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Marcella Hazan's Italian Cookbooks

I've never bought an Italian cookbook. The dishes I make are simply family and community favorites with no claim to regional specificity or authenticity. Browsing thru some old threads though, I've become intrigued with Marcella!

Please share some of your favorite sauces and dish experiences. And your recs for her best books. Most are available used and I'm pretty sure I NEED a couple. Thank you.
I'm looking at:

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

The Classic Italian Cookbook; the art of Italian cooking and the Italian art of eating

Marcella's Italian Kitchen

Marcella Says

Marcella Cucina

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  1. Get them all. I am Italian as well, and I have learned a lot from Marcella. The food has a definite northern Italian slant, but that's OK; I'm not a snob. :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: roxlet

      LOL Me neither, roxlet. And I love butter!

    2. The first one is her distillation, reconsideration and amplification of the next two, so get that first (there are folks who prefer the earlier versions of some of the recipes, but by and large Essentials is the best introduction to her way). Hazan is famously specific (hence the only slightly self-mocking title of her last book): if you are a person who can't stand to follow instructions but need to tinker, Hazan is not for you because you won't get it unless you first follow her instructions specifically before going on to tinker. Do things her way first, period. You will likely realize there is a reason, unless you find your palate is very different than hers (for example, some Americans do not love the subtlety of one of her most (and rightly) famous recipe of a sauce of tomatoes flavored only with butter and onion and salt, and feel it must have a bolder flavor added (like garlic or basil or an even bolder herb). If you strongly prefer BIGGER! BOLDER! FLAVOR!, Hazan may be lost on you).

      6 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        Karl S.

        Thank you so much for the thoughtful and detailed post. I did get the impression that she was a stickler for following her methods. I have no problem with that. I enjoy doing things according to instructions initially. As to the more subtle flavors, that also appeals.

        I did read a couple of comments in other threads that lead me to believe her older book recipes were preferred for some dishes. Maybe the newer distillation is a bit healthier or something? In any event, I'm going to get at least the two you mention. It looks like she has a new one released just last year. I'll check out the reviews. I just put much more faith in the opinion of CHers! Thanks again.

        1. re: ItalianNana

          In essentials she did rework some of the recipes to reduce the fat content, but it is in no way a "low fat" book.

        2. re: Karl S


          I find that many of the recipes are incredibly simple with very few ingredients, which may be why improvising is difficult - it's so simple that any significant changes in ingredients or quantities produces a different dish.

          Flavour wise, what I love about a lot of the recipes compared to more American style Italian is the clear, intense flavours of the simple dishes. The tomato sauce is a good example - I actually dug that one out after a trip to Italy, having had a similar sauce there and falling in love with its essence of tomato taste.

          But yeah, my advice would be to avoid the temptation to jazz up the recipes, even if they look disturbingly plain. It's worth it.

          (I have The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking, 1980s printings marked "First Paperback Printing" that I got at a garage sale. Anything I've cooked out of it has turned out well)

          Some of my favourites are the basic tomato sauce, pork with milk, grilled chicken marinated in lemon, oil and pepper, pan sauted chicken with rosemary, the bolognese recipe (and associated lasagne one), shredded carrot salad, and green bean salad.

          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit


            Thanks for the input and encouragement. I also love dishes with a few high quality ingredients. I promise to follow the recipes faithfully and post feedback. The ones you listed have been favorites of others' on CH as well.

          2. re: Karl S

            If I could approve this more than 100% I would!!! You nailed her and it. And she fits my style perfectly. And the fact that everything I follow to a T is wonderful doesn't hurt. I just gave it to one of our daughters and she virtually kicked her heels in the air :) I think the fact that I have regularly taken her large portions of her Bolognese contributed to her glee.

          3. It appears the Classic Italian is out of print, but available used in this edition. Is this the one people have?

            1 Reply
            1. re: ItalianNana

              This is the one to get. In between Classic Italian (1973)/More Classic Italian (1978) and The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992), Marcella thought and wrote about what she'd already written, and I find her musings, and some of her recipe changes (5 T butter in Tomato Sauce #3 instead of the whole stick), fascinating.


            2. You may want to look at Marcella's son's books, a little more direct and somewhat simpler preperations.
              "Every Night Italian", Giuliano Hazan, is not bad.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ospreycove

                Oh thank you ospreycove. I saw a couple of those on Amazon and assumed it was her DH. I will certainly check those out. :-)

                1. re: ItalianNana

                  Giuliano is Marcella and Victor Hazan's son. Victor, Marcella's husband, has written several beautiful books on Italian Wine, I believe they are all out of print now. Giuliano conducts a cooking school in the Sarasota, Florida area and occasionally in the summer at an Agritourismo in the Veneto, outside of Verona.

              2. I don't have any of Marcella's, but I have her son's book, Hazan Family Favorites. http://www.amazon.com/Hazan-Family-Fa...

                I've made a few things from it so far and they have all been really good. The recipes are more on the simple side and are definitely "family" type dishes.

                This reminds me I need to look at it again...

