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 Post subject: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hagan
PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2019 9:04 am 
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Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:35 am
Posts: 2175
Location: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hagan, 2018, Alfred Knopf publishing

There was spaghetti & meatballs and there was pizza, occasionally ravioli from a can, that was my experience with Italian ‘cooking’ until my then current flame introduced me to her Italian grandmother who only made everything by hand. Her first word upon seeing me was, “Manjia!” “What is this – a scarecrow? Eat!” My culinary life changed instantly!

However, I had never heard of Marcella Hazan until a few months ago – thanks NYTimes. No, I do not live in a cave. I own 5 formidable Italian cookbooks. People love my bean soups, etc. But…

Marcella is credited with changing America’s understanding of what real Italian cooking could be. This 2018 edition is the revised and updated edition of her 1992. I believe it is the combination of her two first books.

All that aside, it is her way with words that made me a hearty fan. Years ago I wrote part of my thesis analyzing the Italian political system which is basically like the blind men describing an elephant but only holding onto one part of it for that person’s opinion. Unlike my other Italian recipe books, Marcella points out in her introduction what makes every place different from the next. Not only do the different geographical locations matter but the political, familial, cosmopolitan, and rural interactions exert long-standing influences. “Yes, that is good but MY mom’s, MY town’s, MY… is better.”

Marcella, “However much we roam, we shall not be able to say we have tracked down the origin of Italy’s greatest cooking. It is not in the north, or the center, or the south, or the Islands. It is not in Bologna or Florence, in Venice or Genoa, in Rome or Naples or Palermo. It is in all of those places, because it is everywhere.”

And before you begin, you would be a fool to skip her introductory chapter, “Fundamentals”. Herein she describes how important correct structure, sequencing, and techniques are to realizing the goal. Learn these basics, apply some discipline to acquiring her techniques and appreciate why steps are so important and you will be rewarded. And, it isn’t difficult – important but not difficult. Be the student. (I have made 6 recipes, all excelled!)

“An imperfectly executed soffritto will impair the flavor of a dish no matter how carefully all the succeeding steps are carried out.”

“If the onion is merely stewed or incompletely sautéed, the taste of the sauce or the risotto, or the vegetable never takes off and will remain feeble.”

“If the garlic is allowed to become dark, its pungency will dominate all other flavors.”

This is person who thinks about her cooking and you should too.


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