Earlier this afternoon I saw that culinary giant Marcella Hazan had died. Although this news didn’t jar me the way that the death of Julia Child had, it did make me think about the investment in time and creativity that Hazan contributed to the lives of cooks, bloggers, and chefs all over the world.
Marcella Hazan Was Approachable
One of the things you could say about Marcella Hazan is that she was one of the most available culinary celebrities around. She was active on social media, left comments on food blogs, and generally approachable in a way that not many celebrity chefs are. She handed out her incredible advice so generously and so kindly that it was like she was just another food writer instead of a brilliant author and culinary authority.
It’s unusual for older people to be on Facebook but Hazan opened an account to see what it was like. She was an opinionated, interesting, sometimes bluntly honest. She was not afraid of controversy or a spirited discussion as anyone who engaged her would agree.
Hazan was to Italian food what Child was to French.
Home Cook Turned Teacher
Although Hazan had not cooked before her marriage in 1955 she soon found that married life required that she provide meals to her new husband. Although she had cookbooks from her beloved Italy she soon realized that she could do better by replicating a favorite dish from memory. She began giving cooking lessons in her apartment and eventually opened her own cooking school. From there she was asked to contribute recipes to the New York Times.
Her first cookbook, The Classic Italian Cookbook, was published in 1973, followed by another in 1978. The books concentrated on traditional Italian, using authentic ingredients and menus.
Hazan’s Commitment to Fresh, Handmade Foods
Hazan eschewed the use of machines preferring to create some pastas by hand while buying others, and choosing stove top cooking over oven because it allowed the cook to engage more fully with the meal. She was an early advocate of fresh, local ingredients cooked in season, suggesting that fresh vegetables be soaked in cold water to remove the grit.
Salt was used generously at a time when doctors and dietitians were warning cooks away from generously salting foods. In many ways Hazan’s use of salt was like her friend Julia Child’s use of butter — copious.
Simple recipes that allowed the flavors of foods to shine through were a hallmark of her cooking style. Chicken roast with just two lemons in the cavity, four ingredient tomato sauce, and a simple pork Bolognese are dishes that she will be remembered for.
She warned against using too much garlic, something she felt was common in Italian American cooking. Introducing us to balsamic vinegar, teaching us not to make mushy pasta — she was a cooking muse that will be missed by everyone in the culinary world.
Classic Marcella Hazen Recipes
You can try some of her dishes in your own kitchen. Here are some that you might be interested in trying.