The Home Cook Who Became A Legend

By Fiesta Farms

/Jan 26 2024

Marcella Hazan is a legendary figure in Italian cooking. And she started out as a humble home cook. Born in 1924 in Cesenatico, Italy, she initially pursued a career in the field of natural sciences and had never cooked before her marriage. It was only after moving to the United States with her husband Victor Hazan, that she started to cook. Teaching herself traditional Italian food from memory, cookbooks and the help of her food-obsessed husband.


the young couple


When her and Victor first met, in their native ­Emilia-Romagna in the early 1950s, he was “brusquely dismissive” of her double doctorate in natural sciences and biology. He was going to be a writer, though instead of writing he spent his time “swanning about as a kind of faux country squire.” His real passion was food, a subject to which, Marcella admits in her memoir, she had never given all that much thought.

Hazan’s journey to becoming a renowned chef and cookbook author truly began in 1969 when she started giving cooking lessons in her apartment and later opened her own school, the School of Classic Italian Cooking. She might have stayed a housewife, giving classes out of her kitchen if not for Craig Claiborne. The veteran food writer got wind of her talent,invited himself to lunch and wrote about her and her classes for The New York Times. “It was Oct. 15, 1970,” she recounts dramatically. “I have never since then had to be concerned about how to occupy my time.”

Her pragmatic approach and dedication to traditional Italian cooking quickly gained her a loyal following. She went on to write several influential cookbooks, including The Classic Italian Cookbook in 1973, which solidified her reputation as a leading authority on Italian cuisine. Despite her initial lack of experience in the kitchen, Marcella’s passion for authentic Italian food and her commitment to simplicity and quality made her a beloved figure in the culinary world. Her impact on the way North Americans cook and eat Italian food is undeniable, and her recipes continue to inspire all of us. A documentary is apparently in the works.


Her legacy as “the mother of Italian cuisine in America” is a testament to her enduring influence. Her recipe for roasting a chicken with lemons is one of her most popular. After her death in 2013 the New York Times reported that this recipe, along with her most famous recipe for Tomato Sauce with Butter, and the one for her Bolognese, were the most requested of her repertoire. 


photo courtesy of the New York Times, see their version of this classic recipe here


Roast Chicken With Lemons

by Marcella Hazan


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.
  • Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water, both inside and out
  • Season the chicken with a generous amount of salt and pepper, both inside and out
  • Prick the lemons several times with a skewer and then place them inside the chicken


  • Place the chicken in a roasting pan or ovenproof dish, breast side down, and roast for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, add potatoes to the roasting pan and turn the chicken breast side up. Continue roasting for another 30 minutes
  • Finally, increase the oven temperature to 200°C and roast the chicken for an additional 20-30 minutes until it’s fully cooked