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Marcella Hazan’s Culinary Tools Will be in the Smithsonian

To celebrate the life and work of the legendary Italian cookbook author and teacher on the centennial of her birth, Marcella Hazan’s family donated her Italian cooking instruments to the esteemed institution.

Marcella Hazan

Marcella Hazan. Photo: Courtesy of Victor Hazan.

Marcella Hazan was born in 1924 and during her lifetime influenced Italian cooking in America more than anyone. Her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, was published in 1973, eventually becoming the go-to source for how to make Italian food for English speakers (Hazan wrote in Italian; her husband, Victor Hazan, translated the books to English).

Despite her popularity in the English-speaking world, Hazan remained focused on traditional Italian cooking throughout her career, an an author and a teacher. A native of Emilia-Romagna, she also relied on Italian regional culinary tools when making fresh pasta or risotto, for example. Now, these tools will become part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, thanks to a gift from her husband and their son Giuliano, who have donated 20 personal items from her collection to mark the centennial of her birth.

pasta comb
Traditional pasta comb for making Garganelli pasta, a grooved version of penne, it is native to Romagna, an area east of Bologna along the Adriatic Sea. Credit: Photographs by Jaclyn Nash, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

The donated items include a passatelli press, garganelli pasta comb, a mattarello for rolling out pasta, her wood cutting board, lasagna pan, and her cotton apron, which become part of the museum’s food history collections. (Scroll down for more images from the collection.) A selection of her recipe notebooks, written in Italian, are part of the gift and will be housed in the museum’s Archives Center. 

“As the nation’s flagship history museum, home to the beloved Julia Child’s kitchen, we explore and share the wonderfully vast and complicated intersections of history and food,” says Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director, in a press release. “Understanding the richness of our culinary traditions alongside the complexities of the nation’s past helps us make sense of contemporary experiences and enables us to move forward and create a better shared future.”

“Through her popular books, Marcella Hazan introduced American and British cooks to a wide range of ingredients, culinary techniques and regional dishes at a time when many in the U.S. had no understanding of the diversity of Italian cuisines,” museum curator Paula Johnson says in the release. “Her story is one of diligence and excellence, and we are thrilled that her legacy will be preserved in our national collections through these objects.” 

“We are elated that Marcella’s life work, her tools, her recipes, notes and books have found a home in the permanent collections at the Smithsonian,“ Victor Hazan says in the release. “Some of the tools that were knocking about Marcella’s kitchen had also knocked about her mother’s kitchen, and previously, in her grandmother’s.”

Hazan, who passed away at age 89 in 2013, became hugely influential for home cooks, introducing classic Italian dishes and ingredients to English speakers through The Classic Italian Cook Book and five subsequent books. She was also an inspiration to chefs in the United States and England. 

April Bloomfield invited Marcella Hazan to cook with her in an episode of the PBS series The Mind of a Chef.

Victor, her husband, not only translated her books but is a celebrated wine critic whose 1982 book, Italian Wine, is also a classic. Their son, Giuliano Hazan, followed in his mother’s footsteps, and is an acclaimed author and teacher. 

Victor and Giuliano continue to expand the legacy of Marcella, through the gift to the Smithsonian, and, as Appetito reported last year, by helping filmmaker Peter Miller finish a documentary about her.

Passatelli maker
Passatelli maker, a traditional tool from the Romagna. A mixture of eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and breadcrumbs is pressed through this tool to make short, thick, cylindrical strands that are boiled briefly in homemade meat broth. Credit: Photographs by Jaclyn Nash, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
risotto spoon from Marcella Hazan
Risotto spoon that fits into the curves in the bottom of the pan. Marcella wrote:“You must be steadfast and tireless in your stirring, always loosening the rice from the entire bottom surface of the pot; otherwise it will stick.” The Classic ItalianCookbook (New York: Knopf, 1980) p. 180.Credit: Photographs by Jaclyn Nash, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Marcella Hazan Lasagna pan
Italian lasagne pan with perfectly square corners to accommodate rectangularhomemade pasta sheets. Credit: Photographs by Jaclyn Nash, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Marcella Hazan bread board
Marcella’s pasta board for kneading and rolling out pasta dough. Credit: Photographs by Jaclyn Nash, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Piadana board
Round terracotta surface with an iron band around its circumference for makingpiadina (flatbread from Romagna) at home. Credit: Photographs by Jaclyn Nash, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
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