Tag Archives: marcella hazan

Scaloppine al Marsala, al Limone, and all’Amore

Real Italian Cooking is Often Simple, But Not Easy.

Guests and fish both stink after three days – the saying is the same in Italian as in English. But unlike aquatic creatures guests can buy a few more days by cooking a special meal or two. This is in part how a very un-italian family like mine (especially my mom) got its first lessons on how Italians really cook. My Grandfather took a trip to Italy almost every Spring and invited the waiters, cooks, doormen and anyone else he got along with to come stay with him in Milwaukee (which included a few days with us in Madison) when they every travelled through America. Enough did to change us.

Emily, Silvia, and the Scaloppine

I was thinking about this as I was organizing my pictures from the last few months. In a few of them there were some pictures of Linda, my mother-in-law who passed away this Spring. It’s impossible to list the many parts of our daily lives that remind us of her. My first instinct to write about food and how it passes through my life came when I watch her make her famous lasagna and I started taking pictures. I needed to ask her how she made the ragout for it before I could write it and now it’s too late to ask her directly. Italians use recipes at home, but for those dishes that they have made their own they follow more memory, sensation and whims than specific measurements.

Scaloppine di Tacchino Generation Transfer

Other pictures were of this Summer, when Silvia prepared our goodbye dinner for my parents and close family in Madison this summer. Emily helped, keeping her eagle eye on every move her mother made and tucking it always for the next opportunity the same way she learned to make her famous crepes. The main dish was scaloppine di tacchino al marsala. The original version are veal filets flavored with marsala fortified wine (or lemon juice). We usually use turkey or chicken filets.

The choice of entree made the evening a bit more emotional. Linda was famous for her scaloppine and it was one of her favorite things to prepare for us at Sunday lunch in L’Aquila – and Emily’s favorite to eat too.

Marcella Hazan, the author of the first cookbook I ever owned, recently mentioned on Facebook that if you have to follow the rules for French cooking but the apparently simpler Italian recipes require that you develop your own sense of it all. I usually don’t print many recipes, but thanks to time spent in the kitchen with my scaloppine provders and Marcella’s books…..

Turkey Scaloppine with Marsala (Scaloppine di Tacchino al Marsala)
loosely adapted from the Veal Scaloppine with Marsala recipe found in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan – Silvia goes my memory and adapts the oils to what’s available..


  • 4 tablespoon olive oil (in the original it’s a mix of vegetable oil and butter, ingredients more common in the north of Italy)
  • 1 pound turkey breast filets
  • Flour, spread on a plate
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine (if you can’t find Marsala, use dry port in a pinch)
  • Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill to taste

Flatten the scaloppini (filets) with a meet pounder, hammering from the center of each piece outwards until each one is evenly thin. Put the oil in a skillet and turn on the heat to medium high.
When the fat is hot, cover both sides of the scaloppine in flour, shake off excess flour, and slip the meat into the pan. Brown them quickly on both sides. Transfer them to a warm plate, and sprinkle with salt (and pepper to taste, we usually do not). If the pan’s too small to do them all at once , do them in batches, but dredge each batch in flour just before slipping the filets into the pan to prevent the flour on them from becoming soggy which would make it impossible to achieve a crisp surface.
Once the filets are ready, turn the heat on to high, add the Marsala, and while it boils down, scrape loose with a wooden spoon all the browning residues on the bottom and sides. Add a touch (tablespoon?) of olive oil and any juices the scaloppine may have shed on the plate. When the juices in the pan are no longer runny and have the density of sauce, turn the heat down to low, return the scaloppine to the pan, and turn them once or twice to baste them with the pan juices. Turn out the entire contents of the pan onto a warm platter and serve at once.

Variation: if you don’t like Marsala, you can always roughly squeeze in a half lemon of juice. Most people here in Italy squeeze a slice of lemon on just before eating, to taste, as with any meat dish.

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com


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Linda, a River Shrimp, and Me

A Summer Take on Italy Most Classic Garlic Dish

Aglio, Olio and Pommodorini

Aglio, olio e pepperoncino (garlic, olive oil and hot pepper) is one of the most sincere and dangerous pasta dishes. Dangerous because so many people shy away from garlic and even I shy away from the hottest of the hot stuff. But also perilous because in its simplicity to make and to devour, a plate of spaghetti doused with these two ingredients lightly simmered in olive oil can tempt more than more complex and expensive pastas.

Simmering Aglio Olio and Pepperoncino

I’m always hesitant to mess with near perfection, but in the summer there’s always another ingredient laying there, calling to you. The heat makes risk taking just that much easier.

Slow-baked tomatoes ready to jump

My friend Fabrizio C was playing with fire a few days ago (and only our tongues got slightly singed). Piccadilly and datterini tomatoes had come into their own on the Abruzzo coast when he invited a dozen friends over to his terrace for dinner. His twist was adding slow-baking breaded piccadilly cherry tomatoes (to dry them out a bit) at the end off the garlic, hot pepper and oil process.

