Marcella Hazan Made A Huge Impact

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


Marcella Hazan grew up in the village of Cesenatico in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.

She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara.

She enrolled in a Chinese cooking class and when the instructor left, the other students put her in charge.

She began giving cooking lessons in her apartment, and opened her own cooking school, The School of Classic Italian Cooking.

She impressed Craig Claiborne, at the time the food editor of the New York Times–so much so he invited her to contribute recipes to the paper.

She published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.

She published a sequel, More Classic Italian Cooking, 1978; those two books were collected in one volume, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, in 1992.

She wrote Marcella Cucina and in 1997 won the James Beard Best Mediterranean Cookbook award and the Julia Child Award for Best International Cookbook.

She wrote her memoirs in 2009. Entitled Amarcord, it means “I remember” in her native Romagnolo dialect.

No one has ever done more to spread the gospel of pure Italian cookery in America.

She had her own opinions and was not adverse to expressing them. Here are a few to ponder:

  • Choose vegetables that are in season and plan the entire meal around them.
  • Soak vegetables in cold water for half an hour before cooking to remove all trace of grit. Cook them until they are tender, but not mushy, so that they have a rich flavor.
  • When sauteéing onions, put them in a cold pan with oil and heat them gently; this will make them release their flavour gradually and give them a mellower taste than starting them in a hot pan.
  • Although some types of pasta, like tagliatelle, are best made freshly at home, others, like spaghetti, should be bought dried. Pasta should be matched carefully to sauce.
  • Olive oil isn’t always the best choice for frying; in delicately flavoured dishes, a combination of butter and vegetable oil should be used.
  • Garlic presses should be avoided at all costs.

She was praised by Craig Claiborne. He said of Hazan’s work, “No one has ever done more to spread the gospel of pure Italian cookery in America”.

She taught us to keep it simple, strive for flavor and helped us “understand that recipes in books are just blueprints and the real architect is the cook”.

She is universally regarded as “the queen of Italian cooking in America”.

She was one of our very favorites.

She will be missed.

Thank you, Marcella.

Can you share a favorite Marcella Hazen story? Have you ever cooked with her recipes?

Photo credit: Allison Harris