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Marcella Hazan dead, Italian chef was 89

Chef Marcella Hazan in the kitchen of her

Chef Marcella Hazan in the kitchen of her Longboat Key, Fla., home. (May 29, 2012) (Credit: AP )

My copy of "The Classic Italian Cookbook" is full of bookmarks. They include a pale green reminder of pesto, a fading trace of Bolognese along the spine, a fingerprint from olive oil in two places.

And the ingredients in Marcella Hazan's recipe for "blender pesto" are almost as familiar to me now as the digits in my Social Security number.

The great chef, exacting teacher and cookbook author, whose devotion to balance, focus and restraint changed the way many Americans see Italian food, died on Sunday. She was 89.

Hazan wrote six cookbooks in Italian, each translated by her husband, Victor, the very fortunate and well-versed man who shared her table for 57 years. Her recipes are lessons in simplicity, freshness, coaxing the fullest  flavor from everything.

She was born in Emilia-Romagna, the province of Italy's most refined and rich cooking. She came to the United States in 1955, when what passed for Italian cooking in America approached parody and the most famous chef was surnamed Boyardee.

Her classes were conducted in New York, Bologna, Venice and in print in kitchens worldwide.

Hazan died at home on Longboat Key in Florida.

She and Victor are said to have dined one last time on trofie, a squiggly and short pasta, with pesto. Later today, I'll gather the last of the season's basil and remember how many wonderful meals she left all of us. It will be pesto night.

Grazie, Marcella.

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