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The Chef Who Americanized Italian Food

01-R-Marcella-Hazan-SquareCulinary giant Marcella Hazan lay for the world the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. She was, indeed, the Julia Child of Italian cooking.

Whether it was her heightened sensitivity to fundamentals (being a science scholar) or her fundamental innocence, Marcella Hazan did break down recipes to comprehensible fundamentals – that helped us serve restaurant quality food at home!

Marcella introduced Italian flavors to America, or shall we say – the world. She was the one to liberate cooks from the age-old notionthat a dish should to be laden with butter, cream and other rich garnishings, to taste good. For her the taste lay in the bottom of every dish, not in the cover. “Flavor, in Italian dishes, builds up from the bottom. It is not a cover, it is a base. In a pasta sauce, a risotto, a fricassee, a stew, or a dish of vegetables, a foundation of flavor supports, lifts, points up the principal ingredients” – so reads page 7 Fundamentals of her phenomenal book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

The trend, before Hazan, was to cook French and name every dish French – if the chef was to make a name, that is. As against this, today, a restaurant menu is incomplete without a pasta, lasagne, risotto thrown in. And a passionate eater doesn’t mind having to sign a generous cheque for the savored Italian flavors. This wouldn’t have been possible, not so early on at least, had it not been for Hazan’ssimple yet meticulous teachings on Italian cooking.

We lost the queen of Italian cooking recently (on September 29, 2013). The loss, needless to say, is irreparable for chefs, home-cooks, and foodies alike. Renowned American chef and media personality, Mario Batali says, “More than any other person, Marcella Hazan brought Italian flavors and spirit to America. Her books continue to inspire my work. She was a chef’s chef. And she will be truly missed.”

Here are some books by the great chef that will truly inspire you to capture the essence of food while cooking Italian.

  • The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating (1973)
  • More Classic Italian Cooking (1978)
  • Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (1986)
  • Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)
  • Marcella Cucina (1997)
  • Marcella Says: Italian Cooking Wisdom from the Legendary Teacher’s Master Classes With 120 of Her Irresistible New Recipes (2004)
  • Amarcord: Marcella Remembers (2008)
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