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An open apology to Marcella Hazan

Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 02:39 AM

Dear Mrs Hazan:

I have belittled you for years as one of those fussy, unnecessarily picky, froufrou cooks.

Encouraged by reports on this board, I went to my local bookshop and thumbed through your cookbooks. I copied out the recipe for your Bolognese sauce (and, as an aside, how many thirty-year-old men are there on this Earth who can write in Gregg shorthand?), stopped off at the butcher and the Italian market to get the meat and the ingredients, and proceeded to make the sauce. Uncharacteristically, I decided to follow the recipe to the letter; I typically use recipes simply as inspiration.

I have to admit that after being told to cook the meat in the milk first to "protect" it from the acidity of the wine and tomatoes, I was not feeling particularly charitable toward you. "Just the sort of fussy thing I'd expect," I muttered.

You'll never know, though, how hard it was for me to cook it the entire three hours. After one hour, having made and hung the tagliatelle to accompany, I was salivating. After two hours, the dog was trying to climb the stove, and I kept having to pull her down -- she was between me and that wafting odour! After two and a half hours, the neighbours came next door to find out what on earth smelled so good. I put two more plates out on the table and made a quick salad out of shaved fennel, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice.

It was insanely good. No-one said a word through the entire meal. We were too busy shoveling food into our mouths. The dog whined for an hour to get some of the sauce. When we were done we had consumed a double recipe of tagliatelle and the entire recipe of Bolognese sauce, the aforementioned fennel salad, and a ricotta-and-pear tart. Four people.

I walked -- nay, I waddled -- back to the bookstore and paid for your book. It will be in a place of honour on my bookshelf once I have got through it (I am currently on the risotto section, and I'm happy to see that you are not one of those people for whom risotto is some kind of deep magic, but a matter of a fairly simple technique).

Chastised but more open-minded, I remain

Yours in the pursuit of delectable meat sauce,

D.L.

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  1. Carb Lover RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 02:52 AM

    Great letter! Reading it reminded me of my first time making the Zuni chicken and bread salad...the building anticipation from the incredible roasty smell and then the magic of eating it. Similar silence at the table. A serious revelation and enough to get me to buy the book.

    Which book was this bolognese sauce in? I've heard that one is better than the other; the inferior being the one in Essentials, which I wasn't that crazy about. Now I want bolognese...

    1. Chocolatechipkt RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 03:08 AM

      That was great! She's just so good--fussy perhaps, but good.

      And I think I know what I'll be making next ... lol. :)

      1. yayadave RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 03:17 AM

        This book called "Marcella Says..." is available for $6.98 at salebooks.com. Also available for $6.98, "The Simple Art of PerfectBaking" by Flo Braker.

        1. e
          EclecticEater RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 03:59 AM

          Bravo!!!
          I have found that every one of Marcella's recipes always turned out to be just fine and sometimes even more wonderful.
          She gives you clear instructions.
          She knows her stuff.
          She is one of the pinnacle writers in the food field.
          She worked hard on every recipe.
          If she is still alive, I hope she reads this.
          Bravissimo!!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: EclecticEater
            h
            hummingbird RE: EclecticEater Oct 6, 2006 04:10 AM

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella...

          2. e
            Elizzie RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 04:17 AM

            Charming. Just charming. Wait until you do the pork roast in milk. Or the roasted chicken. Or...well, anything, really. And call me; I'll be more than willing to help you consume whichever Marcella recipe you make next.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Elizzie
              Das Ubergeek RE: Elizzie Oct 6, 2006 04:43 AM

              If she can cure me of my complete inability to roast whole birds, even armed with a probe thermometre, I will eat my foot for the pasta course.

              If it continues to be slightly breezy and chilly (it never gets COLD here in southern California), I will try her chicken with two lemons this weekend.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                jillp RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 02:02 PM

                You might wish to retract that promise about consuming an appendage, since the chicken with lemons will be wonderful.

                1. re: jillp
                  Das Ubergeek RE: jillp Oct 9, 2006 05:19 AM

                  Well, I made the chicken with two lemons, a 1.5 kg bird. I followed the recipe, except that I let it sit (covered in a foil tent) on the stove for fully forty-five minutes after I took it out of the oven.