Mixing it up

Slowly baking (about 45 minutes) and breading tomatoes dried them out while keeping just the right amount of juice and sweetness in to keep them slightly chewy but not as much as the al dente durum wheat pasta in which they were hiding.

Friends, tomatos and pepperoncino

This being summer we followed up with local vegetables – roast sweet peppers and above all some of the last great fresh fava beans of the Summer (to be eaten right out of the pod and accompanied by good pecorino cheese) as we washed it all down with some of this years Pecorino white and rich Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo rosè wines from the valleys between Pescara and Sulmona. The wine kept our conversation and appetite for summer dinners growing well into the night.

Friends, tomatos and pepperoncino

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com


Aglio, olio and pomodorini

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Want to try making aglio olio and peperoncino and don’t want to look for it on the web? My first and favourite guide is “The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating” by Marcella Hazan. My hitchiker’s guide to Italian food.

Roast peppers

Also my friend Eleonor’s blog http://www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com/ is inspired.

Garlic on FoodistaGarlic

Happy as Clams

Before the quake we had a regular carbonara date with a group of friends. We shared the same row of season tickets for the Thursday night comedy theatre series at San Filippo, a deconsecrated downtown. Afterward we would all walk over to Rita and Massimo’s for carbonara and a few more laughs.

Spaghetti with clams

The theatre is off limits, like most of downtown, although it is trying to keep producing and bringing in shows whenever they can. The same goes for the buildings most of us lived in – and we are spread out from the outskirts of L’Aquila to Pescara. But spaghetti is the ultimate Italian comfort food and friendship can resist even crumbling walls.  But even though it is a chilly winter here on the coast, spaghetti with clams seemed more appropriate. (And other forms of seafood stood in for cabaret.)

There are lots of recipes for spaghetti with white clam sauce. If I was following one, it would always be Marcella Hazan’s. But we usually don’t follow the rules in these nights out. But the basic gist of most ricette is this:

– soak a half pound of small clams in a basin of salty water a few hours before, changing the water every half hour or so to clean them and purge them of sand

– seer a clove or two of sliced garlic in a few big spoons of olive oil in a skillet large enough to host the pasta you’ll be adding.

– add a half cup of white wine and slide in the small clean clams in their shells and simmer covered as you like. Add if you want: diced parsley or diced basil, chopped cherry tomatoes, and/ slices of fresh hot peppers. It’s all up to you. Cover and simmer until the clams open.

– cook the spaghetti al dente, slide the pasta into the skillet with the clams, salt, mix and serve to smiles.

What is this? Spaghetti con le vongole?

Of course there are more precise ways to do this, and you can also shell the clams after cooking for guests that don’t want to spend dinner eating the clams by hand – but that’s at times just what children and raucous dinner guest enjoy. And the constant tinkering of clam shells raining into spare bowls can be as uplifting as a glass of good Prosecco sparkling white wine.

I wonder if this is how we got the saying “happy as a clam”.

We were.

For those of you reading this on Facebook, it was originally published on carbonara.wordpress.com

Marcella Hazan

Twenty years ago when I left for Italy to study a year at the University of Bologna, my mother snuck a copy of Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cookbook” into my suitcase. While it would seem strange to give a kid flying off to Italy a cookbook in English, it was a lifesaver.

I have found cookbooks that are just as fun to read, and others that are pleasure to browse through, gawking at enticing images of food and Italy. The book, the size of a thick paperback crime novel, was a perfect guidebook for a young american college student as he plunged into a year in city of tortellini and lasagna. She had (and has) a way of translating recipes and cooking philosophy that made them accessible to American supermarkets and minds. So even though her instructions for Spaghetti alla Carbonara call for pancetta or, if that is not accessible, bacon, whereas purists central Italy say only guanciale will do, if you have her books as a guide, you will eat well, which is what really counts in the end.

It is better with guanciale, an unsmoked version of pancetta made from pork jowls (guancia means cheeks in Italian), but even in Abruzzo and bordering regions where it is common it is not easy to find and keep on hand.

She helped me understand that Italian cooking does not have to be complicated. Recipe Zaar publishes her instructions for “the simplest tomato sauce ever” (www.recipezaar.com). The ingredients are canned tomatoes, butter (yes, sometimes butter is better than olive oil in Italian food) and a medium sized yellow onion, cooked slowly for about 45 minutes (the onion is thrown out at the end).

In the end the key is attention to detail, and thinking about what you are doing, that matter most. In the US it was groundbreaking decades ago to build your meals around the vegetables that were in season nearest to you. But when you think about it, it just makes good sense. The huge varieties of foods and dishes and creative variations that make Italy the place the world wants to visit for its food. And in Italy, food is built from the ground up.

(For those of you reading this on Facebook, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com)