Marcella Hazan was born on this day, April 15, in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara. In 1955 she married Victor Hazan, an Italian-born, New York-raised Sephardic Jew, who subsequently gained fame as a wine writer. The couple moved to New York City a few months later and Marcella was a newlywed who did not speak English, transplanted to a country whose knowledge of her native cuisine was not much more than spaghetti covered with what, to her, tasted like overly spiced ketchup. The culture shock was substantial. She found canned peas and hamburgers appalling and for coffee – she described it, “as tasting no better than the water we used to wash out the coffee pot at home”.
Hazan had never cooked before her marriage. As she recounted in the introduction to her 1997 book, Marcella Cucina, “… there I was, having to feed a young, hard-working husband who could deal cheerfully with most of life’s ups and downs, but not with an indifferent meal. In Italy, I would not have wasted time thinking about it. My mother cooked, my father cooked, both my grandmothers cooked, even the farm girls who came in to clean could cook. In the kitchen of my New York apartment there was no one.” She began by using cookbooks from Italy, especially Ada Boni’s cookbook, The Talisman Italian Cookbook, – also my first Italian cookbook. Soon after she realised that she had an exceptionally clear memory of the flavors she had tasted at home and found it easy to reproduce them in her kitchen. “Eventually I learned that some of the methods I adopted were idiosyncratically my own,” she recalled, “but for most of them I found corroboration in the practices of traditional Italian cooks.”
In October 1969 she began teaching Italian cooking classes that were as much about Italian culture and history as about food. She taught students that Italian cooking was really regional cooking, from the handmade noodles and meat sauce of Bologna to the fish and risotto of Venice to the linguine and clams of Naples.
Her recipes tended to use only ingredients that would actually be used in Italian kitchens (with some concessions for ingredients that are not readily available outside Italy). Mrs. Hazan embraced simplicity, precision and balance in her cooking. She emphasised careful attention to detail. In her third book, Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, Hazan laid out her “Elementary Rules” with some 22 commandments. Among them are:
- Use no Parmesan that is not Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Never buy grated cheese of any kind; grate cheese fresh when ready to use.
- Do not overcook pasta. Do not pre-cook pasta.
- Unless you are on a medically prescribed diet, do not shrink from using what salt is necessary to draw out the flavor of food.
- Dress salads with no other oil than olive.
- Do not turn heavy cream into a warm bath for pasta or for anything else. Reduce it, reduce it, reduce it.
- Choose vegetables that are in season and plan the entire meal around them.
- Soak vegetables in cold water for half an hour before cooking to remove all trace of grit. Cook them until they are tender, but not mushy, so that they have a rich flavor. Cooking brings out the taste. If you cook vegetables too little because you want them crunchy, they all have one thing in common: They taste like grass.
- When sautéing onions, put them in a cold pan with oil and heat them gently; this will make them release their flavor gradually and give them a mellower taste than starting them in a hot pan.
- Although some types of pasta, like tagliatelle, are best made freshly at home, others, like spaghetti, should be bought dried. Pasta should be matched carefully to the sauce.
- Olive oil isn’t always the best choice for frying; in delicately flavored dishes, a combination of butter and vegetable oil should be used.
- Garlic presses should be avoided at all costs.
Bibliography of Marcella’s books:
- The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating (1973)
- More Classic Italian Cooking (1978)
- Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (1986)
- Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)
- Marcella Cucina (1997)
- Marcella Says: Italian Cooking Wisdom from the Legendary Teacher’s Master Classes With 120 of Her Irresistible New Recipes (2004)
- Amarcord: Marcella Remembers (Gotham Books, 2008)
In her honor, the International Culinary Center (ICC)—the only school at which Marcella taught—is launching a scholarship in her name, sending worthy aspiring chefs to the seven-month Italian Culinary Experience, a program that begins at ICC’s campus in New York or California, then continues in Marcella’s home province of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, including staging (apprenticeships) in top restaurants in Italy. To access information and the application, click on the link below.
