I’m ambivalent about posthumous publications, mostly, but I knew I’d want to take a look at “Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market” (Scribner, $20). Marcella Hazan, who died in 2013, had tremendous influence on how we cook Italian in the U.S. Long before Mario Batali, who may be her influence inheritor, she taught us to make fresh pasta, serve bruschetta rather than American-style garlic bread, and braise pork in milk. I wrote an appreciation in Taste of Orange County after she died, including reminiscence from chef Cathy Pavlos of Lucca Cafe and Provenance. Pavlos cites Marcella’s model as second only to her own beloved Italian grandmother’s in importance.
Marcella had that effect on people—cooks, anyway. And she was nowhere more authoritative—some would say opinionated—than when discussing ingredients. I can remember asking for Marcella-specified no-anise sausage at San Remo Market in Tustin. (Sadly, no longer there.) “No anise?” said the owner, Joe. Then, after a pause: “Marcella Hazan, right?” After San Remo closed I discovered nearby Claro’s, which endures—and also, blessedly, makes very good no-anise sausage. Just ask the people behind the deli counter to set you up.
Marcella’s husband of 60 years, Victor Hazan, assembled notes she’d worked on for years into “Ingredienti,” a natural continuation of the professional side of their relationship—for all her books, Marcella wrote longhand, in Italian, and Victor transcribed and translated. Organized in three sections: Produce, The Essential Pantry, and Salumi, with chapters within each covering individual vegetables, oils and cheeses, and the cured meats that form the building blocks of flavor, the compact volume gives a cook a lot to think about. I was grateful to see her noting the difference between spiny artichokes—the Castroville exemplar—and globe, the rounder, milder versions often sold with a long length of stem. So not the same! I must admit to being a little shocked, though, to read a commendation for canned chickpeas in the pantry section. The Marcella I know would never! A reminder that life goes on, even as it changes.