15 April 2014

Lobster Pasta alla Busara a Tribute to Marcella Hazan

Just a quick reminder that today is the day! I thought my own photo was coming tonight but the restaurant had no lobster. I will however make this recipe and replace it with my own photo in due course. 

The type of outings I live for are the ones spent with foodie friends where you can whip out your camera and take photos of your food with wild abandon, where the conversation is always centered around what you are eating, the process of cooking it, the person behind it, the history of the dish, blogging, food writing, and anything else you can think about. In fewer words it is all about the food!!! I had such a night tonight where we had dinner at a local restaurant that was celebrating the anniversary of Marcella Hazan' birthday. Many restaurants across the country are doing the same.

But who is Marcella Hazan?  I am a disciple of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks. To understand Italy is to cook from her books. 

The recipient of two Lifetime Achievement Awards and a knighthood from her own country, Marcella Hazan is the author of six classic cookbooks. She passed away late last year and is sadly missed by her husband, Victor, her lifelong collaborator and writing partner, himself an authority on Italian food and wine. For more than 25 years Marcella Hazan inspired her readers into preparing Italian cuisine the proper way, true to the traditional methods of the Italian kitchen. No spaghetti and meatballs in sight. You can read more in this tribute to Marcella in the Guardian. If you haven’t already, read Kim Severson’s very thorough account of Marcella Hazan’s life; then read Ruth Reichl’s lovely reminiscence.
"There is that volume, the one streaked with pepperonata sauce, its pages mangled and steamed into perpetual ripples from everyday use until it's almost twice as thick as it was on the day you first opened it. Most cooks have a book like this, a faithful friend that has carried them through everything from dinner parties to seduction suppers to pasta meals whipped up for solitary delectation at the end of a long day. These books are our Virgils, our Obi-Wan Kenobis of the kitchen. They teach us, gradually, to trust ourselves with a skillet and maybe even a potato ricer. They've made cooks out of us, and we celebrate them here." - Salon
This is what it says on Guiliano and Lael Hazan's blog Educated Palate.

"April 15th would have been Marcella Hazan’s 90th birthday. To celebrate her life and continue her legacy, we are proposing a “group hug” and asking those who wish to be included to make one of Marcella’s recipes. The recipe we’ve chosen is Pasta alla Busara, from Marcella Cucina. It exemplifies Marcella’s unaffected style: wonderfully pure, simple flavours, which are easy to put together and create something magnificently delicious. The dish is from a town in Friuli called Grado, on the northern Adriatic where it is traditionally made with scampi. Since scampi are generally not available in most of the U.S., Marcella’s version uses Maine lobster – but is also excellent with prawns or large shrimp. Alla Busara means "something thrown quickly together "and that describes this sauce, made of onion, garlic, parsley, and wine to which fresh tomatoes and shellfish are added. If you make it, please share your pictures @ICCedu #CelebrateMarcella. We’d love to see them!
We wish everyone a buon appetito and raise our glasses to Marcella." Lael and Giuliano

The Veneto region, and Venice in particular, is filled with delicious seafood recipes. In North America the word "scampi" is often used to describe a style of cooking in which shrimp, chicken, or another ingredient is sautéed in a garlic butter sauce.  However, scampi actually refers to the name of a type of small lobster that is found in the Veneto region of Italy, among other places.  So, this dish would traditionally be made with those small lobsters (scampi).  Not having access to those, you can substitute large shrimp or prawns or as Marcella has LOBSTER!!! 

Mr Hazan says, "The tastiest pasta sauce I know made from scampi is the one that originates in Grado and is called, in the dialect of the town, alla busara. “Busara” means something thrown quickly together, and essentially that describes this sauce, a base of onion, garlic, parsley and wine cooked briefly in olive oil, to which the shellfish and tomatoes are added."
Marcella's recipe is a variation on what is known in some areas as shrimp scampi. This dish is common all around the northern Adriatic coast. When I make this quick and delicious dish at my home, I give everyone an empty bowl for the shells. I bring the pan to the table, we roll up our sleeves and dig in, savouring the sweet meat, then sucking and licking every drop of sauce from the shells. All that's needed is some grilled bread to sop up all the flavours.

Thank you Marcella Hazan for being our mentor in discovering so many delicious Italian recipe and taking us out of our spaghetti and meatball zone.

