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387 of 406 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential First Book on Italian Cooking. Highly Recommended
`Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking' is Marcella Hazan's fourth book, composed of an edited and updated amalgam of her first two books, both of which were on `classic Italian cooking'. As with all of Ms. Hazan's books except for her latest, `Marcella Says', my main regret is that I have not read them sooner. All, especially this volume, are every bit as good as the...
Published on October 18, 2004 by B. Marold

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56 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Watch the cooking times!
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the depth of her knowledge of Italian cookery is amazing, on the other, the lack of specifics and inaccurate cooking times can be quite frustrating. This caveat should suffice: when making use of these recipes, make constant use of your tasting spoon!

I made Pasta e fagioli with fresh cranberry beans...
Published on June 1, 2008 by Cameron Williams


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387 of 406 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential First Book on Italian Cooking. Highly Recommended, October 18, 2004
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This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
`Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking' is Marcella Hazan's fourth book, composed of an edited and updated amalgam of her first two books, both of which were on `classic Italian cooking'. As with all of Ms. Hazan's books except for her latest, `Marcella Says', my main regret is that I have not read them sooner. All, especially this volume, are every bit as good as the blurbs may lead you to believe.

Some reviewers have compared this book to `The Joy of Cooking'. It is much more accurate to compare it to Julia Child's seminal `Mastering the Art of French Cooking' on several counts. First, like Child's book, Hazan's book is devoted exclusively to the techniques, ingredients, and recipes of a single major national cuisine. Second, unlike `The Joy of Cooking', it does not cover absolutely every kitchen technique and issue such as hygiene, nutrition, preserving, and obscure game meats. Third, the book is published and edited by the same people, Knopf and senior editor Judith Jones. This common publishing team means the two books have a very similar look. Both are illustrated by line drawings and both benefit from Knopf's traditional skill in designing the typeface and layout of books in general for easy reading. Fourth, Ms. Hazan arrived at cooking in almost exactly the same manner as Julia Child, in that they found themselves married to men who likes to eat well, and they did not know how to cook at the time.

The 64-dollar question of course is whether this book is equal in quality to Child's book. I think there is little shame in saying that while Hazan's book stands head and shoulders over virtually every other book I have read and reviewed on Italian cuisine, it does not quite match Child et al on the latters' innovations in recipe writing, the great good humor of the writing, and the comprehensive treatment of virtually every aspect of French kitchen equipment and the `cuisine bourgeois' techniques.

This book by Dr. Hazan (she has a Ph.D. in natural sciences and biology) is the exception which proves Tony Bourdain's observation in his excellent new cookbook which claims that cooking professionals are mostly just ordinary blokes who happen to have learned a skill which you the reader do not yet have. This applies as much to most cookbook authors as it does to most chefs. The thing that separates most good cookbook authors (witness Jamie Oliver) from their readers is their passion for the importance of good ingredients, careful observation of technique, and love of achieving a desirable result. Ms. Hazan is one of the very, very few writers who approach their subject as much with the rigor of an academic as with the passion of a good cook. Ms. Hazan's academic voice is much more anthropological and phenomenological than it is scientific a la Shirley Corriher.

Ms. Hazan succeeds in distilling for us the essence of Italian savory cuisine based on the notions of battuto (an Italian trinity of lard, parsley, and onion, chopped fine), soffritto (battuto sautéed until onion is translucent and garlic is pale gold), and insaporire (the technique of preparing ingredient such as the battuto and additions to extract flavor from the primary ingredients and impart that flavor to other ingredients, as when the flavors of the soffritto are imparted to the rice in making a risotto). After introducing these essential concepts, she gives us a very detailed tour of the most important ingredients in Italian cooking. To the casual American reader who may not have been schooled by `Molto Mario', there are some surprises, such as the fact that garlic is not as important an ingredient as you may believe. Another culture shock is the difference between the French stock and the Italian broth, and Ms. Hazan's insistence that using the former is simply not Italian cooking, thank you. That is not to say that there are not at least some things in common between French and Italian cooking. The most prominent is Bechamel sauce (Salsa Balsamella), made in exactly the same manner in Rome as it is in Paris. I am reluctant to steal any thunder from Ms. Hazan, but I must pass on to you her excellent suggestion for cutting your own scallopine from the top round, so that you can be sure of getting it cut against the grain.

