Marcella Hazan's Lentil Soup
"It's not a saint, exactly, it's Marcella Hazan."
by cartoonist David Sipress
Last week I was putting up my recipe for Lentil Salad and I was surprised I had never posted my lentil soup recipe (note that I mistakingly said "my" lentil soup recipe.) I'd almost forgotten it was Hazan's because I'd made it so many times that it felt like it was my recipe and a part of me. But that is the difference between a good cook and a good teacher. A good teacher can truly pass on the technique and actually give the student the skill to make the recipe their own. That is what Hazan did. She explained in a simple and straightforward way how to make truly delicious Italian food. The recipe became a part of you after you made it. It became part of your signature family recipes. The lentil soup recipe was the first recipe that ever made using lentils and how I even learned what they were in the first place. Only a few days ago, I received the sad news that Marcella Hazan had passed away. I didn't realize then that her recipe would now become another part of her legacy, All I was thinking about it that it is fall and that it is time to make Marcella Hazan's delicious Lentil Soup.
Marcella Hazan was the Julia Child of Italian Cooking. Some say she was more than that: "She was a true expression of her culture, a dedicated expert in her craft and a first rate cook." Others said "the Tomato Sauce alone was worth the price of the book." Her Tomato Sauce is ridiculously simple and addictively delicious with only four ingredients: tomato, onion, butter and salt. It has been copied so many times some are unaware that Hazan is the original source.
I've now read multiple tributes to Marcella Hazan and I've tried to include the various links each time I've mentioned her name. I had to quote the below from David Sipress on how Marcella Hazan Changed My Life ,the cartoonist that created the above Marcella cartoon for Gastronomica magazine, because he sums up the same thing we all keep echoing about Hazan. And that is when you realize how many peoples' cooking skills were changed because of one person.
Hazan is known for saying that using too much garlic is "the single greatest cause of failure in would-be Italian cooking." Judith Jones, who was both Hazan's editor and Julia Child's editor, argued with Hazan that it was superfluous to put both oil and butter in one recipe. Hazan held fast that it made a difference to the taste of of the dish and forced Judith Jones to test the recipe both ways. In the end, Jones agreed that Hazan was right.
Here is the the video of Marcella being interviewed by Mark Bittman on writing her first cookbook. She said "no, she would not write the cookbook" because she couldn't write in English. Thankfully her husband said he would translate the recipes for her.
Hazan passed away on September 29, 2013 and will be greatly missed, but her legacy of recipes will be passed on and be a part of us forever.
MARCELLA HAZAN'S LENTIL SOUP
Maili's Note: I was given this recipe by my landlady in Washington, DC, Barbara Keeling. Barbara always doubled the recipe so I did too. It freezes well and makes incredible leftovers. I always served it with cheese toast and a salad.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons onion, chopped very fine
1/3 cup shredded prosciutto or unsmoked ham
2 tablespoons carrot, chopped fine
2 tablespoons celery, chopped fine
1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1/2 pound dried lentils
1 cup beef broth
3 cups water
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter and all of the oil in a soup pot, add the chopped onion and prosciutto and turn on the heat to medium high. Do not cover the pot. Cooke the onion, stirring it, until it becomes a deep gold.
2. Add the chopped carrot and celery. Cook at a lively heat for 2 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, and adjust the heat so that they bubble gently, but steadily. Cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. In the meantime, wash the lentils in cold water and drain them. Add the lentils to the pot, stirring throughly to coat them well, then add the broth, water a pinch of salt and pepper.Cover the pot, adjust the heat so that the soup cooks at a steady, gently simmer, and stir from time to time. Generally, it will take about 45 minutes for the lentils to become tender, but each lot of lentils varies, so it is necessary to monitor their progress by tasting them. Some lentils will absorb more liquid than others. If necessary, add more broth while cooking or, if you are not using homemade broth, add water.
5. When the lentils are done, before turning off the hat, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and swirl in the grated Parmesan. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Serve with additional grated Parmesan for the table.
Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Knopf, 1992.