LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. – Marcella Hazan, the Italian-born cookbook author who taught generations of Americans how to create simple, fresh Italian food, died Sunday at her home in Florida.
Hazan, 89, was best known for her six cookbooks, written by her in Italian and translated into English by Victor, her husband of 57 years. The recipes were traditional, tasty and sparse – her famous tomato sauce contained only tomatoes, onion, butter and salt.
She begged home cooks to use more salt and once wrote that if readers were concerned about salt affecting one’s life expectancy, to “not read any further.” On the topic of garlic, Hazan took a sharp view.
“The unbalanced use of garlic is the single greatest cause of failure in would-be Italian cooking,” she wrote in her 2004 cookbook “Marcella Says …” “It must remain a shadowy background presence. It cannot take over the show.”
Marcella Pollini was born in 1924 in Cesenatico, Italy. She didn’t intend to be a cooking teacher or author; she graduated from the University of Ferrara with a doctorate in natural sciences and biology.
But then she met Victor Hazan, who was born in Italy but raised in New York. The couple married in 1955 and moved to the U.S., and she realized she needed to feed her husband, who longed for the flavors of Italy. One year, she went to take a Chinese cooking class, but the class was canceled; the other students asked her to teach them to cook Italian food.
So she began offering cooking classes from her apartment. Those classes blossomed into a lifelong business. She and Victor opened a cooking school in Bologna, then in Venice.
Hazan gave birth to a son, Giuliano, in 1958. He shared his parents’ love of food and also became a cookbook author. He and his wife run a cooking school in Verona. He also makes frequent visits to the “Today” show.
On Sunday, Victor Hazan wrote on Facebook: “Marcella, my incomparable companion, died this morning a few steps away from her bed. She was the truest and best, and so was her food.”