If there is any dissonance in Ms. Hazan's presentation, it is in her paean to the regionality of Italian cooking, where, for example, the cuisines of Bologna and Florence, just 60 miles apart, is almost as different from one another as the cuisines of Venice and Naples, which are over 400 miles apart. The geographical origin of most (but not all) recipes is given in the headnotes, yet the general discussion of Italian technique makes no notice of this great geographical variety.

Like Child's book (taking volumes I and II together) and unlike virtually every other book on Italian cooking, this volume deals with so much more than the usual 6 chapters in that it has large, separate chapters on Soups, Pasta, Risotto, Gnocchi, Crespelle (Italian for crepes), Polenta, Frittate, Fish and Shellfish, Fowl and Rabbit, Veal, Beef, Lamb, Pork, Variety Meats, Vegetables (very large chapter), Salads, Desserts, Breads, and typical Italian menus. Also like Child's books and unlike her later books, this volume does deal almost exclusively with traditional dishes. I cannot guarantee that the book is complete, as it is missing any reference to Puttanesca or saltimbocca, two certifiable classics of regional Italian cuisine. But, completeness is not the objective here. The main objective is to teach you how to cook like an Italian.

This book does not replace the dozens of good books on Italian regional cooking and it does not replace good books on Italian specialities, such as Carol Field's book on Italian baking. But, it should be the very first book you buy on Italian cooking to better understand what it is these other books are saying.
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307 of 322 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behold a Sacred Text, February 15, 2001
By 
R. Williams "code slubber" (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
I agree with the other reviewer here: this is the one cookbook I'd keep if I could only have one. This book takes you so far beyond spaghetti and meatballs you won't believe it. It is also meticulous, thorough, and yet very enjoyable just to read. Here are my favorite recipes:
1. The Bolognese Pork Roasted in Milk - this recipe is insane. It is like a wonderful chemistry set experiment you can eat. Marcella says it would be one of her top 10 choices of recipes that embody the genius of Italian Cuisine.
2. The Lemon Chicken - Also amazing. Easy to do, wonderful. Great summer dish.
3. Veal Stew w/Tomatoes and Peas
4. Veal Stew w/White Wine and Sage
Also, some of the standards are given great treatment:
1. Eggplant Parm
2. Osso Bucco (this is by FAR the best version I've seen of this).
3. Fried zucchini.
This makes a great gift too because it isn't full of esoteric stuff that only foodies (no derision intended) would make.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top five cookbooks, July 18, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
Essentials gets the most use of any cookbook in my kitchen, second only to Joy of Cooking. I absolutely love it. I started cooking from it as a fairly new cook - every recipe is easy with very good instructions. Essentials is a real Italian cookbook so you wil not find Italian-American recipes loaded with cheese and tons of sauce (not that those aren't good). The book is over 600 pages and crammed full of recipes from all of Italy's regions (no food pictures). Virtually every recipe has notes for ahead-of-time prep and all the pasta sauce recipes list a recommended pasta. My husband loves Marcella Hazan b/c she doesn't try to be fancy. If a dried pasta is best with a sauce she will recommend it. If canned broth can be used, she will make a note of it. There is a great chapter in the back of the book called "At Table". She discusses how Italians eat (how the courses work) and has a large variety of suggested menus.
My favorite cookbook reviews list the recipes people have made from it. It gives me ideas of dishes to try and a better idea of what the cookbook will be like. Since I have made over 30 recipes from this book I can't list them all, but here are some of our favorites: Minestrone alla Romagnola - the best, thickest vegetable soup I have ever had and unlike any minestrone I have had at a restaurant. Tomato Sauce with Porcini Mushrooms; Smothered Onion Sauce; Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic and Hot Pepper; and Gorgonzola Sauce are all incredible on pasta. Don't forget the Pesto! Her recipe is the best. On to risotto's.... the Parmesan Cheese; Porcini Mushroom; and Sausage risotto's are great. The Baked Crespelle with Spinach, Prosciutto and Parmesan is a yummy Sunday night dinner. The Stuffed Spaghetti Frittata with Tomato, Mozzarella and Ham is my husband's new favorite Saturday breakfast. We have made the Grilled Shrimp Skewers at least 20 times - it goes great with pasta and pesto sauce. Chicken Fricassee with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine and Tomatoes; Tuscan Meat Roll with White Wine and Porcini Mushrooms; Braised Pork Chops with Two Wines are all good winter cooking. If you want to wow your friends with a minimal amount of work try the Braised Pork Chops with Tomatoes, Cream and Porcini Mushrooms (I had a pound of dried porcini so I tried every recipe that called for it). I could keep going, but at this point just typing the recipes has made me hungry. I promise - you can't go wrong with this book. Hmmm, maybe I'll make the minestrone tonight!
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115 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, Delicious, Delicious, December 1, 1998
