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Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" vs "The Classic Italian Cook Book" and "More Classic Italian Cooking"

"Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" is an inferior one-volume edition of "The Classic Italian Cook Book" and its sequel, "More Classic Italian Cooking," two of the best cookbooks ever. In "Essentials," butter and oil amounts were reduced arbitrarily and clearly without retesting. While most of Hazan's recipes are fine with less fat, some simply don't work as printed.

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  1. Interesting - I'll have to do some comparing - I have "Essentials" as well as a paperback "More Classic ...." - what I do particularly like about the latter is the menu suggestions with each recipe. That said, I've always enjoyed cooking w/ "Essentials".

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      I kept my copy as it has some additional recipes, but I always check against the original.

    2. Why would they change the proportions from Classic Italian which is truly a classic? I found Hazan's recipes to be exactly what my ex-college roommates from Bologna, Florence and Venice had taught me.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cheryl_h

        I presume it was a marketing decision, that they figured it would sell better if the recipes were lower-fat.

        Compare the two editions and you'll see that I'm correct. In many cases I was reducing the amounts anyway. I'll try to track down one of the broken recipes.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          "I presume it was a marketing decision"

          I doubt that, Robert. I published and edited cookbooks for several decades and can tell you that the marketing department does not dictate the content of a cookbook, especially one by a famous, highly respected, and best-selling author. And Hazan's editor is/was Judith Jones, the most respected cookbook editor of a generation. There's no way she would allow a marketing department to tell an author the direction a book should take. Hazan herself says in the preface to Essentials that "the newly added recipes . . . move in pursuit not of novelty, but of taste." It's unthinkable that Hazan would have revised a recipe if she personally didn't think it was an improvement.

          1. re: JoanN

            I think (?) that in Essentials she says in some kind of intro that some of the rework decisions were a reflection of the greater availability of some ingredients that she had left out of the original editions. however, I agree with Robert that some of it was due to a greater interest in 'eating light' in the US. I have the two original books and I love them. Never bothered to buy Essentials.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            I have all three books and haven't done a head to head comparison of the recipes. However, I find for some reason that the older books are what I tend to turn to when I know what I want to make, but "Essentials" is preferable when I want to make something but I don't know exactly what that is yet. Once I've decided I look at the older books for the recipe (I haven't encountered a situation where it isn't in the older books). I'd love for you to point out a recipe where the butter and oil amounts are different, out of intellectual interest more than anything else.

        2. I have not noticed this phenomenon at all, and I have the Classic Italian Cookbook as well as Essentials. I'm really surprised to hear anyone call Essentials an "inferior" book -- I can't think of one recipe I've made from it that has been anything short of excellent, and I've cooked from it extensively.

          1. It's true, my two classics are food stained and the covers are raggedy, but essential is in a pristine condition. None the less,I think it is easier to find than the two others. I really would love to try the stuffed lettuce soup, aquacotta or the white osso buco.

            3 Replies
            1. re: faijay

              The used-book market votes the same way. Hardcover, you can find "Essentials" new for $3, while the original pair in good condition cost $15-20.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                >>The used-book market votes the same way. Hardcover, you can find "Essentials" new for $3, while the original pair in good condition cost $15-20. <<

                I would venture a guess that the price differential has more to do with the fact that Essentials is still in print, while Classic Italian Cooking and More Classic Italian Cooking have been out of print for a while now.

                In any event, if we are going with Essentials as the book for September, I would offer the suggestion that those who have Classic and More Classic join along, and those who have both can use this opportunity to do some comparisons of the recipes. The point-counterpoint would be enlightening for all of us.

                1. re: DanaB

                  If that's the case then, it might make more sense to do Essentials, because some of us might not be able to find Classic and More Classic.

            2. I'm doing Classic, because I don't see much of a need to buy the Essentials book. I think this is a great opportunity for us to share comparisons, as DanaB said, and find out if anything is truly "inferior."

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