**Marcella Hazan's Lobster Pasta Alla Busara"

Suggested Pasta: First choice is imported, high-quality Italian boxed dry pasta, specifically spaghettini, thin spaghetti.  The only homemade noodles that may give you comparable satisfaction are the square ones known as tonnarelli (page 118 of Marcella Cucina)

2 one and one-fourth pound live lobsters OR 1 pound jumbo prawns, shelled and deveined and cut in half lengthwise
One-third cup extra virgin olive oil plus some more for tossing the pasta
2 cups finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
One-third cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
One-half cup dry white wine
2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juice OR
fresh, ripe tomatoes, skinned raw with a vegetable peeler and cut up
Chopped fresh or dried chili pepper, one-fourth teaspoon or to taste

Preparing the Lobsters

The meat will have the sweetest flavour if you kill the lobster yourself just before cooking it. Turn it on its back, holding it down with an oven mitt on your hand, and with the other hand plunge a knife between its eyes and deep into its head. Although the lobster dies immediately, its nervous system may continue to flex the claws for a few more seconds. A less traumatic method–for you, not the lobster–is to drop it into boiling water for 2 minutes. If you don’t feel prepared to deal with a live lobster yourself, you can have the fishmonger kill it, but time it so you can get back to your kitchen and cook the lobster as soon as possible.

Making the Sauce

Detach the lobster’s head from the tail. Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, slit the underside of the tail’s shell all along its length, then cut the tail into three pieces. Separate both claws from the head and snap them in two. Crack the claws in several places using a nutcracker or a mallet. Look for and pick out any pieces of shell. Divide the head lengthwise into two pieces. Do not remove any tomalley or roe.

Choose a skillet or sauté pan that can later contain all the lobster pieces without overlapping. Put in the one-third cup of olive oil, the chopped onion, and a pinch of salt, and turn on the heat to medium.

Cook the onion until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add the garlic. Cook a few seconds until the garlic becomes colored a very pale gold and you begin to notice its aroma. Add the parsley, stir once or twice, and then add the wine, letting it simmer for a couple of minutes until the scent of alcohol subsides.

Put in the tomato, the chili pepper, and a generous pinch of salt and cook at a steady simmer, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce as described in the Note on page 133, about 15 or 20 minutes.

Drop the pasta into a pot of boiling, salted water.

Put the lobster pieces (or the prawns) in the skillet with another pinch of salt, turning them over in the sauce for 2 or 3 minutes. If by then the lobster has shed some watery liquid, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon, and briskly boil away that liquid. Then return the lobster to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes, turning all the pieces over once or twice.

Drain the spaghettini when it is still quite firm to the bite, transfer to a very warm serving bowl, pour the contents of the skillet into the bowl, and toss thoroughly. Drizzle in some raw olive oil, toss again until the pasta is well coated, then serve at once.

Ahead-of-Time Note: You can prepare the sauce an hour or so in advance midway through step 6, up to the point where you have removed the lobster from the pan and boiled away any excess liquid. When reheating, bring the tomato to a steady simmer before putting the lobster pieces back in.

Recipe from Marcella Hazan

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. A wonderful tribute to an exceptional lady.

    This dish must taste amazing.



  2. What a fun night for you and your friends!

  3. No question, she's the greatest! How deceptively simple this is, resulting in so much flavor. Perfection, Val.

  4. What a great Marcella recipe! I'd love to give this a try.

  5. How fun to get together with friends of like minds and talk food. Marcella was one of the best. They don't make cooks like her much anymore that are willing to share their tips and secrets. Everyone today seems more interesting in being a celebrity. Her life was fascinating, especially when they first moved to America and she didn't speak much English.

    Happy Easter Val.

  6. Lovely tribute to Marcella in honor of her birthday. Lobster is a special occasion food for us and this recipe would compliment its wonderful flavor and texture.

  7. Marcella sounds like such an amazing and inspiring woman. I've never seen one of her cookbooks but will be looking for one soon.

    1. There was once a group of bloggers that made every dish in her cookbook The Essentials of Italian Cooking.

  8. I to am a fan of Marcella Hazan. I'm sorry I missed the group hug. Here's an air kiss. Smack. GREG

  9. You know her husband was a great cook, I had one of his books, simple and good Italian food.

  10. A wonderful tribute Val. Happy Easter!

  11. Great tribute Val. I'm sorry I missed this. It sounds like it was a great night!


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