Recipes for some of Marcella Hazan’s pastas.
Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta
(From Marcella Says)
- 1 medium eggplant or 2 small eggplants
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1/4 lb mozzarella, cut into thin strips
- 1 lb short tube pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
- 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
- Torn basil leaves
Boil 4 quarts of salted water in a large pot.
Remove the tops of the eggplant and cut into 1-inch dice.
Heat a 10-inch saute pan and add the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the eggplant. Cook about a minute, turning the eggplant frequently. Add tomatoes and chili flakes. Turn heat to low and simmer until the oil floats to the top of the sauce. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
Drop pasta into boiling water. When the pasta is nearly done, turn the heat down on the sauce and add the mozzarella, stirring until it dissolves into the sauce.
When the pasta is done, drain and transfer into a large warm bowl. Pour sauce over. Add pecorino cheese and torn basil leaves. Toss and serve at once.
Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce
(From Marcella Cucina)
Serve 4 to 6.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juices.
- 1 pound penne, ziti or rigatoni
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.
Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.
Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.
Pasta With Fresh Clams
(From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)
- 18 littleneck clams
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced paper-thin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh hot red pepper or crushed dried red pepper to taste
- 1 ripe plum tomato, seeded, diced and drained
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound spaghettini or spaghetti
- Several basil leaves, torn up.
Wash and scrub the clams, dunking them in several changes of fresh water until there are no traces of sand. Discard any that remain open when handled. Place them in a dry skillet in one layer, cover the skillet and turn the heat to high. Cook, checking and turning occasionally to remove each clam as it opens; the total cooking time will be about 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Remove each clam from its shell and swish it in the cooking liquid to remove any remaining sand. Cut the clams into two or three pieces each, then put them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover and set aside. Pass the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with paper towels or cheesecloth and set aside.
Place the remaining oil and the garlic in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta later and turn the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring, for a few seconds, then add parsley and chili pepper. Stir once or twice, then add tomato. Cook for a minute, stirring, then add the wine. Cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, set a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until it is very firm to the bite, just short of being fully cooked (it should be so firm that you would not yet want to eat it). Drain it, turn the heat to high under the skillet and add the pasta to the skillet, along with the filtered clam juice. Cook, tossing and turning the pasta, until the juice has evaporated. The pasta should now be perfectly cooked; if it is a little underdone, add some water and continue to cook for another minute.
Add the cut-up clams with their oil and the basil leaves; toss two or three times, then serve.
Marcella Hazan’s Spaghetti Carbonara
(From Essentials of Italian Cooking)
- 1/2 pound cubed pancetta or slab bacon
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated romano cheese
- 1/2 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 1/4 pound spaghetti
Mash the garlic with a fork and saute in the olive oil in a pan on medium heat while you cook the spaghetti. Saute until the garlic becomes a deep gold color, then remove and discard it.
Put the onion and cubed pancetta or bacon in the pan and cook until onions are golden and the pancetta is crisp at the edges. Add the wine and let it bubble for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Break the eggs into a serving bowl in which you will toss the pasta. The serving bowl can be warmed in the oven, if it is oven proof. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, add the cheeses, a liberal grinding of pepper and the chopped parsley. Mix thoroughly.
Add cooked drained spaghetti to the bowl and toss rapidly, coating the strands well. Briefly reheat the onion and pancetta over high heat. Turn out the contents of the pan into the pasta bowl and toss thoroughly once more. Serve immediately.
Penne with Creamy Zucchini and Basil Sauce
(From The Classic Italian Cookbook)
- 1 lb penne
- 2 lb zucchini
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- One bunch of basil, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Set a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente.
Meanwhile, slice zucchini in thin strips.
Heat butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir. Before garlic starts to brown, add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and starting to brown a bit.
Add cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on medium-low heat until thickened a bit and let simmer until the pasta is done.
Just before mixing with the pasta, stir basil into the sauce and turn off the heat. Toss with pasta and parmesan cheese.
