The Sunday roast is a traditional British and Irish main meal served on Sundays, consisting of roasted meat, roast potato or mashed potato, with accompaniments, such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. The meal is often comparable to a less grand version of a traditional Christmas dinner in these cultures.

There are (at least) two opinions on the origins of the Sunday Roast. One holds that, during the industrial revolution, Yorkshire families left a cut of meat in the oven before going to church on a Sunday morning, which was then ready to eat by the time they arrived home at lunchtime.The second opinion holds that the Sunday Roast dates back to medieval times, when the village serfs served the squire for six days a week. Then on the Sunday, after the morning church service, serfs would assemble in a field, practice their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit.

Typical meats used for a Sunday dinner roast are beef, chicken, lamb or pork, although duck, goose, ham, turkey or other game birds may be used. Sunday roasts can be served with a range of boiled, steamed and roasted vegetables. The vegetables served vary seasonally and regionally, but will usually include potatoes roasted alongside the meat and gravy made from juices released by the roasting meat and thickened with flour. Other vegetable dishes served with a roast dinner can include mashed turnips, roasted parsnips, boiled or steamed cabbage, broccoli, green beans, boiled carrots and peas. It is also not uncommon to find vegetable dishes — such as cauliflower gratin or stewed red cabbage — to be served alongside the more usual assortment of plainly-cooked seasonal vegetables.

In Italy, the Sunday main meal is important. All across Italy in restaurants, houses and dining rooms, every Sunday at about one in the afternoon, the majority of people will sit down to eat with friends and family, dressed in their finest. Like clockwork, piazzas will suddenly empty of their crowds; churches, having finished services, will close their doors and bars will serve their last drink.

Typical meals, depending on the region in Italy, follows:

Northern Italian Menu

Starter: soppressa – salami and formaggi – cheeses

First Course: tortellini in stock, risotto al radicchio – chicory risotto

Second Course: coniglio – rabbit and vitello arrosto – roast veal (probably cooked under salt)

Vegetables: composta di verdure cotte – mixed cooked vegetables, patate al forno – roast potatoes

Dessert: crostata – a sort of jam or fruit tart and zuppa inglese – an Italian version of English trifle

Central Italian Menu

Starter: crostini – croutons and salumi misti – selection of salami and cooked and smoked hams

First Course: pasta al forno – oven cooked pasta and pasta al ragù – pasta with ragu

Secondi: arista di maiale – roast pork and pollo arrosto – roast chicken

Vegetables: piselli – peas and patate al forno – roast potatoes

Dessert: biscottini – biscuits and tiramisù

Southern Italian Menu

Starter: prosciutto e melone – smoked ham and melon , salame – salami and formaggi – cheeses

First Course: linguine di mare, pasta al forno –

Second Course: agnello – lamb and polpettone – meatballs

Vegetables: insalata mista – salad, peperoni al forno – roast peppers

Dessert: pasticcini – small cakes, babà – rum baba

Italian American Sunday Dinner

Growing up in an Italian American family, Sunday was the day for our family to get together for a large meal, share it with relatives and watch sports. My siblings and I often looked forward to having a few relatives invited for dinner, because they brought dessert. It was almost always Italian cookies and pastries from an Italian bakery. We loved to peak in the boxes, however, it always seemed like a long time until dessert.

Dinner was served around 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. The adults would pick on an antipasto, usually salami, cheese and bread while dinner cooked.  When we sat down to dinner, the first course was always pasta, usually ravioli or ziti. My mother was fond of cooking eye of the round roasts with potatoes cooked in the same pan and there always seemed to be peas and salad. Once in awhile pork roast with potatoes was the feature, but not often. I suspect my father really liked the beef roast. At the time, I didn’t like a roast of any kind. My tastes have evolved.

Boring, you say! For sure. So I offer you a menu of possible Sunday dinner options – that are not boring.

Turkey Breast Braciola

I would serve this roast with Oven-roasted Vegetables with Rosemary, Bay Leaves and Garlic

(see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/07/vegetables-on-the-side-no-butter-please/

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head escarole (about 1 1/2 pounds), washed well and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted and crushed
  • 1 slice Italian bread, minced (about 1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs)
  • 1 skinless boneless turkey breast half (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

 Directions:

Coarsely chop enough escarole to measure about 6 cups, loosely packed, and reserve remaining escarole for another use. In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute the shallots, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add chopped escarole to the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted. Stir 1/2 cup broth and cook over high heat until most liquid is evaporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir mozzarella, Parmesan, nuts and bread into filling.

Put turkey on a long sheet of plastic wrap. Butterfly turkey breast: Beginning from a long side make a horizontal lengthwise cut almost but not all the way through turkey and spread turkey open to form a larger, thinner piece of meat. Top turkey with another sheet of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or bottom of a heavy skillet until meat measures about 12 by 8 inches, being careful not to make any holes in it.

