This is currently my favorite cookbook. It has been for quite a while and I’m usually pretty capricious.
Marcella Hazan (Her Name Be Praised) earned her place in the Italian cooking pantheon with Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Originally published in separate volumes as The Classic Italian Cookbook in 1973 and More Classic Italian Cooking in 1978 – combined, updated, and revised in the current single volume in 1992)
As wonderful as it is, Essentials is as advertised. It’s the essentials. It resembles in style and layout, Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking. I assume that was an intentional and successful attempt to claim staple status among Italian cookbooks in the same way Rombauer had general European-American books. It’s a broad overview. Her later, shorter books are more adventurous. They have a sharper focus and capture the mood and culinary fetishes she’s entertaining at a given moment. She’s more fun after she laid the groundwork.
I’ve got my mother’s copy of Marcella Cucina (1997.) Most of Mom’s cookbooks are heavily annotated. I remember a veal dish in a non-Hazan book exed out in pencil with the words “Never Again!” scrawled in the margin. Not so this book. There are a few notes here and there, but I get the sense that Mom thought Marcella did a pretty good job.Continue reading