Food News

Marcella Hazan, Dead at 89, Taught America How to Cook Italian

Here's a simple equation for foodies:

Julia Child is to French cooking as (blank) is to Italian cooking.

If you said Marcella Hazan, you're both correct and saddened by a great loss to the culinary community. Ms. Hazan, the woman who brought Italian cuisine to American homes, died Sunday in Longboat Key, Florida at the age of 89.

Hazan was the author of six cookbooks, all written in Italian and translated into English by her husband. According to the New York Times, Hazan had a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara when she moved to the United States in 1955 with her husband, but she wanted to learn to make family dinners and needed to learn the language of her adopted country.

So, armed with a cookbook and a television, Hazan tackled both. Soon, the couple had a child and returned to Italy, where the young wife and mother continued her education in Italian cuisine, falling in love with the food of Rome and Milan. Eventually, the family returned to New York and Hazan started teaching cooking classes.

The then-food editor of the New York Times, Craig Claiborne, came to one of Hazan's daily classes and multi-course lunches and was impressed. Her first book was published a few years later, with her last published in 2004.

Hazan influenced many popular celebrity chefs including Mario Batali, who is quoted as saying, "I didn't pay attention to Julia Child like everyone else said they did. I paid attention to Marcella Hazan."

According to the New York Times, the day before Hazan died, she and her husband shared a meal of "trofie, the twisted Ligurian pasta, sauced with some pesto made with basil from the terrace garden".

A fitting last meal for an influential teacher of cooking who once said about recipes, "Why not make it simple?"

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss