In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making it’s way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so. As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.
(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)
Week six brings us to Marcella Hazan (April 15, 1924 – September 29, 2013).
Marcella Hazan is actually Dr. Hazan, having a doctorate from in biology & natural sciences. How cool is that? In 1955, she married Victor Hazan, and shortly after their marriage the couple moved from Italy to New York City. As a young bride, she had no idea how to cook, and began to teach herself using cookbooks from home, and her memories, knowing what real Italian food should taste like (she hated what passed for Italian food in America). Once she started cooking, it naturally came to her.
After a while, she began to teach others how to cook, and in 1969 she opened the School of Classic Italian Cooking. In the 1970’s she began to contribute recipes to the New York Times, and in 1973, she published her first book: The Classic Italian Cookbook. Her first book was the recipient of the Andre Simon Award, and she followed it up with More Classic Italian Cooking in 1978, and combined the two for Essentials of Italian Cooking in 1992. While she learned to speak English from watching television, she never learned to write in English, so all of her work was translated by her husband.
The couple retired to Florida for the last years of her life, and Marcella passed away on September 29, 2013.
(If you want to read more about this fascinating woman, I highly recommend this memorial her husband wrote. It’s incredibly beautiful.)
I checked out her book, Essentials of Italian Cooking from the library, and while there were 704 pages of recipes that sounded amazing, I stuck with what is quite possibly the simplest dish in any cookbook ever: tomato sauce with butter & onions. When I first googled Marcella Hazan, one of the things that popped up the most was the recipe for this tomato sauce. The New York Times called it her most famous recipe. Food bloggers raved about it. So, even though I make homemade sauce all the time, I simply had to try this recipe.
And it was good. So very good. It produced a much thinner sauce than what I usually prefer, but the flavor was unbelievable. The tomatoes are sweet and the butter added a richness to the sauce unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. Graham and I both raved about it, and I couldn’t believe that something so delicious came from such a simple recipe. Not only was this recipe incredibly simple, but the whole thing (excluding the basil) cost less than $5 and required very little effort. I put the sauce on to simmer, baked scones & chatted with my husband, and just occasionally gave the sauce a stir. When the sauce had simmered for 45 minutes, I boiled a pot of water for pasta and when the pasta was done I just added it, and some chopped basil, directly to the sauce, tossed it together & served.
Tomato Sauce with Butter & Onion
(Recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking)
- 28 oz. can of San Marzano whole tomatoes; chopped (retain all juices)
- 1 medium onion, peeled & halved
- 5 T. of butter
- Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, lower the heat and let the sauce continue to slowly simmer for 45 minutes or until fat from the butter floats free from the tomatoes.
- Stir the sauce occasionally, breaking up any large chunks of tomatoes.
- Remove from the heat, discard the onion, and toss the sauce with your pasta (I used about 3/4 of a pound).
- Serve with basil and a little parmesan if you’d like, but honestly it doesn’t need it.