Marcella Cooks and She Can Help You

September 7 – September 13, 2020

Monday:                   Turkey Fried Rice

Tuesday:                   Scallion, Cherry Tomato and Chili Pepper Sauce with Penne

Wednesday:            Fontina with Parma Ham Panino with Universal Sauce

Thursday:                 Tomato Tart

Saturday:                  Dave and Katie’s Magnificent Pink Putter Celebration: Swordfish steaks, Warm Corn Salad, Peach and Tomato Caprese, Peach Sorbet with Brandy

Sunday:                     Bolognese-style Chicken Cutlets (with Prosciutto and Parmigiano) with Burrata Caprese and Fried Rice / App of Universal Sauce with Crudités, Flatbread, and Crudites.

I’ve been talking about Marcella Hazan for some weeks now and introduced you to her simple but rich tomato sauce in the post of August 10th.  While she is viewed as the doyenne of Italian cooking in America, the fact is that she didn’t begin to cook until she was married, gave up her career as a biologist and moved to America with her husband.

So, she began to cook, as Beez and I did, out of necessity, only gradually getting drawn into the process of creating a tasty meal for family and friends.  Perhaps that’s why her recipes are so straightforward and don’t require having a personal relationship with your local rancher or a special trip to the Ethiopian market forty miles down the road.  But, whatever the reason, her recipes are simple and, as we have been telling you, delicious.

We don’t have her Classic Italian Cooking or Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking but her simpler Marcella Cucina (“Marcella Cooks”).  It is, to me, endlessly fascinating, in large part because most of the dishes are introduced by whimsical stories of when she first ate or cooked a dish, or saw a recipe for it in a magazine in a doctor’s office.    Her focus is not on technique or even strict authenticity, but taste:

“To study it [cooking] otherwise than as a function of taste is . . . like mastering the grammar of a language in which you have nothing to say.  . . [It reminds me] of a plea that the composer Richard Strauss once made to an orchestra he was rehearsing, “Gentlemen, you are playing all the notes perfectly, but please, now let me hear some music.”

Below are two of Marcella’s simple sauces for pasta, both surprising, in a way, because of the ingredients – few and not obvious (scallions, capers, olives) – but even more so because so few ingredients, cooked correctly, yield so much flavor.

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Scallion, Cherry Tomato, and Chili Pepper Pasta Sauce

(adapted from Marcella Cucina, Marcella Hazan)

“The Italian version of this sauce . . . requires ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes and cipollotti (young onions).  I have never seen (cipollotti) in an American market, but I always see scallions, which are rare in Italy.  Having made that substitution I also opted for jalapeño peppers (in lieu of the small red chili peppers of Italy) . . . Jalapeño is an unusual example of a non-traditional ingredient whose fresh and attractive aroma finds a ready welcome in an Italian dish.” – M. Hazan


30-40 minutes

(add 11 minutes for pasta, unless you cook it while finishing the sauce)


12-14 cherry tomatoes (we used about 20 small ones)

24 scallions (we used 18, and could have used more – as Marcella suggested)

½ jalapeño (or more – we used a whole one – to taste), sliced into rounds

2 garlic cloves peeled and sliced very, very thin (we used 1)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


1 lb. of pasta (a slim shape – spaghettini or small penne – we used penne)


After cleaning scallions and removing roots, slice into 2 inch pieces and then slice the white and light green (the solid parts) in half, lengthwise.

Halve the cherry tomatoes or, if they are large, cut them into quarters

Slice the jalpeño and peel and slice the garlic


Into a skillet, put the olive oil, scallions, garlic, chili pepper and a pinch of salt and turn heat on to medium.  Cook, stirring from time to time, until the scallions are very soft (10-15 minutes).  If the scallions begin to burn, turn down the heat!

Add the tomatoes and mix with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10-15 minutes.  Taste and correct seasoning and add more chili, if needed.

Either meanwhile, or after sauce is finished and off the heat, cook your pasta until just before al dente, reserve a cup of so of the pasta water and drain the pasta.

Turn the heat on under the sauce, add the pasta and toss with tongs, adding some pasta water if too dry, until pasta is cooked and coated with the sauce.

Serve with grated parmigiano

Alas, we took no picture of this colorful pasta – but here is one of those Bolognese-style Chicken cutlets with Prosciutto and Melted Parmigiano

Ligurian-Style Pasta Sauce with Raw Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, and Anchovies

(adapted from Marcella Cucina, Marcella Hazan)

Timing:                                  80 minutes (mostly, hands-off)


1 ½ dozen whole small black olives and 8 green olives

1 ½ tablespoon capers

6 anchovy fillets

1 ½ pounds fresh, ripe, firm tomatoes

10 basil leaves

1 ½ teaspoons of dried marjoram or ¾ teaspoon oregano

2 garlic cloves chopped very fine

¼ cup of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ teaspoon red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound boxed pasta (we used spaghetti)


Pit the olives, drain the capers (if you’re using salted capers, rinse them off well).

Now chop the olives, capers and anchovy fillets together and set aside in a bowl.

Skin the tomatoes raw, cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and cut into narrow strips about 1/4 -inch wide.  Add to the bowl with the olive mixture.

Cut the basil into thin strips and add it, along with the garlic, the parsley and either the marjoram or oregano to the bowl.  Sprinkle everything liberally with salt and black pepper.  Sprinkle with the vinegar.  Toss two times, then add the olive oil and toss thoroughly.

Let the sauce steep for 1 hour, turning over the ingredients, from time to time.

Taste and correct for seasoning.

Cook and Serve:

Cook pasta to al dente.  Reserve some of the pasta water, then drain and toss the pasta with the sauce, turning it over with tongs again and again, to coat each strand well.  Add some pasta water, if needed.

Serve immediately, with grated parmesan if you wish.

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