- Marcella Hazan 1924 – 2013 (ecookbooks.typepad.com)
Marcella Hazan has been called the godmother of Italian cuisine in America. She introduced Americans to regional Italian cooking, pure flavors, fresh and varied ingredients.
Marriage to Victor Hazan, a New Yorker, meant straddling the Old World and the New. In 1969, Marcella began teaching Italian-cooking classes out of their small apartment kitchen in midtown Manhattan. Her first American students were six ladies she met while taking a course in Chinese cooking. “What do you eat at home?” they wondered, and so Marcella introduced them to lamb kidneys, squid, rabbit and fish with the head on. Thus, began her teaching career.
Though 88, officially retired and wrestling with back and other health issues, Hazan continues to teach. This time it isn’t in a refurbished 16th century palazzo in Venice. It’s on Facebook.
Hazan has many ardent fans. And in the twilight of her career, they have found in her a willing and still feisty teacher happy to offer advice, challenge assumptions and continue to teach.
In her book,
Marcella Hazan devotes a chapter to, “Why and How You Should Be Making Your Own Egg Pasta”. After a discussion about how commercially made pasta is produced, she comments, “ What one responds to in homemade pasta, is its lightness, its buttery texture, its suave entry into the mouth, a deeply satisfying cohesion of pasta and sauce, and a buoyant, palate caressing richness of taste. The only egg pasta that delivers such sensations is one that you make at home, using low-gluten white flour for your dough and thinning it with gradually applied light pressure. Take into account, moreover, that when you make your own pasta you can produce noodle shapes that are usually unavailable commercially….”
Marcella also recommends using modern conveniences in making homemade pasta. She says,” You need a food processor for kneading the dough and a pasta machine ” for rolling and cutting. She also notes that she tested her recipes using these gadgets and the pasta was just fine.
Here is my version:
Why should you make homemade spaghetti when you can buy a box of dried spaghetti in your supermarket? Fresh pasta is not inherently better than dried pasta; it’s just different – definitely lighter and more delicate than dried pasta. Use dried pasta when you want to enjoy noodles with a lot of texture or for heavy sauces; use fresh when you want a softer, subtler dish that will let a delicate sauce shine. Making homemade pasta in our busy world cannot be a common occurrence but give yourself a treat, every once in awhile, so you can experience this unique taste.
I prefer to mix the harder southern Semolina (durum) flour with the softer unbleached flour or the Italian 00 flour to give some extra body, gluten and flavor to the pasta. Italian-Style 00 flour makes a supple dough, that is smooth and easy to work with. The “00” refers to the grind of the flour, and how much of the wheat’s bran and germ have been removed, not to its protein level.
Whole eggs add an old World richness to the mix, which is why genuine fresh pasta has a yellowish hue like egg noodles. Extra virgin olive oil in my mix also adds moisture and flavor. Many recipes only call for salt in the boiling water. I use it in the mix and in the boiling water so the pasta will have flavor.
If you would like a closer look at the photos in how to make the homemade spaghetti dough, you can double click them for an enlargement.
For a whole wheat version, substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the all purpose flour and 1/2 cup of the semolina flour.
1 cup unbleached flour or Italian 00 flour
1 cup Semolina durum flour
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water, if needed
Heavy pinch of Kosher salt
Put all of the ingredients in the large bowl of a processor. Pulse until the mixture begins to form a ball.
Remove dough from the bowl and form into a round ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour.
Rolling the Dough
Preparing the dough with a hand crank pasta machine.
Divide dough into about 3″ x 2″ pieces. Dust the dough with flour on both sides if the dough is too sticky. Start thick and gradually crank to desired thinness.
After the first pass through the machine, fold the dough in half to help develop the gluten. To make good straight edges, fold the ends of pasta sheet to the center and then rotate it 90º so that the folded edges are on the sides.
Next, move the rollers to the next smaller setting and run the dough through one time. Move to the next smaller setting and run the dough through again. Lightly flour the rolled dough strips as needed to prevent sticking in your pasta machine.
