Marcella Hazan is well known for her roles as an educator on Italian cooking and a writer of wonderful cookbooks. Her new cookbook brings those two roles together: an enticing set of new soon-to-be classic Italian recipes and detailed instruction on the basics of cooking. The education component of the book takes the form of a Master Class – particular sections of note include: The Why and How of Prepping Vegetables: Artichokes to Zucchini, On the Importance of Making Bread Crumbs, and my favorite, Recycling Leftovers.
Hazan discusses techniques, ingredients, equipment and the science of cooking. Throughout the book, there are references back to the Master Class section, providing the reader with practical application of traditional techniques as well as guidance during the preparation of a dish.
The recipes in this book are elegant and simple. Hazan states that ‘simple doesn’t mean easy.’ She adds her description of simple cooking, ‘Cooking that is stripped all the way down to those procedures and those ingredients in enunciating the sincere flavor intentions of a dish’. The book is chockfull of simple cooking!
I traveled to various parts of Italy this past summer – the food varied greatly by region and we were assured of a new and exciting dining experience on a daily basis. The food and the wine were as compelling as the museums, architecture and history. My fondest memories are of sitting in small piazzas eating the most wonderful and satisfying food. With her recipes, Hazan provides me the opportunity to re-live those moments in my own home.
Here are two recipes: Leek and Scallion Frittata and Fettuccine with Prosciutto, Cream and Nutmeg. These recipes exemplify the types of recipes and style of instruction in the book.
Leek and Scallion Frittata
A 10 or 12 inch nonstick skillet with an ovenproof steel handle
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
The white portion of 1 (or more) bunches of leeks, sliced into very thin strips, about 2 cups
The green tops from a bunch of scallions, cut into ½ inch pieces or smaller, about 1 cup
Fine sea salt
Black pepper ground fresh from the mill
3 large eggs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
An oven mitt or thick potholder
For 4 persons
1) Put 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil in the skillet together with the leeks and scallions and turn on the heat to medium. Cook, stirring from time to time, and when the vegetables are about halfway soft add ¼ cup of water. Continue cooking until the leeks and scallions are completely soft and the water has totally evaporated. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a bowl and add salt and pepper, turning over the vegetables to season them well.
2) Break the eggs into the bowl, add the cheese, and turn the contents over several times to produce a uniformly blended mixture.
Ahead of time note: You can make the frittata batter several hours in advance up to this point. Refrigerate it, but it to full room temperature before cooking the frittata.
3) Turn on the oven to 400oF.
4) Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels. Add the remaining tablespoons of butter and turn on the heat to medium high. Give the mixture in the bowl a turn or two with a wooden spoon and when the butter has melted and its foam begins to subside pour the contents of the bowl into the skillet, leveling it with the spoon.
5) When the rim of the frittata begins to be firm, put the skillet in the preheated oven. Cook for just a few minutes, until the top is firm all over and the frittata no longer feels runny to the touch. Remove the skillet from the oven using an oven mitt or thick potholder, and slide the frittata onto a round platter. Serve the frittata cut into wedges.
Fettuccine with Prosciutto, Cream and Nutmeg
An Alfredo sauce is the clearest example of the kind of sauce the open pores of good homemade egg pasta are greedy for. They are ideal collectors of butter and cream, which is basically all that the celebrated Roman sauce consists of. To that familiar foundation I have added the taste of my native Emilia-Romagna, prosciutto. At home, prosciutto quickly sautéed in butter was the quick alternative to a long-simmered meat sauce and that is what we often used on our hand-rolled
tagliatelle. I like what prosciutto contributes to the Alfredo formula, the way its spiciness relieves the palate-coating denseness of all that butter and cream. This is one sauce you need no salt on because it is inherent, principally from the ham and partly from the Parmesan cheese.
3 tablespoons butter
Prosciutto cut into narrow strips to measure 2/3 cup
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
10 ounces Fettuccine
Marcella says: You can use an enameled cast-iron pan both to make the sauce and serve the pasta, but if you don’t have one, make the sauce in a 10 inch skillet, preferably non-stick, and serve the pasta on a very warm serving platter.
For 4 persons.
1) Put the butter and the prosciutto in whichever pan you are using, enameled cast iron or a skillet, and turn on the heat to low. Lightly brown the prosciutto, stirring from time to time, being careful not to overcook it and dry it out.
2) Add the cream and nutmeg, and cook down the cream, stirring from time to time, reducing it by a third. Remember that egg pasta is thirsty for sauce, so do not reduce too much. Should you inadvertently reduce it more than you would have liked, do not add more cream, but extend it with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water when you toss the fettuccine. Turn off the heat until the pasta is cooked.
3) When the fettuccine is done, tender but firm to the bite, turn on the heat to medium under the pan with the sauce. Drain the pasta at once, reserving a few tablespoonfuls of the cooking water in case of need, and slide it into the pan. Toss thoroughly; adding some of the cooking water if required to loosen the sauce. Add the grated Parmesan, toss again, and serve promptly directly from the enameled cast-iron pan, if that is what you used. If you used a skillet, empty its contents onto a warm serving platter and serve at once.
© '2004 by Good Cooking, Inc.