                  It was wonderful, still warm and easy to carve. I've never seen such a juicy bird in my life, and I don't know what makes it juicy -- it can't be the lemons, can it? I mean, it's salt, pepper, lemons and a bird.

                  My only beef is that there wasn't enough runoff to make gravy or even a jus. Oh darn, what a shame. It didn't NEED any gravy.

                  The foot, however, was tough and sinewy, so I set that aside.

                  We had pissaladière, linguine with scampi, the aforementioned chicken with two lemons, roasted broccoli with parmigiano and then the ugliest dessert I have ever personally inflicted on anyone eating in my house, a flan made with dulce de leche -- but it was fantastic... brutto ma buono, four of us practically came to blows over the last piece of a ten-inch flan.

                  Thus satisfied that this lady KNOWS what she is doing after many, many decades doing it, I intend to delve in. I do have some complaints about some of her proscriptions (you can take away my salmone al pesto when you pry it from my cold, dead hands), but these recipes, though simple, are prodigiously good.

                  Let's hear it for How-to Hazan!

                2. re: Das Ubergeek
                  m
                  Mr. Cookie RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 08:05 PM

                  Das, I loved your note and I love Marcella. But cooking whole birds is a snap, especially on an outdoor grill (charcoal or gas, don't make much difference). Ditto in the oven. A 3.5-4-lb. chicken takes 90-100 minutes at 350-375 F. Start it breast down, then flip 2/3 of the way thru (you tend to get a moister breast that way, but it's really not necessary). Wiggle the leg to see if it's done -- if there's movement in the thigh, too, Eureka. Remember it will continue to cook for 5-10 minutes after removing from the heat, too. If it's other birds you're having trouble with, I'll tell you what I know.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                    k
                    kevine RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 11:23 PM

                    I'll second a plug for the two lemons recipe. I thought it too simple and considered the heat too high but man was I wrong. Absolutely wonderful and extremely easy to make. Go for it!

                    1. re: kevine
                      c
                      chickie RE: kevine Oct 9, 2006 07:43 PM

                      The lemons never fail. I peel mine (sometimes use three or four) and chop them in two. You can even accidentally have an extra glass of wine and forget you have a bird in oven, and it still comes out juicy and tender. I also tried it on cornish hens last week and they were just lovely.

                      1. re: chickie
                        Robert Lauriston RE: chickie Oct 9, 2006 07:59 PM

                        Why make extra work for yourself? The unpeeled lemons work fine and if you peel them you're losing the aroma from the zest.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          c
                          chickie RE: Robert Lauriston Nov 5, 2006 07:02 PM

                          I have tried not peeling them but the resulting juices were bitter...

                    2. re: Das Ubergeek
                      e
                      ElissaInPlaya RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 7, 2006 05:13 PM

                      Das - you need Ina Garten's "perfect roast chicken" recipe from her first cookbook "The Barefoot Contessa." We laugh about the title, but I swear it is *always* perfect, when the cook follows the recipe. And, the bonus is crystal-clear instructions on making gravy. I've modified it for other fowl also.

                      (Tangent: my aunt, who is a good home cook, has had the responsibility for T-giving gravy for about 20 years. Last year she gave me a special wisk to use for "gravy lumps." Um, yeah. Thanks to Ina *I* don't have lumpy gravy - ever.)

                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya
                        Das Ubergeek RE: ElissaInPlaya Oct 7, 2006 10:36 PM

                        I'll have to check it out, thanks! I am, however, an excellent gravy-maker, to the point where I end up having to make gravy pretty much anywhere. And I've never, not once in twenty years since I was old enough to see over the stove, had a single lump in my gravy.

                      2. re: Das Ubergeek
                        oakjoan RE: Das Ubergeek Nov 10, 2007 03:23 PM

                        In response to Das Ub's So Cal. weather statement.....Oh yeah? I have photos to prove it SNOWED in Silver Lake in 1949.