Keep rolling the dough through the next smaller setting until you have reached the second to the last setting, but you can roll the dough to whatever degree of thinness you prefer. I prefer the next to last setting for spaghetti.
As you move to the thinner settings, your pasta will become become more delicate. If it tears as you roll it through, don’t worry, it’s not ruined. You can simply fold the pasta and re-roll. However, I have found the pasta recipe that I am using is very supple and I have never had the dough tear.
Cutting the Spaghetti
When you have finished rolling the dough, let it dry on a cutting board or cloth for about 10-15 minutes. This will prevent sticking and will make it much easier to cut the dough in your pasta machine. Don’t let it get too dry or it will become stiff and brittle and will not feed through your machine. When the dough is finished drying, cut the dough into shorter strips to make it easier to cut in your machine.
As soon as you cut the pasta, either place the cut pasta on a floured flat surface or hang it on a pasta drying rack.
This type of fresh pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, or it can be air dried on your pasta rack and then stored in an airtight container.
Fresh pasta can also be frozen in a vacuum bag. Do not keep dried fresh pasta out because of the eggs in the mixture.
Cooking Homemade Pasta
Note: Fresh pasta cooks very quickly.
Drop the pasta into a large pot of salted boiling water and boil until tender or “al dente” for about two to three minutes. Do not overcook the pasta to a mush. Drain well and serve.
Some Recipes To Cook After You Make the Spaghetti:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/2-by- 1/4-inch strips
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dry red wine
1-1/2 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 recipe homemade spaghetti
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat until very soft, 7 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook until translucent, 3 minutes. Add the vinegar, wine, tomatoes, crushed red pepper and 2 tablespoons of water and simmer until thick, 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente; reserve 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce along with the reserved cooking water and cook over moderate heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of cheese. Serve right away, passing more cheese at the table.
Spaghetti With Tomatoes, Capers and Olives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, 2 sliced, 1 minced
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (2 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 recipe homemade spaghetti
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sliced garlic over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, about two minutes. Do not let it take on any more color than this. Remove the garlic slices with a slotted spoon and discard, then add the bread crumbs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until the bread crumbs are crisp. Remove from the heat, and pour into a bowl.
Return the pan to medium heat, and add the remaining olive oil, the red pepper flakes and the minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic smells fragrant, and add the tomatoes, capers and olives. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the spaghetti. Cook al dente, drain, and toss with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and parsley on top, toss again briefly and serve, passing the Parmesan at the table.
Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, about 1 1/2 lb., ends trimmed
1 tablespoons plus 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 recipe homemade spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Cut off the broccoli rabe florets and coarsely chop the leaves and tender stems.
Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add the 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta and cook until al dente.
While the water is heating, in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes.
Stir in half of the broccoli rabe, including the florets, coating them with the oil. Cook until the wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining broccoli rabe and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
Pour in the broth and reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the broccoli rabe is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in the 1/4 tsp. salt and season with pepper.
When the pasta is ready, drain. Place the pasta in a serving bowl and top with the broccoli rabe sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.
- Yes, You Can Make Homemade Pasta! (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- How To Make Stuffed Pastas At Home (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- How To Make Homemade Ravioli (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Homemade pasta with pesto (ginandjuiceboxes.com)
- What Can I Do With A Box Of Spaghetti ? (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Parsley Semolina Pasta (bangordailynews.com)
- The Dish on Pasta: Maligned Food Actually a Healthy Carb (livescience.com)
- The Art of Pasta by Lucio Galletto and David Dale (runningfurs.com)
” The shapes pasta takes are numbered in the hundreds, and the sauces that can
be devised for them are beyond numbering, but the principles that bring pasta
and sauce together in satisfying style are few and simple.”
Pasta comes in many shapes and lengths and there are hundreds of combinations of pastas and sauces. These pairings may seem random, but to Italians, there’s a surprisingly logical process that goes into choosing the perfect pasta shape for a given sauce.
