My mother has always said, “If you can read you can cook”. I adopted, repeated and used her adage until I realized how many times a new cookbook had failed me. I’ve learnt the hard way not to test out a new recipe at a dinner party. Lamb cutlets with yoghurt and cumin from a celebrity chef’s latest book sounded so promising and tested with disastrous results on my poor friends. A retroactive apology to anyone at that dinner! There are a few exceptions of cookery writers who have never let me down and whose recipes I would happily try for the first time even if entertaining The Queen (well maybe not The Queen). Top of that list is Marcella Hazan so I’d hereby like to change the saying to “If you can read Marcella, you can cook”. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it but that doesn’t diminish its truth.
My good friend, Patrick Nolan, has been undertaking a Julie/Julia inspired project of working his way through the entire Marcella collection. Quite an undertaking which has taken him years in part because he keeps discovering recipes that become staples in his repertoire like Sauteed scallops in Garlic Parsley and Winter Meatballs with Savoy Cabbage, stopping him from moving on to new ones.
It’s so hard for me to name my favorite Marcella recipe but her Bolognese is a true classic and the reason my lasagna is always such a hit even prompting my friend Dwight to tell a guy I was dating that if he was thinking of ending it with me, he should wait until he had tasted my lasagna. He did wait…..just. Apparently “Getting the lasagna” has become a saying in Dwight’s household. It also disputes another old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
In deference to my publishing past, I won’t breach copyright by transcribing a complete recipe but I will list a few more of my favorites — you’ll just have to buy the books to get the recipes. No lover of Italian food should be without them.
Asparagus and prosciutto bundles with fontina
Orecchiette with broccoli and anchovy sauce
Pan roasted Chicken with garlic, rosemary and white wine
Roast chicken with lemon
Carrots with butter and parmesan cheese (omitting the parmesan)
Stuffed squid braised in white wine
And so many more…..