As someone who is old enough to know, I can say without equivocation that without Marcella Hazan, who passed away last weekend, there would be no real Italian food in this country. That's right. There would be no Mario Batali, no Marc Vetri, no Giada DeLaurentis, no Paul Bartolotta, because all of their food was, at the very least, inspired by Hazan's seminal 1973 book, The Classic Italian Cookbook: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating. Though no longer in print, its spirit reigns strong in the widely acclaimed Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, written with Karin Kretschmann and published by Alfred Knopf in 1992.
Marcella, who I don't think I ever met, was no fancy, pretentious cook hiding behind pompous authenticity. She was just a great Italian cook, inspired by the food served at her family's table. Her food was, and remains, sophisticated in the best possible way: in its elegant simplicity. Marcella applied serious rigor to her cooking and recipes, but she always made it sound like if you had the will and the patience, you would end up cooking something seriously delicious and resolutely Italian. Her pork braised in milk is a staple at our house, as are many pastas.
So rest in peace, Marcella. Every serious eater is eternally grateful for what you brought to our tables. And don't just take my word for it. Next time you find yourself on Amazon or at a bookstore, buy or pick up a copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I promise, once you open and use it, your eating life will be changed forever.