You would not want to pair a chunky sauce with thin noodles because the sauce will separate from the noodles and wind up in the bottom of the bowl. Meat sauces or other chunky sauces are best with larger hollow tubes such as rigatoni and penne, or in the cupped shape of conchiglie (shells). Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, is usually the best vehicle for an olive oil based seafood sauce. Many tomato sauces work better with thicker, hollow strands known as bucatini or perciatelli. Fusilli is excellent with a dense, creamy sauce, that clings to all its twists and curls.
Here is a link to a chart that gives you a picture of the various pasta shapes and the sauces that go well with them:. http://www.chow.com/assets/2009/03/pasta_chart.pdf
Did you know there is a reason why you might use ruffle-edged lasagna noodles instead of flat-edged? In the book, The Geometry of Pasta, is the explanation that lasagne ricci, the ruffled noodles, may allow lighter sauces to penetrate the dish better. It is also more decorative, which may be why it is a staple of the Christmas table in Sicily. http://www.geometryofpasta.co.uk/index.php
Here are some well-matched pasta and sauce recipes for you to try.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion
- Kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1/2 pound ground sirloin or ground turkey, (leave out for a vegetarian meal)
- 8 cups chopped eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 (28-ounce) container Italian chopped tomatoes
- 10 ounces uncooked rigatoni
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and beef; cook 10 minutes or until the beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef.
Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally.
Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cook pasta according to package directions, adding kosher salt to the cooking water. Drain. Toss pasta with the eggplant sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.
Creamy Fettuccine With Asparagus
- 1/2 pound fettuccine
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and diagonally sliced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese
- 6 tablespoons shredded cheese, such as Italian Fontina
- Coarsely ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the fettuccine and cook for 6 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the asparagus, and cook 4 to 6 minutes more, or until the fettuccine is al dente and asparagus crisp-tender. Scoop out 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta and asparagus and return to the cooking pot; cover to keep warm.
Combine milk and flour, whisking until smooth. Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat oil and garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat.
Whisk in the cream cheese and Fontina until smooth and blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss, adding pasta water to moisten, if necessary. Sprinkle with the walnuts.
Angel Hair Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil
Optional: add 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp to the skillet when adding the tomatoes
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 5-6 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
- Salt to taste
- 16 oz. package angel hair pasta
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
Spinach Mushroom Lasagna
- 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
- 1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 cups (8 ounces) finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon water or red wine
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (or large Portabellas, chopped)
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
- 1 recipe homemade marinara sauce, see post for recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and lay out on clean kitchen towels.
In a large bowl stir together ricotta cheese, egg, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and black pepper; set aside.
Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, add 1 tablespoon water (or wine) and sauté mushrooms and onion over medium heat 5–6 minutes, or until onion is tender.
Stir in spinach and set aside.
Coat an 11″ x 7″ baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 3 noodles, half of the cheese mixture, half of the spinach mixture and 1/3 of pasta sauce. Repeat layers.
Top with remaining 3 noodles and remaining pasta sauce.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and bake for 5 minutes more, or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.
Yield: 8 servings.
Italian Style Pasta with Tuna
- 4 oz. whole-wheat spiral pasta
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, preferably red, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
- 12 sun-dried tomato-halves, packed in oil, drained and minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of dried red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1 can (15 oz.) rinsed and drained cannellini beans, or cooked dried beans, see post
- 1 can (6 oz.) tuna, well-drained
- 1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and drained
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside. Mix the sun-dried tomatoes and plum tomatoes with the onion mixture. Add oregano and pepper flakes to taste.
Add beans, tuna and capers to the skillet and cook, breaking up tuna, until the mixture is completely heated through. Mix in the tomatoes and the onion/garlic mixture.
Cook, stirring often, until completely heated through. Add cooked pasta and heat through, tossing to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with parsley.
Makes 6 servings.
