October 2, 2013

A Salute to Marcella Hazan, with Her Smothered Broccoli in Red Wine

For over 30 years, Marcella Hazan has enriched my life through her wonderful recipes; they are marvelously delicious and always simple to prepare, perfect for everyday meals or for guests. You can see recipes from her books that I've posted on this blog at this link. So I was very sorry to hear about her death on Sunday; there's an interesting NY Times eulogy/story about her here.  It speaks of her erudition and her toughness. I experienced that myself: when I wrote a post sharing her recipe for pasta with broccoli and anchovies, I mistakenly wrote that it was in a book no longer in print. No, she wrote in a comment, they are part of a new compilation titled Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which I promptly ordered. Not only did she leave that comment, but she noticed a post I'd written on Morandi, and commented on that, a wonderful comment that thrilled me, and which I'll always treasure as a communication with her. Here is what she wrote:
I am not a painter, I am a cook. When I make a ragù alla bolognese, I work with a basic set of ingredients, but over a lifetime I have never made exactly the same ragù twice. No paintings I know touch me more deeply than do Morandi's still lives (his engravings are equally profound), and I think that before him Italy produced no painter of equivalent stature until you reach Caravaggio. 

But not all my favorite recipes made it into Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. When I have a lot of broccoli coming from the garden in late summer through fall, I love to make this smothered broccoli dish from More Classic Italian Cooking; it is simple to put together and has a deep rich flavor, nothing like the fresh steamed vegetable.

1 bunch fresh broccoli, about 1 1/2 lbs
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup black Greek olives, cut in half and pitted (I didn't have any olives at home, so made the recipe without them, though it's better with)
4 flat anchovy filets, roughly chopped (I usually add a little more, since I love anchovies)
1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, cut into thin slivers (I use a potato peeler to do this.)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup sturdy dry red wine

  1. Cut 1/2 inch from tough ends of broccoli and separate florets from stalks. Peel off dark green skin on the stalks, then cut them lengthwise into strips about 1/4 inch thick. Divide the larger floret clusters in two.
  2. In a large saute pan, cover its bottom with a think layer of sliced onion; cover this with broccoli stalks. Dot with a few olives, bits of anchovy, and Parmesan. Sprinkle a bit of salt if desired, then moisten with a thin stream of olive oil. 
  3. Repeat the layering until all the ingredients are used, saving the florets for the top layer. 
  4. Add the red wine. Cover and cook for 1 hour over medium heat, or until all the wine has evaporated. Do not stir. 

The result is a wine infused dish, with onions taking on its color, deliciously flavored with the salty ingredients of olives, anchovies, and cheese. Thank you, Marcella Hazan, for bringing such simple delights into my life.


  1. Capers wouldn't substitute for the color element, but are robust enough to replace the olives in this recipe I should think. This sound wonderful.

    1. That's a good idea, Colleen, and I always have a jar of capers in the fridge.

  2. how thrilling to have her comment on your blog. I have cooked with her recipes for almost as long as I can remember and always feel a little bit Italian when I do! I'm sorry to hear that she has died

  3. I was lucky enough to take a couple of classes from the great Marcella Hazan (complete with hand inscribed cookbooks). I was so sorry to hear of her passing.

  4. Yes, a big loss. Interesting to hear her quoted on how she was a cook, not a chef. As a fellow Morandi fan, I love her comment on yr blog. Nice and generous that she offered it up.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Marcella Hazan has touched so many lives.