                2 Replies
                1. re: juliejulez

                  Hey Juliejulez,
                  I think there are a couple of them with Marcella's son. I like the sound of the recipes I've heard about. I'm really having fun sourcing these books. If you try a recipe, let us know.

                  1. re: ItalianNana

                    I've made the meatballs with SO's nephews, who are 4 and 9, and they were very good and the boys had fun "squishing" and rolling them. I also made a dish that had sausage and red peppers in it, with pasta... I don't remember the name of it and don't have the book handy, but it was tasty.

                    Also, the recipe for the classic red sauce with butter is in it, I need to make it sometime.

                2. I would start with Essentials. My very favorite cookbook! It was the very first COTM but the threads are still active. Some favorites are: chicken with two lemons, tomato sauce with butter and onion, pork chops braised w tomato and sage, bolognese, roasted potatoes and bluefish, braised calamari w tomato and peas, bread salad, tomato salad, braised carrots and parmigian, braised celery with pancetta and tomato, pork braised in milk, pan sautéed chicken with rosemary and lemon ... That should be enough to get you started!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Westminstress

                    Yes, I'd recommend taking a spin through the threads to see what Essentials is like: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/325712

                  2. ItalianNana,
                    Here's a report thread about recipes CHs (me included) cooked from Marcella's Italian Kitchen...


                    1. I adore Italian cuisine and have found both Hazan's Essentials and Phaidon Press' The Silver Spoon my two "go to" cookbooks before all of the other Italian cookbooks I own. You really cannot go wrong with those two to start with.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Fowler


                        I have neither found inspiration from "The Silver Spoon" nor have I heard substantive accolades.

                        Please tell us what you like about that tome.

                        Personally, I really WANT to like it.

                        I just do not, yet. Perhaps you can illuminate qualities that ellude me.

                        1. re: Monch

                          I have to say that I'm with you on Silver Spoon, Monch. It's sits lonely and unloved on a high shelf.

                          1. re: roxlet

                            Yeah, I don't WANT to dislike it, I just cannot see the qualities that make it "The Italian Joy of Cooking".

                            I had such high hopes that I bought it NEW <gasp> from an actual BOOK STORE....I think that's what they used to call them...

                            Now I see it for pennies on the dollar I spent, on Alibris.

                            If I can be provided with the insight to get to an "ah HA" moment, I'll apologize profusely....sincerely.

                          2. re: Monch

                            I gave my copy away. Just didn't find a sparkle in the book.

                            1. re: Monch

                              Hi Monch, Long time no hear. I hope you are doing well.

                              A brief history of how I became acquainted with the book...Quite a few years ago when I was vacationing with my significant other in Italy, I hired a locally highly recommended Nonna to give us some cooking lessons. When it was time for us to leave, I asked her if she could recommend a book that would be a general, all-around good Italian cookbook that was published in English. She recommended The Silver Spoon.

                              Upon returning to the States I purchased a copy and have found it to be quite helpful and fairly comprehensive. The perfect Italian cookbook? I cannot make that claim because I have not tried all of the recipes in the book (I doubt anyone has) but I find it to be a good, general resource.

                              As anyone that owns the book knows, it is not a text full of cute anecdotes or terms from Rachael Ray's vocabulary and would probably not be best for someone seeking such things. I have had good luck with The Silver Spoon, but I can see how it would not be for everyone.

                              1. re: Fowler

                                Many thanks, for the background, and good wishes back attcha.

                                I will crack Silver Spoon out, again.

                                You're right, it's not "cutesy" nor replete with glossy photos.

                                It's very straightforward.

                                I will re-double my efforts to use it, when I want to cook something from Silver Spoon....with deference to Ms. Hazan.

                            2. re: Fowler

                              I also have a basically untouched copy of The Silver Spoon on the shelf (a gift from an Italian-American friend who has lived in Italy for the past 15 years) and I would love to get some more inspiration for using it. This is a book that is greatly loved in the real world, I know, and yet it isn't very popular here on Chowhound. I feel like the problem is more with me than with the book - like I'm not understanding it. Fowler, if you could give me some tips on how to use the book effectively, you'd be doing me a great service.

                                1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                  "if you could give me some tips on how to use the book effectively, you'd be doing me a great service."

                                  I am somewhat of a contrarian so the way I began using the book may not work for you but I hope this will be of some help.

                                  Instead of opening the book and looking, for example, for a recipe for Tuscan Minestrone, I worked backward rather than forward.

                                  The version of the book I have has an excellent index not only by recipe, but course and ingredient (very helpful in a book that contains over 2000 recipes) so if I found a wonderful ingredient at the farmer's market such as eggplant, I would look for eggplant in the index and then look at the recipes containing eggplant. From there I could easily eliminate recipes simply by looking at the list of other ingredients. If the recipe that uses eggplant also calls for veal brains that recipe would not be tried. But if the recipe includes ingredients I do like and the directions seem sound I would give it a try. It is good to give some thought to the directions and cooking methods because some may seem odd and not to your liking. For example, recipes that call for boiling beef as a means of cooking the beef.

                                  Good luck and I hope you find success.