- Dried Pasta & How To Cook Dried Pasta (williams-sonoma.com)
- Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino (bellacorea.wordpress.com)
I have a bookshelf filled with cookbooks, but the ones that mean the most to me, are the Italian cookbooks I have had since the early days of my married life. Before getting married, I really didn’t take much interest in cooking because my mother took care of all that in our home. Around the time that I was planning my wedding, my mother gave me, what was probably one of the most popular Italian cookbooks of that era, Ada Boni’s, The Talisman Italian Cookbook , and one that most first and second generation Italian-American daughters received as a gift. I was recently reminded of this traditional custom while I was reading a novel, Adriana Trigiani’s, Very Valentine. The novel is about an Italian-American family living in New York during the 1960s and one of the women in the novel takes out her copy of the Talisman to look up a recipe.
Ada Boni was a professional food writer in Italy. In 1915, she founded a lady’s home economic’s magazine called Preziosa. Each monthly installment featured recipes that she had collected from all over Italy, with a strong emphasis on recipes from her native Lazio and central Italy. In 1929, she published a compendium of over 2000 recipes from her columns–a volume that had a major impact on modern Italian cuisine.
Boni’s work was probably the first cookbook published in Italy intended specifically for housewives and was to Italians what, The Joy of Cooking, was to American cooks. The book was translated and published in the United States in 1950, and sad to say, is no longer in print. I still have my copy, though.
In the early days of my marriage, I refered to this book for ideas on what to make for dinner because my husband was a lover of Italian food. I was happy to have this reference because I could not keep calling my mother to find out how to make this dish or that dish.
Minestrone Soup was one of the first dishes I learned to make and have included Boni’s recipe for you to read. The recipe is healthy as written and does not need any changes. While this was my first version of minestrone, I graduated to a more substantial version, minus the bread, over the years that included more vegetables and some type of macaroni.
Minestrone Toscano (Tuscan Vegetable Soup)
Yield: 6 servings
- 1/2 pound dried white beans
- 1 very small cabbage, shredded
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 clove
- 12 slices thin of toasted bread
- 2 tablespoons grated Roman cheese
Soak the beans overnight; then boil in 3 quarts water 1 hour or until
tender. While the beans are cooking, place oil, garlic, onion, celery and rosemary
in soup pan and brown lightly. Dilute the tomato paste with a
little warm water, stir it into the pan and cook 5 minutes. Add the cabbage,
zucchini, parsley, salt, pepper and clove, as well as the beans and their cooking water. Cook slowly for 20 minutes.
Place 2 slices of toast in each soup bowl, add soup and sprinkle with cheese.
Leone’s Italian Cookbook
After a few years I became more adventurous and looked for additional recipes to master. Of course, I had a few American cookbooks for common, everyday meals, such as meatloaf and pot roast but I wanted to branch out into more Italian restaurant style food. Who knows why I thought that then? In any case I purchased my next cherished book, Leone’s Italian Cookbook by Gene Leone, of the famed New York eatery, Mamma Leone’s. My husband and I had eaten there a few times and even took the children there once after going to the theater. The restaurant closed in 1987. The book was first published in 1967 and is no longer available.
The recipe that I made most often from this book, and one my husband really liked, was Spaghettini with Clam Sauce. The version I make today is one with less oil, no butter or bacon and uses whole grain pasta. There are much easier ways to open the clams than the method used in this recipe. When I made this recipe back then, I usually turned to canned clams so I would not have to shuck them. A much easier way to open clams in the shell is to use a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1/4 cup of water or white wine to a boil. Add the cleaned clams, cover immediately, and steam until the clams are open, 3 to 5 minutes.
Notice some of the terminology and wording used for foods and processes mentioned in the recipe date this book considerably.
Mamma Leone’s Spaghettini with Clam Sauce
24 medium-sized cherrystone clams
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh creamery butter
1 ounce salt pork or bacon, diced
3 medium-sized garlic cloves, mashed
12 fresh parsley sprigs, leaves only
Pinch of flour
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
Open the clams, saving any juices, and coarsely chop the clams. Combine olive oil, butter and salt pork in a skillet; heat.( For a meatless meal, omit the salt pork.)