                    3. v
                      Val RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 10:54 AM

                      Awesome letter...love the part about dog trying to climb the stove! (The only word that gave me a twinge was "odour" which to me has negative connotations, that's just me--I would use 'aroma' instead but I know with certainty I could not have written an article of equal caliber. Not criticism, only an observation.) I have her "Classic" book and will have to try the Bolognese recipe this weekend. Thanks for more inspiration!

                      1. MMRuth RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 10:55 AM

                        Wonderful post - thank you. I learned to cook with Julia and Marcella - a great combination of sensible wisdom. I like Marcella's stern directives - as a novice cook, it gave me the guidance I needed.

                        1. NYchowcook RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 11:29 AM

                          Yes, once you see that Marcella is a kind, helpful guide to very, very good food, it seems perfectly reasonable and acceptable to be guided by pointed direction such as in her ingredients section: "powdered rosemary is to be shunned."

                          1. b
                            bropaul RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 11:38 AM

                            First of all, I have great respect for anyone who has the guts to publicly admit he was wrong. We could use more of that! Congratulations. I have been a big fan of Marcella for years and have always had great success with her recipes.

                            1. f
                              faijay RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 12:11 PM

                              I loved your post. I too, cannot stay away from the pot of simmering Bolognese Sauce. I am there to dip a piece of bread and sometimes a spoon. And you are right the aroma is intoxicating. I might dab it behind my ears instead of Angel--well maybe not, but still.

                              1. King of Northern Blvd RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 01:45 PM

                                Would somebody be willing to post the difference between The Essentials version and The Classic version? Are they really that different? I want to make this tonight for dinner and I only have "Essentials"..Thanks

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: King of Northern Blvd
                                  JoanN RE: King of Northern Blvd Oct 6, 2006 02:37 PM

                                  Robert Lauriston posted this message a few weeks ago:

                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                  I actually made a sticky note of it and pasted it in my copy of Essentials. Not sure that's the only differece, but it seemed so. Perhaps someone with a copy of Classic could jump in here and confirm?

                                  1. re: King of Northern Blvd
                                    DanaB RE: King of Northern Blvd Oct 6, 2006 04:53 PM

                                    Note, this is not a full list of ingredients, it is only a list of where the two recipes differ.

                                    Classics calls for:

                                    3 T. olive oil
                                    3 T. butter
                                    2 T. chopped celery
                                    2 T. chopped carrot
                                    2 T. chopped onion
                                    1/2 c. milk
                                    2 C. canned Italian tomatoes, chopped, with juice

                                    Essentials calls for:

                                    1 T. vegetable oil
                                    4 T. butter (three for sauce, one for tossing w/pasta before serving)
                                    2/3 c. chopped celery
                                    2/3 c. chopped carrot
                                    1/2 c. chopped onion
                                    1 c. whole milk
                                    1-1/2 c. canned chopped italian tomatoes, with juice

                                    In the directions for the recipes, Classics calls for the meat to be cooked in wine before milk, while Essentials calls for the meat to be cooked in milk before wine.

                                    1. re: DanaB
                                      AppleSister RE: DanaB Oct 6, 2006 05:24 PM

                                      Hmm, I'm curious why she switched from olive oil to vegetable oil. I only have Essentials, and I've noticed there's a lot of vegetable oil in it, and I'm sure it's important re: smoke points, etc., but I'd prefer to use the healthier olive oil. Anybody know?

                                      1. re: AppleSister
                                        pescatarian RE: AppleSister Oct 6, 2006 05:48 PM

                                        Not sure why she changed it, I would use olive oil instead of vegetable oil, but just fyi, when you cook olive oil you lose much of it's "healthier" qualities anyways.

                                        1. re: AppleSister
                                          g
                                          Grizzly RE: AppleSister Oct 6, 2006 06:48 PM

                                          Marcella's contention is that there are certain foods and/or preparations that actually suffer as a result of olive oil's flavor components. In those cases she recommends vegetable oil as the preferred fat.

                                          1. re: AppleSister
                                            j
                                            josh L RE: AppleSister Oct 11, 2006 01:57 PM

                                            i usually use grape seed oil when she calls for vegetable oil.

