Marcella Hazan and the Beautiful Simplicity of Italian Cooking

This post is inspired by and in memory of the mother of Italian Cooking in the United States, Marcella Hazan. Marcella Hazan passed away at the age of 89 last Sunday and is the Julia Child of Italian cooking, she fundamentally changed how Americans cooked Italian food. She taught technique and simplicity in her cookbooks. Her tomato sauce was stunningly simple with only four ingredients, canned tomatoes, butter, salt, and one onion cut in half; that’s it, no basil, no garlic, no cheese. It is incredible, fresh, and uncomplicated.

Marcella's classic 1992 cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Marcella’s classic 1992 cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Thumbing through her cookbooks you will find recipes with hardly ever more than ten ingredients and usually less than five. Reading her recipes and her insistence on technique it is easy to see what she did before her career of cookbook author, she held a doctorate in natural sciences and biology in Italy. Marcella embodied the true spirit of Italian cooking, a respect for ingredients and the ability to transform simple ingredients into incredible food. She was like no other and her voice will live long in American culinary history.

Flour & Eggs

Since the topic of this post is simplicity, what if I gave you a recipe that had only two ingredients that I would almost guarantee you have right now. Ready?! Flour + Eggs = Fresh Pasta Dough. That’s it, no need for water, yeast, oil, salt. Fresh pasta is softer and more delicate than dried pasta and works well for less hearty sauces as well as stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortellini. While this is a simple recipe, it is time-consuming and better as a weekend project. The great thing about fresh pasta is you can make a lot and freeze the rest. You can roll out pasta by hand with a rolling pin but things are much easier if you have a pasta roller, either manual or an attachment to a stand mixer.  This is one of those recipes that is all about ratios and is very easy to scale up or down.

Fresh Pasta Dough

4 Servings (Roughly One Pound)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of flour (all-purpose is perfectly fine here)
  • 4 eggs (farm fresh eggs are the best here since you are using them raw)

1. Create a mound of flour in a large bowl, hollowing out a well.

2. Dump the eggs into the well and using a fork, slowly combine a little bit of the flour into the eggs.

3. Slowly mix the rest of the flour into the eggs. The dough will look like a shaggy mess.

4. Flour either a large cutting board or countertop and dump the dough onto the board/counter.

5. Knead the dough for about a minute until it comes to together. Gather it into a ball and begin to knead it with the heel of your hand, pressing and folding. Rotate the dough ball 90 degrees, and knead. Continue kneading -> folding -> rotating for about 10 minutes. The dough will eventually come together into a smooth and velvety ball.

6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for about 30 minutes.

7. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll out according to the directions of your pasta roller, or with a rolling pin.

The dough can be into strips for noodles, circles or squares for ravioli, or whole sheets for lasagna. The great thing about fresh pasta is that it cooks really quick. 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water is all it takes.

I used my pasta to make butternut squash ravioli.

My ravioli cutter

Perfect little ravioli circles ready for stuffing.

Deconstructed butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sage and tomato sauce