Victor Hazan recalls how his wife Marcella changed Italian home cooking

In the early 1970s, supermarkets did not stock Italian parsley or fresh basil. Marcella Hazan opened the world to Americans with her recipe collection.Basics of classic Italian cooking.” On the thirtieth anniversary of the cookbook’s publication, her husband and partner, renowned wine writer Victor Hazan reflects on her legacy.

Meeting in her hometown of Chesenatiko, Viktor remembers that his future wife quarreled with her. They were together for the next sixty years, eventually moving to the United States. “She was crazy about biology and plants,” he recalls. “He knew every leaf under the sun. Marcella had empathy with the ingredients. He could get something and he knew what to do with it. Luckily, he wasn’t raised on plants, he was raised in Italy!’

Clam sauce with tomatoes
Serves 4

Components

  • 1 dozen small clams
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for the pasta
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, diced, with their juice, or fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 flat anchovy fillet (preferably the kind prepared at home as described on page 9), very thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • Chopped hot red chili pepper, to taste
  • 1kg Pasta: Suggested pasta: Spaghetti, thin spaghetti, softens sauces more successfully than other shapes. A pretty close second is spaghetti.

Instructions

  1. Wash and scrub clams as described on page 126. Discard any that remain open when handling. Place them in a pan wide enough so that the clams don’t need to be stacked more than 3 deep, cover the pan and turn the heat to high. Check the clams frequently, turning them over and removing them from the pan as they open their shells.
  2. When all the clams have opened, remove the meat from the shells and gently toss each clam with its own juices in the pan to wash off any grit. If they are not extremely small, cut them into 2 or even 3 pieces. Set them aside in a small bowl.
  3. Line a colander with kitchen paper and filter the clam juices in the pan through the paper into a bowl. Pour some of the strained juice over the clam meat to keep it moist.
  4. Put the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan, turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic turns a soft golden colour. Add the parsley, stir once or twice, then add the chopped tomatoes, their juice, the chopped anchovy and the filtered clam juices. Stir well for a minute or two, then adjust the heat to cook at a gentle but steady simmer for 25 minutes, or until the oil floats clear of the tomatoes.

*Note in advance: The sauce can be prepared several hours before up to this point. Reheat gently when ready to toss with pasta.

  1. Taste and adjust for salt, add the chopped chili pepper, stir 2 or 3 times, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the cut clams, tossing them in the sauce to coat well. Toss well with cooked drained macaroni or spaghetti. Drizzle a few drops of raw olive oil over the pasta and serve immediately.

From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: 30th Anniversary Edition by Marcella Hazan. Copyright © 1992 by Marcella Hazan. Foreword copyright © 2022 by Victor Hazan. Excerpted with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this extract may be reproduced or reprinted without written permission from the publisher.


Before moving to the United States, “Marcella had never seen a supermarket growing up in Italy,” says her husband Victor Hasan. Photo courtesy of Victor Hazan.


“Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with a foreword by the author’s husband. Photo courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf.

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