                                          2. re: DanaB
                                            JoanN RE: DanaB Oct 6, 2006 05:48 PM

                                            Thank you *so* much, DanaB. I've made the recipe from Essentials innumberable times and am eager to taste the difference between the two.

                                            1. re: DanaB
                                              King of Northern Blvd RE: DanaB Oct 6, 2006 07:49 PM

                                              Thank you very much. I have had the sauce on the stove for a few hours now. The only thing I switched from the essentials is the lesser amount of veggies. It was very interesting to see how the flavor developed after each stage of cooking. Next time I will try the true Classics version to see how it differs with the Olive oil and less milk..

                                            2. re: King of Northern Blvd
                                              Katie Nell RE: King of Northern Blvd Oct 6, 2006 07:52 PM

                                              Here's the Essentials version:
                                              http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

                                              And the Classic version:
                                              http://www.e-rcps.com/pasta/rcp/p_abc...

                                              I'm not sure how accurate the second one is, but it seems to be close to what everyone is saying.

                                              1. re: Katie Nell
                                                Carb Lover RE: Katie Nell Oct 7, 2006 06:18 AM

                                                Gosh, I'm so tempted to do a side-by-side comparison, but that's alot of sauce and I need to move on from Marcella and start braising!

                                                1. re: Carb Lover
                                                  JoanN RE: Carb Lover Oct 7, 2006 01:34 PM

                                                  I'm thinking about it. I have some in the freezer from Essentials for a lasagna I never got to. But it will have to wait until I get back from vacation, so it won't be until November some time. I think the Essentials ragu is pretty terrific, but I'm not averse to finding a better one.

                                            3. g
                                              Grizzly RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 02:31 PM

                                              I'm with you, Ubergeek, I hated following fussy recipes and rarely used cook books because of that.

                                              Marcella's "Esseentials" was a Christmas gift about 15 years ago, and from the first recipe I tried, she became my Italian food idol. I've now got 3 of her books on the pantry shelf, and they are the most frequently used and well-worn cookbooks I own.

                                              Interestingly, what enticed me to try her recipes first were her simple, 25 to 45 minute cooking time tomato sauces. No frou-frou in those recipes. OTOH, the 3 hour investment in the Bolognese sauce is worth every minute, too.

                                              My only minor quibble with Marcella is her tendency to recommend cooking times that are just too long for some meats and many vegetables, but I've learned to adjust the timing to our tastes and simply enjoy.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Grizzly
                                                Carb Lover RE: Grizzly Oct 6, 2006 02:49 PM

                                                Her simple tomato sauce recipes are wonderful! We've been making them the past month since tomato picking. I have learned about her food mill method for processing fresh tomatoes for sauce, which beats having to score and blanch tomatoes first.

                                                I appreciate Marcella's "fussiness"; so much better than the TV chefs these days who are more about shortcuts and don't have a strong point of view.

                                                I also own "Marcella Says" but haven't made anything from it. Anyone have recs from this book?

                                                1. re: Carb Lover
                                                  g
                                                  Grizzly RE: Carb Lover Oct 6, 2006 03:28 PM

                                                  And it's not just the basic tomato sauces, either. Her renditions of white and red clam sauce have spoiled me completely. They are two of my favorite dishes, and I simply can't order them in a restaurant any longer.

                                                  Her recipes for the home made variety put any restaurant version to shame, and they're both comparatively quick and easy to make.

                                                  1. re: Carb Lover
                                                    u
                                                    uchound RE: Carb Lover Oct 6, 2006 05:34 PM

                                                    I own Marcella Says and adore the recipes for Sicilian Pesto and Fricassee of Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs. My husband never liked dark meat until he ate that chicken - it is both juicy and crisp.

                                                    1. re: uchound
                                                      Carb Lover RE: uchound Oct 7, 2006 06:27 PM

                                                      Thanks! Will have to try the fricassee.

                                                      1. re: uchound
                                                        yayadave RE: uchound Oct 8, 2006 12:48 AM

                                                        I just received my copy of "Marcella Says...." in the mail today and just the intro to the section on chicken fricassee made me hungry for chicken.