Chop garlic and parsley together and add to skillet. Cook slowly for 2 minutes. Do not burn. Add chopped clams and cook 5 minutes. Add flour and red and black pepper and stir well.
Do not add salt as the clams are salty. Cook for 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the clam juice, but be careful not to make the sauce too liquid. Bring to a boil and mix and the clam sauce is ready.
In the meantime have boiling salted water ready for the spaghettini. Cook for 10 minutes. (If a heavier spaghetti is used, cook a little longer.) Always taste a strand before removing from the heat to be sure it is cooked to your taste. Drain immediately and place back in the hot pot in which it was cooked. Pour a little sauce over it and mix. Serve in a warm bowl and add the rest of the sauce. Serves 4 to 5.
Note: You may add a dash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon to the balance of the clam juice for an invigorating and refreshing cocktail. Or mix clam juice with a glass of Champagne and a dash of Tabasco.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
After about 10 years, I purchased a much revered book in the culinary world, Marcella Hazan’s, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. By this time in my cooking experience, I was ready for more sophisticated and more diverse cooking techniques. I was entertaining more and wanted to make dishes like homemade pasta, cannelloni, gnocchi, osso buco and risotto. The author’s style is very clear and her directions are easy to follow. Marcella Hazan has written several books since this classic cookbook came out in 1973. Luckily, her books are still in print and, if you want authentic, classic Italian recipes, pick up a copy of one of her books.
I learned to make risotto with this recipe, but I did not use truffles. I don’t think I even knew what they were, when I read this recipe for the first time. Not something we had in our pantry when I was growing up. I still make risotto every once in awhile, but like to add more flavorings and ingredients, such as lemon, asparagus, shrimp and chicken broth instead of beef. The process for cooking risotto, though, will always be, as described here. Well, maybe not the part about “never stop stirring”. Risotto can survive with occasionally stirring.
Risotto with Parmesan Cheese
This basic white risotto is the simplest way to prepare the dish, and for many, the finest. Good as it is, it can be even better when blanketed by shaved white truffles.
5 cups Homemade Meat Broth, or 1 cup canned beef broth diluted with 4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons onion chopped very fine
2 cups Arborio or other imported Italian risotto rice
½ heaping cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
OPTIONAL: ½ ounce (or more if affordable) fresh or canned white truffle
Salt, if required
1. Bring the broth to a very slow, steady simmer on a burner near where you’ll be cooking the risotto.
2. Put 1 tablespoon of butter, the vegetable oil, and the chopped onion in a broad, sturdy pot, and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook and stir the onion until it becomes translucent, then add the rice. Stir quickly and thoroughly until the grains are coated well.
3. Add ½ cup of simmering broth and cook the rice, stirring constantly with a long wooden spoon, wiping the sides and bottom of the pot clean as you stir, until all the liquid is gone. You must never stop stirring and you must be sure to wipe the bottom of the pot completely clean frequently, or the rice will stick to it.
4. When there is no more liquid in the pot, add another ½ cup, continuing always to stir in the manner described above. Maintain heat at a lively pace.
5. Begin to taste the rice after 20 minutes of cooking. It is done when it is tender, but firm to the bite. As it approaches that stage, gradually reduce the amount of liquid you add, so that when it is fully cooked, it is slightly moist, but not runny.
6. When the rice is about 1 or 2 minutes away from being fully cooked, add all the grated Parmesan and the remaining butter. Stir constantly to melt the cheese and wrap it around the grains. Off heat, taste and correct for salt, stirring after adding salt.
7. Transfer to a platter and serve promptly. Shave the optional white truffle over it, using either a truffle slicer or a swiveling-blade vegetable peeler. Some prefer to shave the truffle over each individual portion.
- Italian zuchinni soup (incrediblylovelylotte.wordpress.com)
- How to Use Beans in Italian Cooking (jovinacooksitalian.com)