Discard top sheet of plastic wrap and arrange prosciutto, overlapping slightly, in one layer over turkey. Spread a 1/2-inch-thick layer of filling over prosciutto, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Beginning with a long side and using the plastic wrap on the bottom as a guide, roll up turkey and turn it seam side down (discard plastic wrap). Tie rolled turkey with kitchen string lengthwise and then crosswise at 1-inch intervals. Season with salt and pepper.

In a 12-inch deep skillet (with a cover) heat remaining tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking, and brown turkey on all sides. Add wine, remaining cup of broth and braise, covered, over moderately low heat for 35 minutes.Turn turkey over halfway through the cooking time.

Transfer turkey to a cutting board and rest 10 minutes. Strain braising liquid through a sieve into a small saucepan. Boil liquid until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Stir in lemon juice. Discard string from turkey and slice turkey crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and drizzle turkey with sauce.

Rib-Eye Roast with Wine Gravy

I would serve this roast with Twice-Baked Potatoes and Sauteed Kale.

4 to 6 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 1 – 4-pound bone-in rib eye roast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Gravy:

  •  1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bottle drinking red wine, such as Malbec
  • 5 cups beef stock

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a heavy hand, season rib eye roast with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat olive oil in bottom of large Dutch Oven. Place beef in hot pan and sear in oil to a deep golden brown on all sides. Move pan to the heated oven for about 15 minutes per pound for medium rare, making for an approximate hour of cooking time. Remove the pan from oven and transfer the beef to a cutting board. Allow meat to rest for at least 15 minutes, tented with foil.

Gravy:

Pour off excess fat from the Dutch Oven and place the pot on the stove top over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until soft and brown, about 4 to 6 minutes. De-glaze the pot with 1/2 cup of the wine and cook, scraping up browned bits. Add remaining wine and bring to a boil reduce by half. Add stock and simmer until reduced again by about half. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Carve beef against the grain, in thin slices and serve with gravy.

Tuscan Pork Roast

Serve this roast with Angel Hair Pasta with Pesto Sauce and a Tomato Salad.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bone-in pork loin roast, about 4 ½ to 5 lbs – center cut pork loin
  • 1 cup white wine

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degree F.

Ask your butcher for a rib section center cut pork loin. You can have the butcher cut the bones away from the meat but leave the undercut attached then re-assemble the piece and tie it with twine. Or, you can just cook it on the bone.

Combine the garlic, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush the meat with oil and rub herb mixture over the entire roast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

Place the pork in a greased baking pan, pour in the wine and roast in the oven for 1 1/2 -2 hours, basting the meat with the pan juices. Roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. at its thickest part (do not allow the thermometer to touch the bone). Remove the pan from the oven and place the pork roast on a carving board. Slice the meat and arrange on a serving platter. Pour the pan juices over the meat.

Herb-and-Lemon-Roasted Chicken

I would serve a Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf and Oven Roasted Asparagus with the chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 garlic cloves, 1 minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary plus 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme plus 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 4-pound chicken, at room temperature
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 lemon, cut crosswise into 8 rounds
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. In a bowl, mix the butter with the minced garlic, minced herbs and the lemon zest. 

Pat the chicken dry. Rub half of the herb butter under the skin and the rest over the chicken; season with salt and pepper.

Set the chicken, breast-side-up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Scatter the onion, lemon, garlic cloves and herb sprigs around the chicken and add 1/2 cup of water. Roast for 30 minutes, until the breast is firm and just beginning to brown in spots. Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-down and roast for 20 minutes longer, until the skin is lightly browned.

Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-side-up. Add another 1/2 cup of water. Roast for about 20 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 175° to 180°.

Tilt the chicken to drain the cavity juices into the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Remove the rack from the pan and spoon off the fat. Set the pan over high heat. Add the stock and cook, scraping up any browned bits. Press the lemon slices to release the juices into the pan. Strain the sauce and pour into a serving bowl. Carve the chicken and pass the lemon sauce at the table.

Rack of Lamb With Smoked Paprika Crust

Serve this roast with cooked cannellini beans and broccoli rabe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack of lamb (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium slice rye bread, broken into pieces.

Directions:

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Trim the lamb of excess fat, but leave a layer of fat over the meat. Cut about halfway down the bones between the chops; this allows the meat between them to become crisp.

Put the oil, garlic, paprika and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a small  food processor and puree; add the bread and pulse a few times to make rough crumbs. Rub this mixture over the meat side of the rack and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Put it in a roasting pan and into the oven; roast for 18 to 20 minutes. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer straight in from one end into the meatiest part. If it reads 125 degrees F. or more, remove the lamb immediately. If it reads less, put the lamb back for 5 minutes, no more. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve, separating the ribs by cutting down straight through them.

Yield: 4 servings.