Thursday, October 10, 2013

Marcella Hazan’s Spaghetti Frittata

The food world lost one of its greats on September 29, 2013, when Marcella Hazan passed away at her home in Longboat Key, Florida. It was Marcella Hazan who first introduced Americans to authentic Italian cuisine and forever changed the way we as Americans cook and perceive Italian food today.

An Italian newlywed, Marcella arrived in America in New York in 1955, speaking no English. When she encountered American Italian restaurants serving what tasted to her like overly spiced ketchup on spaghetti, culture shock settled in. With no cooking skills of her own, she was determined, as all of us are as newlyweds, to cook a proper meal for her husband. She learned English from watching television and, quite by accident, began to teach cooking classes after a course in Chinese food. The rest, as they say, is history. For more about her fascinating life and how she influenced Italian cuisine in America, I highly recommend this article in the New York Times, link here. Included in the article is a video of Mark Bittman’s visit with Marcella in her home where she relates her story of how she first started to write cookbooks. In the same article, Mario Batali is quoted as saying, “I didn’t pay attention to Julia Child like everyone else said they did. I paid attention to Marcella Hazan.” Lidia Bastianich calls Marcella “the first mother of Italian cooking in America.” High praise coming from some of our finest Italian cooks don’t you think.

Marcella’s recipes represent her love for simplicity and precision.  For that reason, I chose to remember her with this recipe for a simple spaghetti frittata from her cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. In the forward to this recipe, Marcella advises, “If you are making a pasta frittata for the first time, you will find this a good with to start with, to get the feeling, look and taste of the finished dish.”

Frittatas are very versatile and can be served sliced into wedges like a pie, or cut into pieces for an appetizer. Either way, they are delicious served warm or at room temperature, making them ideal for a buffet or party.

In this recipe, Marcella starts with freshly cooked spaghetti, slightly undercooked because it will undergo further cooking. We’ve been making spaghetti frittatas for years and often use left-over cooked spaghetti as the base of the our frittatas, but they require a bit more liquid than this recipe. If this is your first time to use pasta in a frittata, I suggest you follow her recipe to a T. Although the recipe calls for only Parmesan cheese and parsley as flavoring, I couldn’t help but improvise by adding a big handful of colorful sautéed sweet peppers for appearance. Once you get the hang of pasta frittatas, you’ll think of all sorts of ways to incorporate different ingredients from your favorite pasta dishes.

Marcella Hazan’s Spaghetti Frittata 
Adapted slightly from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marella Hazan – serves 4

1/2 pound spaghetti, we like to use thin spaghetti
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 large eggs, beaten to blend and placed in a bowl large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Added for color and flavor if desired:
½ cup finely chopped, sautéed red, orange, and yellow sweet bell peppers

Drop the spaghetti into 3 to 4 quarts of boiling, salted water and cook until firm to the bite. It should be a bit more al dente – more underdone – than you usually cook it because it will undergo further cooking. Drain and toss immediately into a large bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter, grated cheese, and chopped parsley, sautéed peppers if desired, and toss well. Set the mixture aside to briefly cool to avoid cooking the eggs in the next step. In the meantime, preheat the broiler.

When the spaghetti mixture has cooled for a few minutes, add it to the bowl of beaten eggs and mix thoroughly, distributing the eggs evenly throughout the pasta.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a nonstick skillet with a broiler proof handle. Before the butter starts to color, add the spaghetti/egg frittata mixture to the skillet. Cook the frittata on top of the stove for 3 to 4 minutes without disturbing the pan. Then tilt the pan slightly, bringing its edge closer to the flame of the burner. Keep the pan in this position for about 1 minute, then rotate it at a shade less than a full quarter turn, always keeping it tilted so that its edge is close to the flame. Repeat until you have come around full circle. Take a look at the underside of the frittata, lifting the edge gently with a spatula, to make sure it has formed a lightly golden crust all around. If it has not, cook a little longer where needed.

Run the pan under the broiler until the top has formed a lightly colored crust. Remove and loosen with a spatula. Slide onto a cutting board and cut into serving wedges as you would a pie. Alternately, cut into pieces or squares and serve as an appetizer. Good either warm or at room temperature.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.

Have a great weekend everyone.


  1. I love a spaghetti frittata and often make extra pasta just for this reason. Marcella has always been a great influence not only with Italian cooking but in having us "keep it simple" and allow the flavours shine through.

  2. I too enjoy a good spaghetti frittata, Sam. This is a simple yet very satisfying and delicious meal. Those stuffed tomato halves look mouthwatering.

