I was deeply shocked and saddened to read of the passing of cookbook author Marcella Hazan two years; she died on September 29, 2013. Although Mrs. Hazan had not published a new book since 2008 and had mostly spent her last few years living quietly out of the spotlight, it felt as though she was always there as a presence in my own kitchen, constantly revealing and teaching me new things about Italian cooking.
Indeed, Marcella Hazan is a legend in the home-cooking world, an author credited with bringing true and authentic Italian cooking to American chefs as never before. Marcella's Italian food is not the "spaghetti and meatballs", "red gravy"-style many of us grew up knowing and eating and calling Italian (but is really Italian-American cuisine). Marcella was a purist, whose recipes only reflect traditional methods and ingredients as would be found in an authentic Italian kitchen. With methodical detail—and sometimes a brusque, disdainful attitude toward "shortcuts" like using pasta machines or a garlic press—she would carefully describe the fussy details of, for instance, properly washing and cleaning clams before preparing white clam sauce, trimming an artichoke, or salting and drying an eggplant before frying. She spoke up for using seasonal, local ingredients long before "farm-to-table" became a catch phrase of the cooking industry; she taught many of us how to respect and find beauty in the simple, pure flavors that define real Italian cooking.