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Marcella Hazan:
Matching Pasta to Sauce
Taste the international flavors of

“Marcella Hazan is a national treasure… No one has ever done
more to spread the gospel of pure Italian cookery in America.”
~ Craig Claiborne

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Several Types of Noodles, Tomato Sauce
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La Belle Cuisine


La Belle Cuisine cannot urge you strongly enough to do yourself a favor and purchase this excellent cookbook!  It is, 'filled with culinary wisdom and crystal-
clear recipes,' (Jeff Steingarten, Vogue), 'the one Italian cookbook you would
take to a desert island,' (Sidney Moore, Washington Post), and 'quite simply,
the most logical and helpful book on Italian cooking.' (William Rice, Chicago Tribune) We could not agree more!

Essentials of
Classic Italian Cooking

by Marcella Hazan, 1993, Alfred A. Knopf  

The pasta section in this incredible cookbook is some 120 pages long.  How could that be?  In addition to presenting us with “The Essentials of Cooking Pasta”, 20 pages of recipes for diverse ways of making a variety of pastas at home (with illustrations!), and recipes for every imaginable pasta sauce, Ms. Hazan goes a
step further, giving us excellent advice on the proper combination of pasta with sauce.  What goes with what…


Matching Pasta to Sauce

"The shapes pasta takes are numbered in the hundreds, and the sauces that can
be devised for them are beyond numbering, but the principles that bring pasta
and sauce together in satisfying style and few and simple. They cannot be ignored
by anyone who wants to achieve the full and harmonious expression of flavor of which Italian cooking is capable.
Even if you have done everything else right when producing a dish of pasta –
you have carefully made fine fresh pasta at home or bought the choicest quality
imported Italian boxed, dry pasta; you have cooking a ravishing sauce from the freshest ingredients; you have boiled the pasta in lots of hot water, drained it perfectly al dente, deftly tossed it with sauce – your dish might not be completely successful unless you have given thought to matching pasta type and shape to a congenial sauce.
The two basic pasta types you’ll be considering are the boxed, factory-made,
eggless dry kind and homemade, fresh egg pasta. When well made, one is quite
as good as the other, but what you can do with the former you would not
necessarily want to do with the latter.
The exceptional firmness, the compact body, the grainier texture of factory-made pasta makes it the first choice when a sauce is based on olive oil, such as must seafood sauces and the great variety of light vegetable sauces. That is not to say, however, that you must pass up all butter-based sauces. Boxed, dry pasta can establish a most enjoyable liaison with some of them, but the result will be
different, weightier, more substantial.
When you use factory-made pasta, your choice of sauce will be affected by the
shape. Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, is usually the best vehicle for an olive-oil-
based seafood sauce. Many tomato sauces, particularly when made with butter,
work better with thicker spaghetti, in some cases with the hollow strands known
as bucatini or perciatelli. Meat sauces or other chunky sauces nest best in larger hollow tubes such as rigatoni and penne, or in the cupped shape of conchiglie [shells]. Fusilli are marvelous with a dense, creamy sauce, such as… Sausages
and Cream Sauce…, which clings to all its twists and curls.
Factory-made pasta carries sauce firmly and boldly; homemade pasta absorbs it deeply. Good, fresh pasta made at home has a gossamer touch on the palate, it
feels light and buoyant in the mouth. Most olive oil sauces obliterate its fine
texture, making it slick, and strong flavors deaden it. Its most pleasing match
is with subtly constituted sauces, be they with seafood, meat, or vegetable,
generally based on butter and often enriched by cream or milk."

We are delighted to present to you several examples of “pleasing
combinations” from Ms. Hazan’s table of recommended matches:


Amatriciana – Tomato Sauce with Pancetta
and Chili Pepper

“The Roman town of Amatrice, with which this sauce is identified, offers a
public feast in August whose principal attraction is undoubtedly the cele-
brated Bucatini – thick, hollow spaghetti – all’Amatriciana. No visitor
should pass up, however, the pear-shaped salamis called mortadelle, the
pecorino – ewe’s milk cheese – or the ricotta, also made from ewe’s milk.
They are among the best products of their kind in Italy.
When making Amatriciana sauce, some cooks add white wine before putting
in the tomatoes; I find the result too acidic, but you may want to try it.

For 4 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
A 1/4-inch-thick slice of pancetta, cut into
strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long
1 1/2 cups imported Italian plum
tomatoes, drained and cut up
Chopped hot red chili pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-
Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
1 pound pasta

Recommended pasta: “It’s impossible to say all’amatriciana” without thinking “bucatini”. The two are as indivisible as Romeo and Juliet.
But other couplings of the sauce, such as with penne or rigatoni con
conchiglie, can be nearly as successful.