                                                        1. re: yayadave
                                                          g
                                                          gus RE: yayadave Oct 9, 2006 06:07 AM

                                                          I made the chicken fricassee with cherry tomatoes, white wine, and olives last week -- it was delicious. Her method is perfect, and the flavors are just so good together. Definitely recommended.

                                                  2. g
                                                    gardener RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 02:46 PM

                                                    As I read these posts today, simmering atop my stove is Marcella"s "Simplest Leek and Chickpea Soup" from MARCELLA CUCINA published in 1997. An easy to make, delicious soup. My purchase of this book several years ago led to my purchasing two other MH books. I feel the ESSENTIALS is a wonderful reference book. It is a bit more serious and can be intimidating, but invaluable as a reliable Italian cooking primer.

                                                    1. Scagnetti RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 03:10 PM

                                                      On behalf of Mrs Hazan, I accept your apology with one reservation. I know in my Italian kitchen, and I'm sure it is the same in Mrs Hazan's, our four-legged friends always get treats. Sure, you fed yourself and the rest of the humans but what about the dog! ;-)

                                                      1. Will Owen RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 05:24 PM

                                                        Marcella has never annoyed me, however stern she might get about doing things EXACTLY this way - she's never really judgmental about it, simply insistent that there is one truly right way to go about it. As I am cooking for myself and perhaps one or more other people, NOT for her, I feel free to ignore her advice when I want to, or when I must - but the nature of her recipes is such that I know EXACTLY what the consequences of that decision will be. When I use bottled mayonnaise to make the vitello tonnato, I am well aware of the resulting difference in both flavor and consistency, but as I enjoy both versions almost equally I feel free to take that short cut.

                                                        There are cookbook authors whose attitudes do annoy me, sometimes to the point that I simply won't give their books shelf room anymore. Most of these are the Anti-Marcellas, the Quick'n'Easy, never-mind-those-picky-details people, but there are also some whose pronouncements are so harsh and arbitrary, opinion delivered as some kind of universal truth, that it blows their credibility for me. Marcella is never like that.

                                                        1. Dommy RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 05:39 PM

                                                          OMG!! I could have written your letter... the thing though that made me forgive Marcella (Aside from the awesome recipes) is that despite the 'fussiness' her recipes are simple and use simple ingredients. I love flipping through her cookbook, seeing the recipe and thinking "OMG! I can do that!!" :)

                                                          --Dommy!

                                                          1. Robert Lauriston RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 07:54 PM

                                                            You said you cooked the meat in milk first so I presume you copied it from the original Classic Italian Cookbook?

                                                            The version in Essentials is just wrong. I can't believe she ever made it herself.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              Das Ubergeek RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 6, 2006 08:52 PM

                                                              The recipe in Essentials calls for cooking in the meat first.

                                                              Wrong it may be, but tasty it surely was.

                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                b
                                                                Babette RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 09:58 PM

                                                                You are in for an amazing treat if you try her braised carrots with parmesan. I did after reading the raves on this board, & I love this dish.

                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                  Das Ubergeek RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 7, 2006 01:38 AM

                                                                  Duh. I meant "cooking in the milk".

                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                  DanaB RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 6, 2006 11:23 PM

                                                                  My copy of the original Classic Italian Cookbook says to cook in wine first and then milk.

                                                                  My copy of Essentials says to cook in milk first and then wine.

                                                                3. n
                                                                  Nettie RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 08:24 PM

                                                                  I once took a class from a chef who had just returned from taking what was supposed to be Marcella's last cooking class. She had some good stories about Marcella and how exacting she was (which my instructor appreciated and respected). My favorite is that she said Marcella didn't put salt and pepper on her table, because, according to Marcella, when the food leaves Marcella's kitchen, it is seasoned perfectly and doesn't need additional seasoning.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Nettie
                                                                    krissywats RE: Nettie Oct 7, 2006 02:04 AM

                                                                    That's the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes, lol! I mean, how can anyone know if something their tastebuds tell them interprets into someone else's tastebuds (since they are as different as fingerprints)?

                                                                    Now don't get me wrong. The few Marcella recipes I've made have been fantastic. Really brilliant, but I just have to laugh at her when I read things along the lines of 'If you choose to substitute ingredients, you should be shot on site and fed to wolves or at the very least, left to live in a hovel with the unwashed, ingredient swapping, masses!'

