Marcella Hazan, 1924-2013

If you’ve eaten at my house, you’ve certainly eaten a bolognese or a risotto. They were the first things I learned to cook well enough to serve confidently, and remain staples of my kitchen.

I am not a great cook, but I can follow directions. If you’ve enjoyed those dishes at my table, you have Marcella Hazan to thank, because the recipes I use are from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, first published in 1992. There is no better starting place. Prickly and opinionated, Hazan’s recipes may chide you for using the wrong pot, or the wrong kind of pasta, but it’s useful to know how to do something right before you launch out on your own.

Serving from her book, I also extend a chain of reference, friendship, and food; I learned of the book from my friend Carl sometime in the late 1990s, whom I suspect picked it up from his friend Chris, who in turn credits another friend he was visiting in Milan in 1994. I’m sure the chain goes ever backward, and includes many more links forward — I know I’ve given copies as gifts many times myself.

Food and friends and fellowship are the essence of a good time. Hazan’s book helped me create no small number of delightful evenings including all three, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

Marcella Hazan died on Sunday in her home on Longboat Kay, in Florida. She was 89.

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