1. Put the oil, butter, and onion in a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Sauté the onion until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add
the pancetta. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring once or twice. Add the
tomatoes, the chili pepper, and salt, and cook in the uncovered pan at
a steady, gentle simmer for 25 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and
hot pepper.
2. Toss the pasta with the sauce, then add both cheeses, and toss
thoroughly again.


Eggplant and Ricotta Sauce,
Sicilian Style

For 6 servings

About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds eggplant
Vegetable oil
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion sliced very thin
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 cups fresh, ripe Italian plum tomatoes,
skinned with a peeler, split lengthwise
to pick out the seeds, and cut into
narrow strips
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
3 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
3 tablespoons fresh ricotta
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
1 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
cheese for the table
Recommended pasta: I love this sauce with ruote di carro “cartwheels”,
and it is also good with fusilli or rigatoni. Nor can you go wrong with
plain old spaghetti.

1. Cut off the eggplant’s green spiky cap. Peel the eggplant and cut it into
1 1/2-inch cubes. Put the cubes into a pasta colander set over a basin
or large bowl, and sprinkle them liberally with salt. Let the eggplant
steep for about 1 hour so that the salt can draw off most of its
bitter juices.
2. Scoop up a few of the eggplant cubes and rinse them in cold running water. Wrap them on a dry cloth towel, and twist it to squeeze as
much moisture as possible out of them. Spread them out on another
clean, dry towel, and proceed thus until you have rinsed all the egg-
plant cubes.
3. Put enough vegetable oil in a large frying pan to come 1/2 inch up the
sides of the pan, and turn on the heat to medium high. When the oil
is quite hot, slip as many of the eggplant pieces at one time as will
fit loosely in the pan. If you can’t fit them all in at one time, fry them
in two or more batches. As soon as the eggplant feels tender when
prodded with a fork, transfer it with a slotted spoon or spatula to
a cooling rack or to a platter lined with paper towels to drain.
4. Pour off the oil and wipe the pan clean with paper towels. Put in the
olive oil and the sliced onion and turn on the heat to medium high.
Sauté the onion until it becomes colored a light gold, then add the
chopped garlic and cook for only a few seconds, stirring as you cook.
5. Add the strips of tomato, turn up the heat to high, and cook for 8 to
10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oil floats free from the tomato.
6. Add the eggplant and a few grindings of pepper, stir, and turn the
heat down to medium. Cook for just a minute or two more, stirring
once or twice. Taste and correct for salt.
7. Toss the cooked and drained pasta with the eggplant sauce, add the
grated Romano, the ricotta, and the basil leaves. Toss again, mixing all ingredients thoroughly into the hot pasta, and serve at once, with the
grated Parmesan on the side.


Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Sauce
with Garlic and Basil

“Roasting peppers is one way of separating them from their skin, but in
this magnificent Neapolitan sauce the peeler is the better way. When
roasted, peppers become soft and partly cooked, but to be sautéed
successfully, as they need to be here, the peppers must be raw and
firm, as they are when skinned with a peeler.”

For 4 servings

3 meaty bell peppers, some red,
some yellow
16 to 20 fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-
Reggiano cheese
1 pound pasta

Recommended pasta: Ridged rigatoni would be best here, but other
tubular pasta, such as penne, ziti, or maccheroncini, would also be good.

1. Wash the peppers in cold water. Cut them lengthwise along their
crevices. Scoop away and discard their seeds and pulpy core. Peel
the peppers, using a swiveling-blade peeler and skimming them with
a light, sawing motion. Cut the peppers lengthwise into strips about
1/2 inch broad, then shorten the strips, cutting them in two.
2. Rinse the basil leaves in running cold water, and gently pat them
dry with a soft towel or paper towels, without brushing them.
Tear the larger leaves by hand into smaller pieces.
3. Choose a sauté pan that can subsequently accommodate all the
peppers without crowding them. Put in the olive oil and the garlic
cloves, and turn on the heat to medium high. Cook and stir the
garlic until it becomes colored a light nut brown, then remove it
and discard it.
4. Put the peppers in the pan, and continue to cook at a lively heat for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The peppers are done when
they are tender, but not mushy. Add an adequate amount of salt,
stir, and take off heat. Gently reheat when you’ll be getting ready
to toss the pasta.
5. When you are nearly ready to drain and toss the pasta, melt the
butter in a small saucepan at low heat. It should be just runny,
not sizzling.
6. Toss the cooked, drained pasta with the contents of the sauté
pan, then add the melted butter, the grated Parmesan, and the
basil and toss thoroughly once more. Serve at once.

Featured Archive Recipes:
Fresh Egg Pasta
Marcella's Carbonara Sauce
Marcella's Tomato Sauce 101
Marcella's White Clam Sauce
Mario Batali's Basic Pasta Dough

The Esseantials!
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