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Apr 14, 2013 02:26 PM

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.

                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.