                                                                    I love her brilliance not the attitude. I just want to tickle people like that.

                                                                    1. re: Nettie
                                                                      Aromatherapy RE: Nettie Oct 7, 2006 12:49 PM

                                                                      I'm a salt fiend, and I find many of her recipes call for *too much* salt! (Yes, I'm using kosher.) Also some of them run a bit wet--function of my pots, I guess.

                                                                    2. missclaudy RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 09:23 PM

                                                                      I once read that Marcella said that she was sorry that she had ever introduced the USA to Balsamic vinegar and that she thinks that pasta salad(any cold pasta)is next to the devil.I love her attitude !!!!!!

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: missclaudy
                                                                        Das Ubergeek RE: missclaudy Oct 6, 2006 10:46 PM

                                                                        I'm sorry that there weren't regulations against those God-awful fraudsters selling caramel-coloured wine vinegar with sugar as "balsamic vinegar".

                                                                        I love cold pasta salad, though... sorry, Mrs Hazan. Only if it's made and dressed while hot, though.

                                                                      2. k
                                                                        kevine RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 6, 2006 11:27 PM

                                                                        Anyone who has either never made pasta from scratch or already has a favorite method for it should try her basic pasta recipe at least once. Mario Batali uses it as well. Very simple and very good. Only eggs and all-purpose flour, no oil, and only a sprinkle of water if the climate is dry, otherwise none.
                                                                        The whole thing is to make it exactly as she describes, by hand with a well in the flour to hold the eggs, working them in slowly, as well as the 10 min minimum of kneading. No machines, no mixer keeping it on the dry side, probably drier than you think. Very much worth the trouble.

                                                                        1. h
                                                                          hummingbird RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 7, 2006 02:33 AM

                                                                          After reading all the posts I'm still unsure of which recipe everyone favors, and why.

                                                                          I have only made it once, not one her recipes. I ended up throwing it out. Maybe I did something wrong. I knew it wasn't like a red meat sauce, but it was just blah.

                                                                          I keep meaning to try it when eating out, but always seem to get something else.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: hummingbird
                                                                            Das Ubergeek RE: hummingbird Oct 7, 2006 04:42 AM

                                                                            I made the bolognese sauce recipe from "Essentials of Italian Cooking". It was amazing.

                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                              h
                                                                              hummingbird RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 7, 2006 05:51 AM

                                                                              Thanks Das

                                                                          2. Ora RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 7, 2006 05:42 AM

                                                                            Is this the recipe under discussion?

                                                                            http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html...

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Ora
                                                                              Robert Lauriston RE: Ora Oct 7, 2006 06:01 PM

                                                                              Yes, that's the screwed-up one from Essentials where they increased the quantities of vegetables by around 400%.

                                                                            2. a
                                                                              antrobin RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 7, 2006 05:50 AM

                                                                              I've used Marcella's cookbooks for 20 years. The ragu in "Classic..." is far superior to that in "Essentials.."

                                                                              I made the latter and was disappointed in what was an overly oily, overly sweet, less flavorful ragu than I remembered. I corrected it by adding a little tomato paste, another 8 oz of tomatoes, and a bit of red wine. Before these additions though, it simply tasted flat.

                                                                              The version in "classic," however, is perfect.

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: antrobin
                                                                                DanaB RE: antrobin Oct 7, 2006 05:20 PM

                                                                                >>I made the latter and was disappointed in what was an overly oily, overly sweet, less flavorful ragu than I remembered.<<

                                                                                I just can't see this. There is more volume over all to the ingredients in the Essentials recipe, and less fat. Maybe you used a higher-fat cut of meat?

                                                                                The recipes are really quite similar -- the ingredient lists are identical (with exception to the fact that Essentials calls for vegetable oil and the Classic calls for olive oil), it is only the proportions that vary slightly. How people can have such extraordinarily differing results IMHO probably has more to do with the ingredients used in that particular batch than the method/proportion. But to each their own! I've made the ragu from both, and lean towards the Essentials version myself.

