Victor Hazan remembers how his wife Marcella changed Italian home cooking

In the early 1970s, supermarkets were not stocking Italian parsley or fresh basil. Marcella Hazan opened the world to Americans with her collection of recipes, “Basics of Classic Italian CookingOn the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of her cookbook, her husband and collaborator, renowned wine writer Victor Hazan, reflects on her legacy.

Meeting in his hometown of Cesenatico, Victor remembers being scolded by his future wife. They were together for the next sixty years and eventually moved to the United States. “He was crazy about biology and plants,” she recalls. “He knew every leaf under the sun. Marcella had empathy for the materials. She could have had anything, and she knew what to do with it. Luckily it wasn’t grown with plants, it was grown in Italy!”

Oyster Sauce with Tomatoes
for 4 people


  • 1 dozen small-neck oysters
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little more for the pasta
  • 1½ teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped with juice or fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet (preferably home-made, as described on page 9), very finely chopped
  • Salt
  • Chopped chili pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound pasta: Recommended pasta: Spaghetti, thin spaghetti, takes mussels sauce more successfully than other shapes. Spaghetti for a second close enough.


  1. Wash and rub the oysters as described on page 126. Discard any leftovers when used. Put the oysters in a large enough pan that they do not need to be stacked more than 3 times, cover the pan and turn the heat to high. Check the oysters often, turn them over and remove them from the pan as they unshell.
  2. When all the oysters are opened, remove the flesh from the shells and remove the grit by gently rinsing each oyster with its own juices in the pan. If not very small, divide it into 2 or even 3 parts. Put them in a small bowl.
  3. Line a strainer with a paper towel and strain the clam juices from the pan into a paper bowl. Pour some of the strained juice over the mussel meat to keep it moist.
  4. Put the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan, turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic is light golden. Add the parsley, stir once or twice, then add the diced tomatoes, juice, chopped anchovies and strained clam juices. Stir well for a minute or two, then adjust the heat and cook gently but steadily for 25 minutes, or until the oil separates from the tomatoes.

*Note ahead of time: Up to this point the sauce can be prepared several hours in advance. Reheat gently as you prepare to toss with the pasta.

  1. Taste and adjust the salt, add the chopped hot pepper, stir 2 or 3 times, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the chopped oysters, stir into the sauce to coat well. Mix well with cooked drained spaghetti or spaghetti. Drizzle a few drops of raw olive oil over the pasta and serve immediately.

From the Basics of Classic Italian Cooking: Marcella Hazan’s 30th Anniversary Edition. Copyright © 1992 by Marcella Hazan. Foreword copyright © 2022 Victor Hazan. Retrieved with permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without the written permission of the publisher.

“Marcella had never seen a supermarket growing in Italy,” says her husband, Victor Hasan, before moving to the United States. Photo courtesy of Victor Hazan.

“The Basics of Classic Italian Cooking” celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with a foreword by the author’s wife. Alfred A. Knopf’s photo.

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