Paying tribute to Marcella Hazan

Hazan cookbooks

We’ve been reading the tributes to Marcella Hazan that have been published since she passed away yesterday and were struck by some fascinating items about this preeminent teacher of Italian cuisine.

First and foremost, she was as much a teacher as a chef – one of the most effective in preaching and spreading the gospel of authentic Italian cuisine. As the NY Times noted in their obituary, Changed the Way Americans Cook Italian Food, “The impact Mrs. Hazan had on the way America cooks Italian food is impossible to overstate. Even people who have never heard of Marcella Hazan cook and shop differently because of her, and the six cookbooks she wrote, starting in 1973 with “The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating.”

But she didn’t just impact Americans. Matthew Fort has a wonderful tribute to her in The Guardian. He echoes several common themes: her somewhat brusque manner, her insistence on authenticity and simplicity, her slight preference for her own native northern Italian cooking, and goes on to note: “But in her insistence on correct procedure, on doing things a certain way and making clear the connection between the process and the result, she presents the true and unequivocal spirit of Italian cooking.”

And, in the Eater, they produced several comments from her peers on her passing – none better than that from Mario Batalli, “I didn’t pay attention to Julia Child like everyone else said they did…I paid attention to Marcella Hazan.”

And here are some other interesting facts about her:

  • She only wrote 6 cookbooks (1973 to 2004)- somehow it seemed like more.
  • She wrote the cookbooks in Italian – she couldn’t write in English – and her husband translated them.
  • She had no formal training in cooking – but  had a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara.
  • From a childhood accident, she had a crippled right arm, but could still hold a knife.

We’ll take the last word here, and just say “Molte grazie” for the following:

Photo courtesy of The Eater




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  • nicolepellegrini  on  September 30, 2013

    Oh dear, I didn't know she had passed away! I'm shocked and saddened; her cookbooks were my first exposure to learning to cook Italian food "like a true Italian" and are still the first books I reach for when researching a new recipe or ingredient.

  • nomadchowwoman  on  October 1, 2013

    My paternal grandmother emigrated from Sicily as a toddler and my mother grew up in an Italian (Sicilian) neighborhood in NY and as far as they (both wonderful cooks) were concerned and I knew, "Italian" food was defined by Italian-American red sauce classics. Marcella Hazan opened up a whole other world of Italian food for me, and I am ever grateful. So many wonderful recipes! Her recipe for braised pork chops with cream and porcini mushrooms (Essentials) is just one of our favorites.

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