  3. Marcella's Spaghetti Frittata, a lovely way to remember her by, Sam!
    Her cooking was authentic Italian. Ada Boni's "Il Talismano della Felicità" and Marcella taught me to recreate many a dish I remembered from Italy. I am truly saddened by her passing. The last time I was in contact with her was when I helped her resize the photograph she wanted to leave as Facebook header, the one that is up now, with her and Victor together. A very image to remember her by.

  4. "A very fine image to remember her by." - Sorry!

  5. One of her more delicious and practical recipes! Thanks for the memories. Have a delicious weekend!


  6. This frittata looks really appetizing! A great way of using spaghetti leftovers and a wonderful tribute to Marcella Hazan.



  7. Sam, this looks so wonderful...perfect. Great photography also.

  8. What a lovely tribute to Marcella. Such a fascinating life, thanks for sharing her story and this delicious looking frittata, YUM!

  9. A perfect way to remember her!

  10. This looks amazing Sam! I love the beautiful golden crispy top and really think the peppers make it pretty:@)

  11. She would be proud. We enjoy pasta frittatas. They are a delicious and easy solution for leftovers.

  12. I've never heard of this lady, but enjoyed learning about her impact. The frittata sounds delicious and I'm trying to remember if I ever made one. Oh well, as good as the frittata sounds, those tomatoes are jumping out of the screen at me.

  13. Oh my gosh this looks ao good to me..
    I am remineded of The Big Night and Timpano..I know way different..but it struck a bell..
    A delicious one:)
    Loved MH..and I will try this..
    Thanks Sam!..

  14. YUM! Like Asian pan-fried noodles, something else good.

  15. I have never heard of her here but this sounds delicious and I have bookmarked the recipe. Thanks Diane

  16. What a great recipe, Sam. I love that it is so versatile and is good any time of day. The crispy bits in the crust are my favorite part.

  17. I love Marcella Hazan's recipes and use her cookbooks often. I like the idea of slower cooking to bring out flavors rather than tons of spices. And her life story is fascinating indeed.

  18. Hi Sam,
    Your post about Marcella Hazan is very interesting and the Frittata looks fabulous! We will just love this Frittata and the combination of flavor.

    Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a fun weekend!
    Miz Helen

  19. I have been part of a French cooking group of about 2 years now and I regularly have conflict with my Italian side that wants simplicity and the complexity of many French recipes. So I truly appreciate where Marcella was coming from and will miss her greatly. Thank you for sharing one of her wonderfully simple recipes with us on foodie friday.

  20. I love Marcella recipes! Excellent post about her, Sam. She will be greatly missed.
    Many a time I served something similar with leftover spaghetti. Never made a frittata with it however. Love the idea! Such great photos, Sam.

  21. I had no idea she had passed away or that she lived in Florida. I imagined her still living in some quaint Italian farmhouse. To me she was the Julia Child of Italian cooking, Ever since I tried her ragu bolognese I never saw the need to try another recipe. I get raves for her lasagna. Lidia and Mario came much later into my repertoire. Giada couldn't hold a candle. The lady was a genious, what else can I say. I have never made a pasta frittata but knowing her, and now you, I must try very soon.

  22. I just read about her and will be purchasing one of her books - I love groundbreakers!

  23. Mercy! This looks so good. I am not familiar with this chef, but I loved hearing about her. The best spaghetti I ever ate was from an Italian lady who spoke little English, but was the best cook ever. She first opened a restaurant in a railroad car in a town thirty miles away. My father and some of his friends convinced her to move into a storefront, and she did and had a hugely successful restaurant. No catsup there. I still dream of her spaghetti a d have never eaten any to compare since.



  24. I've just found your blog and very happy because I have looked over and over for a good pasta pie our Helen, housekeeper, called it back in the early 60's. I have such fond memories of that spaghetti pie....going to make this one tonite!!!
    and thrilled to read about your adventures in the Abacos! my husband and I are sailors and we spent a very long time in the Abacos, with a lot of that time being spent at the Jib!!! all the sailors hang out there, dontcha know?!!! I do freelance photography and I've spent many hours and used lots of digis in those islands!!! Do you still own your house there?

    1. We miss Abaco and all of our friends, but we sold both homes several years ago. We were there full time from the mid nineties to 2004. If you were in Abaco when Barometer Bob was alive, my husband helped him with the weather forecasts. So you spent some time at the Jib Room with Boo? Great folks. We had many Cruisers as friends. Sounds like you guys have been to many fun places on your boat. Thanks for stopping by today.

  25. This looks so delicious and so many ways to a lunch with salad, a starter, apé versatile and of course it looks beautiful!

  26. I've never even seen a spaghetti frittata, but it sounds and looks terrific.


Thank you for stopping by.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.