Wednesday, January 1, 2014
After the news of Mrs. Hazen’s death, when everyone was talking about their favorite dishes, I realized that I had really learned to make Italian food from her books, The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking. This actually came to me as somewhat of a shock, because I had literally internalized so many of the recipes that I scarcely open the books anymore, which I bought when they were first published by Knopf: 1976 and 1978, respectively—I was still in my 20s! I had completely forgotten, for example, that I learned to make pizza, which I made every single Friday night for more than 20 years, and still do often, from her second book. I still make my dough, and my sauce, the same way. I could list dozens of dishes that are just as second-nature, and just as frequently made.
Marcella Hazan once said, “"I am never bored by a good old dish and I wouldn't shrink from making something that I first made fifty years ago and my mother, perhaps, fifty years before then.” I couldn’t agree more.
Happy 2014. Eat well, and stay healthy.
Spaghetti col Sugo di Cipolle
(Spaghetti with Smothered Onions)
I have made only one minor change to this perfect recipe, indicated below. It contains lard, which you all know I adore; you can substitute butter or use all olive oil if you must. But do try the lard in Mrs. Hazan’s honor. Serves 4-6 as a first course.
5 T extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ lb sweet onions, liced very thin
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg (my addition; optional)
½ cup dry white wine
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Heat the oil and lard in a large sauté pan; add the onions, cover, and cool over very low heat for 45 min or more, til soft. Uncover, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook until golden brown, scraping with a wooden spoon occasionally. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, and a whisper of nutmeg. Add the wine, raise the heat, and stir until the wine has boiled away and you have a golden, creamy-looking mass. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.
Cook the spaghetti until firm—about 10-12 minutes. Reheat the sauce gently. Drain the pasta and add to the sauté pan; raise the heat and toss for a minute. Serve with the grated cheese, tossing lightly. You can also have a little garlic bread, really a bruschetta, the way Mrs. Hazen directs: toast the bread lightly; rub with a smashed clove of fresh garlic; and drizzle fairly generously with olive oil so it softens nicely. Mangia!