Closer to home, enjoy this remembrance of Marcella from my aunt, Bis:
I first met Marcella Hazan at Coliseum Books, a store on west 57th street. It was 1978 and I had just returned from a trip to Italy with my husband, Fred. Of course I didn’t actually meet her in person, though I sometimes feel as if I did, but I did meet her through her first cookbook, Classic Italian Cookbook. I fell in love with it when I read her recipe for Amatriciana, which was the exactly the one given me by my friend Vicki, who had lived in Italy for several years. And then I saw a recipe for the Fettuccine al Gorgonzola that Fred and I had loved so much when we’d eaten it at Vini da Arturo in Venice a few weeks before.
It’s so long ago now that I can’t trust my memory as to exactly how my cooking evolved, but what I do trust is that is that Marcella’s books opened up a new way of thinking about food and cooking. I loved her very strong, opinionated voice (I’m pretty opinionated myself), and I loved the absence of unnecessary complexity in her recipes. I loved the idea that I could change the taste of a tomato sauce by choosing to make it with only one other ingredient, and then by changing that other ingredient from onion to shallot to ramp, I could make a different tasting tomato sauce each night.
In the early books she made menu suggestions for what to serve with a dish and it was from those suggestions I learned to think for myself, to make my own choices and create my own menus. She helped me to learn to trust my instincts to “use my head but [to] cook from the heart.” So cooking for friends and family became, and remains, my avenue of expression and creativity and I thank you Marcella for giving me that.
I bought her books and used them and loved what I cooked so I gave them to my family and friends. Today I don’t consult recipes as often as I used to but my books are there on the shelf, broken backed and stained, waiting to be consulted when I need them.
Marcella’s Amatriciana – Tomato Sauce with Pancetta
and Chili Pepper
The Roman town of Amatrice, with which this sauce is identified, offers a public feast in August whose principal attraction is undoubtedly the celebrated Bucatini – thick, hollow spaghetti – all’Amatriciana. No visitor should pass up, however, the pear-shaped salamis called mortadelle, the pecorino – ewe’s milk cheese – or the ricotta, also made from ewe’s milk. They are among the best products of their kind in Italy. When making Amatriciana sauce, some cooks add white wine before putting in the tomatoes; I find the result too acidic, but you may want to try it.
For 4 servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
A 1/4-inch-thick slice of pancetta, cut into
strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long
1 1/2 cups imported Italian plum
tomatoes, drained and cut up
Chopped hot red chili pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-
2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
1 pound pasta
Recommended pasta: “It’s impossible to say all’amatriciana” without thinking “bucatini”. The two are as indivisible as Romeo and Juliet. But other couplings of the sauce, such as with penne or rigatoni con conchiglie, can be nearly as successful.
1. Put the oil, butter, and onion in a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Sauté the onion until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add
the pancetta. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring once or twice. Add the tomatoes, the chili pepper, and salt, and cook in the uncovered pan at
a steady, gentle simmer for 25 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and hot pepper.
2. Toss the pasta with the sauce, then add both cheeses, and toss thoroughly again.
[Photo Via: Tampa Bay Times]