Concetta - Our Gravy Queen
A few years before Concetta Parisi – our wonderful mom, grandmom and mother-in-law – passed away, I wanted to create a series of videos that would immortalize what she did best - preparing meals and feeding her family. Aside from her beloved soap operas,…
A few years before Concetta Parisi – our wonderful mom, grandmom and mother-in-law – passed away, I wanted to create a series of videos that would immortalize what she did best - preparing meals and feeding her family. Aside from her beloved soap operas, nothing mattered more to her than her children. To mom, making them a good meal was the ultimate expression of love and caring.
Mom had a number of specialties, but her most sought-after were her pasta meals prepared with her home-made/home-canned tomato marinara and purée, and of course, the “Gravy” itself. Additionally, her gnocchi, each lovingly turned with her own thumbs, her gravy meats like the braciole and Italian sausage, her inimitable large and soft meatballs, and her delicious eggplant parmigiana.
Mom was Wilmington’s “Gravy Queen.” Her children urged her to participate in the annual Vendemmia Gravy Contest. She entered in only two of those events, and in both, she placed first!
Many people have asked all of us for a copy of her “recipe.” But, as you’ll see, she had no recipe to give. She never measured a thing, she never wrote anything down. She simply knew what she had to do. She did do some experimenting as we found out, but she just knew how many pinches of this, how many handfuls of that to add to a meal being prepared.
And so, these videos will visually guide the viewer to mom’s use of the ingredients, her technique, and her process in making the world’s best tomato sauces and pasta meals.
We miss mom, but she will always be with us - in our hearts, minds and memories. As we attempt to replicate her wonderful dishes and her unique style, she will be looking over our shoulders, reassuring us as we chop and mix and stir and heat and serve and enjoy.
This project is dedicated to the memory of Concetta Parisi (1924 - 2014)
I’m going to state the obvious: my mother-in-law - Concetta Parisi - created THE BEST pasta sauce EVER!
Many have asked for her sauce “recipe”, particularly after having twice-won first place in the Wilmington, Delaware ‘Vendemmia Gravy Contest.’ But, “Mamma Concetta” (a.k.a. “Grandma Meatballs”) never relied on a single recipe, and certainly never wrote down ingredients, quantities or preparation instructions! Additionally, she never measured any ingredients! She had no measuring cups or spoons in the kitchen!! It was all done by intuition, experience and tender loving care for most of her 89 years.
So, in 2010, along with my wife Assunta and brother-in-law Peter Parisi, we embarked on an ambitious project of documenting Concetta’s award-winning pasta sauce preparation. The idea was to visually record the “secrets” of her pasta sauce and related delicacies - the meatballs, the braciole and other meats, the eggplant, and the pasta dishes.
This challenging project produced about four hours of exciting and mouth-watering video. I have had to therefore separate it into 17 separate videos to make this more manageable for everyone. First, though, you’ll find my very short introductory video where I reflect on Concetta and this project. Next, the first 12 segments go through almost all of the captured video and organized in specific tasks. If you are interested in seeing more of Concetta as well as additional content and commentary, you should be cure to view the first 12 segments. At the end of the list of 12 segments, you will find 5 additional videos that are shorter, abridged versions which get right to the point of learning how to make Concetta’s various delicacies.
And so, the segments of the entire project are listed below:
INTRODUCTION - ABOUT CONCETTA AND THIS PROJECT
Just a few spoken thoughts on Concetta and her cooking as well as some images of her.
Part 1: Getting Started (3m, 53s) [UNABRIDGED]
This segment covers the acquisition and preparation of the Roma tomatoes before cooking.
Part 2: Here We Go! (7m, 17s) [UNABRIDGED]
Cutting and examining the tomatoes, and then… into the pots they go!
Part 3: On the Stove (21m, 12s) [UNABRIDGED]
Making Marinara and getting ready for the Passapomodoro (tomato strainer machine)
Part 4: The Passapomodoro (21m, 17s) [UNABRIDGED]
Setting up the electric tomato strainer, and passing buckets-full of cooked tomatoes. A critical part in the making of Concetta’s Marinara and Tomato Purée. The final cooking of the Marinara.
Part 5: Canning (13m, 5s) [UNABRIDGED]
The jars are lined up and prepared with fresh basil leaves. The Marinara is introduced into the jars and then vacuum sealed. Concetta approves of her Marinara! The Tomato Purée is also canned into jars.
Part 6: Shopping with Concetta (2m, 18s) [UNABRIDGED]
A little trip to the supermarket to observe how Concetta selects the meats for her Italian delicacies.
Part 7: Making Pasta Sauce with the Meats (46m, 13s) [UNABRIDGED]
This is all about how the actual award-winning pasta sauce is prepared. Detailed preparation of the Braciole is shown. The Braciole, along with Italian Sausage and Pork Ribs are then used in the cooking process to flavor the sauce – the essence of our Gravy Queen’s secret to her wonderful pasta sauce! At the end of this segment, Concetta proudly displays her two 1st Place trophies for Best Gravy at the annual Vendemmia Gravy Contest in Wilmington, Delaware.
Part 8: Making Meatballs (28m, 43s) [UNABRIDGED]
Concetta is not only famous for her sauces, but for her meatballs as well. She is affectionately also known as “Grandma Meatballs.” This segment shows the whole process behind the making of our Gravy Queen’s meatballs.
Part 9: Making Eggplant Parmigiana (18m, 57s) [UNABRIDGED]
We can’t forget this staple dish when enjoying Concetta’s delicious pasta dinners. This segment shows how the eggplant is prepared for cooking and how she puts this tasty dish together.
Part 10: Preparing the Pasta (10m, 46s) [UNABRIDGED]
A little dissertation on the proper way of cooking long pasta. Concetta prepares a pound of linguine with her famous sauce.
Part 11: How to Eat Pasta the Italian Way (4m, 5s) [UNABRIDGED]
A demonstration of how to properly handle and eat pasta. As seen in this segment, Concetta follows the traditions of pasta twirling and doing the “scarpetta.”
Part 12: Concetta Prepares Meatballs for Family One Last Time (6m, 4s) [UNABRIDGED]
On February 4, 2014 - exactly one month before her passing - Concetta wanted to prepare a nice gnocchi dinner for a family gathering, even though she was not at all feeling well. Alas, nothing would prevent her from feeding the family! In this last segment, Concetta prepares a small batch of meatballs. We see her one last time, serving her gnocchi in her famous pasta sauce along with her equally famous meatballs, sausage and braciole.
RECAP - MARINARA & PURÉE (29m, 52s)
Abridged version gets directly to the actual steps Concetta and Peter went through to prepare and can the Marinara and the Purée.
RECAP - GRAVY MEATS (16m, 50s)
Abridged version detailing the actual steps Concetta went though in preparing and cooking the meats that would eventually be used to make her famous gravy.
RECAP - MAKING THE GRAVY (12m, 41s)
Abridged version detailing the steps and techniques Concetta uses to make her award-wining Gravy.
RECAP - MAKING MEATBALLS (19m, 35s)
Abridged version detailing the steps and techniques Concetta uses to make her unbelievable meatballs.
RECAP - MAKING EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA (14m, 53s)
Abridged version detailing the making of Concetta’s signature eggplant dish.
This project is dedicated to the memory of Concetta Parisi (1924 - 2014)