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
This is it: The single indispensable cookbook -- not just for Italian food, but for good food. Marcella's (sometimes acerbic) commentary on ingredients and recipes is wonderful, but the reason to buy this book is for the dishes. Almost everything I've made from this book has been an absolute treat, from the succulent mushroom and ham pasta sauce to the delectable stuffed tomatoes. And with the size of this compendium, you'll never run out of new tastes to try.
My one quibble? The desserts don't seem to measure up to the rest of the dishes. The two I've tried -- lemon almond cookies and the farm wive's pear tart -- were disappointing. The cookies tasted great, but had the texture of cardboard, while the "tart" was more like a clafouti; although I baked it far longer than the recipe called for, it remained doughy and wet. With all that ripe pear in the batter, though, it certainly tasted acceptable!
With two disappointments out of the 30-or-so fabulous recipes I've tried, this is still single finest book I've ever cooked from. (and much better than her recent huge success Marcella Cucina). Oh, the soups! Oh, the pastas! Oh, the vegetables! Oh, Marcella!
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great recipes, July 19, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
I bought the first volume of this cookbook as a paperback edition in the late 70's and added the second volume a few years later. These cookbooks really taught me how to cook. I was thrilled to see that the two volumes were available in a single volume hardcover because my two paperbacks were just worn out. This book will teach you everything you need to know about Italian cuisine. The thing that I appreciate most about Marcella's books are that the recipes are designed for normal people who cook for their families and themselves, not chefs. The recipes do not demand unusual ingredients or techniques. My husband came home from fishing with a bluefish the other day, and Marcella had a wonderful recipe for it and I didn't need to dash off to the market for any unusual ingredients, just what I had in the larder, potatoes, red peppers, garlic and onions. The best bluesfish I ever ate! Everything I have cooked from her recipes is just basically good food and delicious. Our all -time favorites: Bolognese meat sauce (!!, my 13 year old son is such a fan, he has learned to cook this himself), veal chops (or pork chops) with anchovies (my husband didn't think he like anchovies but now is a complete convert), steak pan-fried with Marsala. All the soups are wonderful. A great resource: I haven't found a recipe yet I don't like. If I were on a desert isle and had to pick only one cookbook, I would pick this one.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book, July 5, 2000
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
This is an incredible book. I have read it from cover to cover, and even lugged it on vacation to read (yes, I am a bit obsessive). Everything that I have tried so far has been wonderful. Marcella's recipes are very approachable, and, best of all, they work! I am not Italian, nor have I ever been to Italy, so I can not speak to it's authenticity as Italian cuisine, but I can speak to the fact that this is wonderful food. She does insist on high quality ingredients, with which I am in total agreement, but I wish that she had included name brand names and resources in this updated edition. I have yet to be able to find anchovies in salt--even on the internet! The tomato and butter sauce is now my favorite pasta sauce, the veal marsala is delicious, and the cream and butter sauce is also wonderful. She goes into incredible detail about making pasta, as well as pairing fresh and factory products with the appropriate sauce. I would highly recommend reading the first part of the book before diving into the recipes, because she discusses several cooking techniques, as well as how to determine quality in your ingredients. If you love simple, wonderful food, you will not be disappointed with Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Essential Italian Cookbook, December 29, 2003
By 
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
Marcella Hazan is to Italian what Julia Child is to French: The person who introduced American cooks to a cuisine, and in so doing changed how we ate. This book is essential: both essential to anyone who wants to cook authentic Italian, and essentially Marcella.
This book has many virtues. It's very thorough -- a comprehensive survey of the various courses and food groups. There are dedicated chapters for pasta and risotto, for example, where many books treat those together. And in addition to the obvious meats, such as veal, lamb, beef, pork, etc., she also tackles subjects such as rabbit and variety meats. (Use Amazon's "Look inside" feature to see the table of contents.)
Another virtue is the trouble she takes to explain ingredients, be they classic italian ingredients or simply the italian perspective on something. After reading through the Fundamentals chapter, you'll never shop for italian-style ingredients quite the same way ever again. In short, very accessible paragraphs, she goes through the history, regional origins, and uses for the major herbs, cheeses, meats, etc. She covers what to look for when buying an ingredient -- what's fresh, what packaging makes for the best product.
