sauce as gravy or vice versa, take this advice from Ray, "Don't fight about food. There's so much going on in the world."