Victor Hazan remembers how his wife Marcella changed the Italian home kitchen

In the early 1970s, supermarkets did not stock Italian parsley or fresh basil. Marcela Hazan opened the world to Americans with her collection of recipes, “The basics of classic Italian cuisine.” On the thirtieth anniversary of the cookbook’s publication, her husband and collaborator, renowned wine writer Victor Hazan, reflects on her legacy.

Meeting in her hometown of Cesenatico, Victor recalls being smitten by his future wife. They were together for the next sixty years, eventually moving to the United States. “She was crazy about biology and plants,” he recalls. “She knew every leaf under the sun. Marcela had empathy for the ingredients. She could take something and she knew what to do with it. Luckily, it’s not plant-raised, it’s Italian-raised!”

Clam sauce with tomatoes
Serves 4

ingredients

  • 1 dozen small clams
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus a little more for the pasta
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, 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 red pepper to taste
  • 1-kilo pasta: Recommended pasta: Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, handles clam sauces better than other shapes. Spaghetti is a close enough second.

Instructions

  1. Wash and scrub the clams as described on page 126. Discard any that remain open to the touch. Put them in a pan wide enough so that the clams don’t have to pile more than 3 deep, cover the pan and turn the heat on high. Check the clams frequently by turning them and removing them from the pan when they open their shells.
  2. When all the clams have opened, separate the meat from the shells and carefully break each clam into its own juices in the pan to rinse off the sand. Unless they are extremely small, cut them into 2 or even 3 pieces. Set them aside in a small bowl.
  3. Line a colander with paper towels and filter the clam juices in the pan through the paper into a bowl. Spoon some of the strained juice over the clam meat to keep it moist.
  4. Place the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan, turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic is pale golden. Add the parsley, stir once or twice, then add the chopped tomatoes, their juice, the chopped anchovies and the strained clam juice. Stir well for a minute or two, then adjust the heat to cook over a gentle but steady heat for 25 minutes, or until the butter floats freely from the tomatoes.

*Note from a while ago: Up to this point, the sauce can be prepared several hours in advance. Heat gently as you prepare to toss it with pasta.

  1. Taste and adjust the salt, add the chopped chilli, stir 2 or 3 times, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the chopped scallops, tossing them in the sauce to coat well. Toss generously with cooked, drained spaghetti 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 Marcela Hazan. Foreword copyright © 2022 by Victor Hazan. Excerpted by permission of 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 States, “Marcella had never seen a supermarket growing up in Italy,” says her husband, Victor Hassan. 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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