                                                                                1. re: DanaB
                                                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: DanaB Oct 7, 2006 06:06 PM

                                                                                  The original "Classic" recipe has two tablespoons each onion, celery, and carrot, which is comparable to every other traditional ragú recipe I've seen. The revised version in "Essentials" has 1/2 cup onion and 2/3 cup each celery and carrot.

                                                                                  That's 3/8 of a cup versus almost two cups, a 400% increase.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                    DanaB RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 7, 2006 06:33 PM

                                                                                    Yes. I know. I posted the differing proportions here:

                                                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                                    Like I said above, to each their own. I've made both recipes, and in my opinion, the variances are not significant -- certainly not significant enough to generate this much controversy, or to call one recipe "far superior" to the other.

                                                                                    In my experience, the quality of the ingredients is the most important thing to generating a delicious result with this recipe; that, and long, slow cooking. A little bit more carrot, celery and onion has never had any impact on my outcome.

                                                                                    We have a difference of opinion here, but I respect yours -- you are entitled to it. Others are entitled to theirs.

                                                                                    1. re: DanaB
                                                                                      Carb Lover RE: DanaB Oct 7, 2006 07:05 PM

                                                                                      Thanks for posting the differences, DanaB. I don't like that much vegetable in my ragu, so I'm thinking I will like the one from Classics better since I didn't care for the one from Essentials that much (although my ingredients may have been subpar).

                                                                                      Look forward to trying another Marcella recipe; I personally find this "controversy" motivating and in good CH spirit.

                                                                                      1. re: DanaB
                                                                                        Robert Lauriston RE: DanaB Oct 7, 2006 08:34 PM

                                                                                        Using five times as much vegetables makes the sauce much sweeter, especially if you're using American onions and carrots, which Italians who cook here often complain are too sweet.

                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                          Das Ubergeek RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 7, 2006 10:38 PM

                                                                                          You can't let this go, can you?

                                                                                          If you like the version in Classics, by all means make it. I haven't yet made that, so I can't pass judgment -- but I will say that I had maybe a tablespoonful of extra fat after using the recipe in Essentials.

                                                                                2. s
                                                                                  Sean Dell RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 7, 2006 06:49 AM

                                                                                  A Chowhound classic, DL. Grazie!

                                                                                  - Sean

                                                                                  1. jillp RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 8, 2006 12:16 AM

                                                                                    Thank you so much for posting this; it made me remember how swell that recipe for sauce is and I fixed an abbreviated version for dinner. Even the one-hour version is glorious.

                                                                                    1. jfood RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 9, 2006 01:32 AM

                                                                                      Dear DU

                                                                                      You're welcome. I understand that you inspired Jfood to grab his version of my book and give the recipe a whirl. In typical Jfood fashion he decided that he would make his first attempt with a double recipe. Quite a gutsy move on a lazy Sunday.

                                                                                      It scared the heck out of him when he added the onions to all that oil and butter and stared into the pot in disbelief as to how this was going to work out. He was not comfortable until the meat was added and began to feel at ease when the meat lost its color. The 2C of wine put him back into fear mode. Waiting for all that liquid to dissolve was quite a uncomfortable wait. When he added the milk and saw that rosey color, he began to relax and wandered to the counter to crush the cans of tomatoes.

                                                                                      These were added to the pot with a smile on his lips, and a skip in his step.

                                                                                      Four hours later the heat was off and the wait was on for the clock to catch up with the desire to jump into dinner.

                                                                                      Mrs. DW wanted whole wheat and Jfood went the traditional route. Plated in front of each, Jfood had that OMG look on his face as he watched his beloved take her first bite. She is a Chow-in-training and her smile was worth all the time and effort.

                                                                                      Jfood's first bite reminded him of something he learned a long time ago, Hazan is the best.

                                                                                      So please repeat three time, Hazan is the best...

                                                                                      1. NYchowcook RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 9, 2006 03:13 AM

                                                                                        Touching and impressive how you have been brought under the spell of Marcelladom. I'm a big fan.

