The Italian Almanac

Marcella Hazan

Marcella Hazan

Marcella Hazan, the Italian-born cookbook author who taught generations of Americans how to create simple, fresh Italian food, died Sunday in Florida at the age of 89.

Oddly, her ascent to cookbook stardom began because of love. A biology scholar, she was a high school math teacher in Italy when she met her husband of a lifetime, Victor, the Italian-born heir to a New York furrier. She gave up her career to follow him back to the Big Apple, where the adverse impact of American eating habits prompted her to get busy in the kitchen for the first time in her life.

Here she went from average to stellar, and began teaching and then writing on the urging of her husband. ''Cooking became a way of expressing myself that had remained hidden for years'', she later wrote in her memoirs. Americans were fascinated with Italian cuisine, and Hazan helped the nation break free of stereotypical approaches involving soggy, overdone pasta and way too much garlic.

''The impact Mrs. Hazan had on the way America cooks Italian food is impossible to overstate'', the New York Times wrote. ''Even people who have never heard of Marcella Hazan cook and shop differently because of her, and the six cookbooks she wrote, starting in 1973 with 'The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating'.''