The recipies are very workable and give generally excellent results. The techniques are accessible to anyone who can saute on a stovetop -- anyone who's beyond the stage of rank beginner. The instructions are very clear and strike the right balance, with enough information to give clarity without drowning the reader in detail. (There are few things more infuriating than standing over a cookbook, dripping spoon in hand, reading through War and Peace to figure out what to do next.)
Last, but not least, the results are delicious, with subtle flavors that will please you and yours. Two of my favorites will give you a taste. The Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Ricotta combines very simple ingredients -- pancetta, mild, smooth, ricotta cheese, parmesan, and fresh peas, into a sublime dish that you can throw together for summer dinners in half an hour from start to finish. On the other hand, the Stewed Pork with Porcini Mushrooms and Juniper makes a wonderful winter meal, as the wild tastes of the porcini and the bite of juniper berries combine wonderfully to flavor the pork. This is one I catch my husband eating cold out of the fridge late at night!
Brava Marcella!
Important note: This edition is not a brand-new book. Instead, it combines two previous books, The Classic Italian Cook Book (1973) and More Classic Italian Cooking (1976), into one volume. There are a couple dozen new recipies, and the older recipies are updated to reduce fats. If you own those, you may want this one. If you are new to Marcella and are accumulating her books, this one book enables you to skip the two older ones.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're going to buy just one Italian cookbook..., September 3, 2003
By 
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
If you're going to buy just one Italian cookbook, in my opinion this should be the one. The 20 odd pasta sauces alone would be enough to keep you busy and sated. Marcella Hazan's brand of cookery is not the most showy. I am constantly surprised how often I can prepare the dishes with ingredients I have on hand. If you follow her instructions carefully you'll wind up with a marvellous alchemy: the simplest ingredients yield the richest of flavors. I would definitely pay attention to her description of ingredients as our American version of some of them (parmesan and ricotta come to mind) are decidedly different from what she intends. I'll conclude by encouraging you to give the Chicken Cacciatore a go--the best ever.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taught me to cook Italian. Taught me to cook, period., January 14, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
This book is wonderful. The recipes are easy to follow and never fail. Marcella is very opinionated about ingredients and you know, she's probably right: canned tomatoes from italy are better than canned tomatoes from America. They are better than anything but the sweetest ripest off the vine plum tomatoes you can only get a few weeks a year by growing your own. Her recipes aren't full of gimmicks, and short cuts that sacrifice flavor. They are often labor intensive or require more than twenty minutes of cooking time. But they work and are often an absolute revelation in taste. As someone else mentioned, the tomato/butter and onion sauce is to die for good and unbelievably simple.
The best thing is the way success with these recipes has built my confidence. You can start off with a simple pasta sauce and work toward making your own pasta, pizza and other more complicated recipes. After success at making homemade gnocci with a simple sauce, I was inspired to move on. I have used ingredients I never would have touched in the past (anchovies??, Chestnuts??? and prosciutto??) and have gotten over my worry that if it took longer than 20 minutes to make that it wasn't worth the hassle. Good food is worth the hassle. And also there's the fact that so many of her recipes use staple ingredients that after you're familiar with the Essentials of Italian Cooking, you will always have around.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn to cook, but is unsure of where to begin. I would also highly recommend this book for gardeners since so many of the recipes are built around seasonal veggies like zucchini, tomato, eggplant, basil and greens you'll never again give your surplus zukes to the neighbors!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciosa!, February 25, 2006
This review is from: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Hardcover)
This is THE Italian cookbook to have, period. I have been cooking out of the Marcella's original Classic Italian Cookbook for 15 years now. It was a quality paperback, but I used it so much that it broke into a bunch of pamphlets that I had to keep together on the shelf. So when I saw this book on the market in hardcover at a truly reasonable price, I had to get it -- and I am glad I did. The organization and presentation are superb and I get the added wisdom of her second tome blended in with the first. Even simple and elegant dishes like the beef braised in red wine (the best roast you will ever eat in your life) have been slightly repackaged to the reader's benefit.

If you like Italian food and want to prepare it the right way with simple and easy to follow instructions, this is the only book you need. When you serve Marcella's meals, the dinner table gets very quiet except for the groans of pleasure at every bite.
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Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan (Hardcover - October 27, 1992)
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