                                                                                        But tonight my devotion was challenged: I was on my second braise of the day -- for this month's All About Braising cook-along. Molly's lamb shanks were, well, alot of work. Put them aside after two hard cooking hours and 2-1/2 hours of oven braising (and checking and turning) for tomorrow's dinner. Now, at 6 pm, time to turn to tonight's dinner.

                                                                                        Opted for a reasonable sounding project of braised pork chops w/ chorizo and pickled peppers that should cook in under an hour. What goes with braised dishes? Well, polenta. Of course polenta.
                                                                                        Well, I've made Marcella's polenta. I've sweated over the full-scale stir for 45 minutes constantly-or-else version. Now, besides your arm no longer functioning and your questioning your insane devotion to The Marcella Method, it is near impossible to have a dish to accompany the said polenta if you are stirring for 45 minutes straight and you have a non-cooking spouse. So Marcella charitably provides a variation she calls the "no-stirring method." Well, that's only in comparison to the aforementioned do-nothing-but-stir method. You still stir. Two minutes to start. Then one minute every ten. I've done this, and with Marcella's blessing, have been pleased w/ the results.

                                                                                        Before tonight I have never before varied from Marcella's dictates. Tonight tending to my (as I said, second) braised dish of pork, I needed time away. I needed time away when it was not on the stroke of the 10-minute timing of the 1-minute stir. I turned . . . cavalier! Why, I stirred when I had the time. I stirred for less than 1 full minute, when the impulse struck. Five minute interval for 30 seconds; 8 minutes for 40 seconds. I wasn't even timing the ten minutes for the stirrings! I gazed at my yellow glob as I stirred and worried: is it lumping??! Have I crossed the line outside of Marcelladom?

                                                                                        Well, I gave the polenta its due attention at the end of the cooking time and . . . it came out fine. Fine! The best part of the meal. The pork chops were tough, my DH it turns out after 10 years isn't fond of sauteed swiss chard. But I'm pondering what this means about my devotion to the Marcella Method. I varied and . . . it worked.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: NYchowcook
                                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: NYchowcook Oct 9, 2006 06:39 AM

                                                                                          Hazan's polenta recipes call for a lot of unnecessary labor.

                                                                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                                        2. akp RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 20, 2006 02:13 PM

                                                                                          Thanks to this wonderful thread, I went out and bought the Essentials cookbook. Lots of delicious discoveries and reading ahead... Looking forward to the Pork braised in Milk, Tomato Sauce with Onions and Butter, Bolognese Sauce, among many others. The Veal Scaloppine with Marsala and Cream was delicous over her Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Parmesan Cheese.

                                                                                          1. Chocolatechipkt RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 20, 2006 03:09 PM

                                                                                            Does anyone know/remember what percentage the ground beef should be for the bolognese? I know she has an opinion on it, but I don't have Essentials right in front of me. Thanks! :)

                                                                                            1. n
                                                                                              northofboston RE: Das Ubergeek Oct 20, 2006 03:45 PM

                                                                                              A little off Marcella topic, but right on Hazan-
                                                                                              Anyone tried her son's book- Every Night Italian?
                                                                                              It's terrific, and you can see him mom in all the recipes.

                                                                                              1. i
                                                                                                itryalot RE: Das Ubergeek Nov 10, 2007 03:58 PM

                                                                                                I am making the pork in milk tomorrow night if I can muster up the time and ingredients. I just had a great laugh; you put a smile on my stressful overworked face! I wonder how many of us feel like that about cookbook authors. I do love her simple and fresh ingredients; for that, I will put up with the "fussiness".

                                                                                                1. d
                                                                                                  delleelise RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 29, 2013 12:48 PM

                                                                                                  I made the SAME exact dish two nights ago with the fresh tagliatelle and the bolognese. BLOWN AWAY. It was amazing. Hands down, I am in love. I made a fusion of her rosemary garlic chicken, and the lemon chicken last night and couldn't stop myself from eating out of the casserole dish. Her food, to me, is the antithesis of fussy. It is so simple that I continually find myself raising my eyebrows and wondering, "Is that it? That's too simple... it can't be right!" SO pleased with Essentials. It's everything I could ever hope for.

                                                                                                  Photo: http://distilleryimage0.s3.amazonaws....

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