Saturday, October 26th was the date I randomly chose to celebrate the life of Marcella Hazan. And, grazie mille, so many of you joined in! Dinners happened across the globe, from Australia to London, from my home in Washington, DC to homes in California. My heart is so full of love for all of you. I cannot wait to share your glorious dinners with the Hazan family.
Marcella’s books were a fundamental cornerstone of my culinary education. Introduced to her first cookbook, The Classic Italian Cookbook, in 1981, I proceeded to “cook the book” long before those words were strung together. I loved the way she organized my meals, suggesting what foods complimented others, what pasta should proceed a main course, what contorni (vegetables) should be served alongside dinner, and the antipasti that should proceed it all. The foods tasted so fresh to me then, and they did again this weekend.
Guests of honor at the table, Catherine Del Spina and Jerry Shereshewsky, introduced me to Marcella’s books, and her food, over thirty years ago. When we met, Catherine was an avid Italian cook, having learned from Marcella at her newly opened school in Bologna, Italy. Here are a few of their photos from the trip and bits and pieces of the typed document Marcella and Victor sent in advance.
For this celebration, I read all of Marcella’s books, and carefully selected a menu that could be prepared in advance or a la minute. I wanted to enjoy the party, too.
I spent last week preparing little snacks for the antipasto — giardiniera, pickled pepperoncini and salami were set around the living room in small dishes. Two adorable young men (Cory and Max), clad in blue oxford shirts, dark trousers and red and blue rep ties (thank you Party Hands!), passed Mushrooms with Garlic and Herbs (Classic Italian Cookbook), Marinated Peppers and Anchovies (CIC) and home smoked oysters (Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, coming soon).
The pasta course, Trenette with Potatoes and Pesto (CIC), was brilliant and green, tender pasta and thin sliced potatoes intermingling on the plate.
For the main course, I asked Pam the Butcher at Wagshal’s to cut veal scaloppine slightly thicker than usual (about 1/4″). Then I tucked glorious smoked mozzarella and a schmear of tomato sauce laced with anchovies and butter inside a trussed rolled up bundle. To accommodate dinner service, I doubled the tomato sauce and braised the thicker cut scallopini slowly until ready to serve. They were velvety, rich and satisfying.
For the vegetarians at the table, I riffed on the rolled veal, substituting thinly sliced eggplant planks, briefly grilled to soften them enough to roll. The tomato sauce was enriched with the broth from reconstituting many many dried porcini. Again, to accommodate service, I braised the rolls in the sauce until ready to plate.
Contorni, the vegetables, were inspired by the farmers market, as Marcella would have expected. Redbud Farm’s beautiful haricot verts, blanched and quickly sauteed in olive oil and Fried Finnochio (CIC). It made a pretty plate, sadly this beauty was not photographed.
We had a bold arugula salad, bright and acidic and bitter, to round out the meal, after which we slipped into dessert mode, enjoying Lunigiani’s Cake (Marcella Cucina), Apricot Gelato, Biscotti di Vino (thank you Jenny!), coffee, espresso, tea and a selection of my home made booze.
Bonnie Benwick selected some quintessential Marcella quotes and before dinner she and I tucked slips of paper into the place cards (little envelopes) and everyone read the quotes aloud between courses. We appreciated Marcella with every insight, raising our glasses to her memory.
Thank you, thank you, all of you who participated in #dinnerwithMarcella. The Twitter hashtag was full of celebrations and delicious photos and descriptions of dinners, Facebook photos chronicled the path to dinner around the world. We all want to know what you did, so please please please link in the comments to your blog posts or photos or Facebook posts.
Va bene, Signora Hazan.