Is This Marcella Hazan’s Most Overlooked Pasta Sauce?


You can’t go wrong with a Marcella Hazan recipe. Her Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter is legendary. As is her bolognese. And while both deserve all the praise they get, there are countless gems in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that don’t get the shine they should—especially chicken liver sauce.

I seek out chicken livers wherever they’re available. Deep-fried, sautéed, blended into a pâté—to me, it’s all good. I love the iron-rich flavor and velvety texture. But chicken livers are often overlooked in homemade pasta sauces (and often overlooked in general) throughout the U.S. Out of the 1,010,000,000 chicken recipes on Google, only 6.2 percent use livers. It’s a thigh and breast world that we’re living in.

But such popularity means those cuts come at a higher price tag. On FreshDirect, you can buy a pound of chicken breasts for $8.99, chicken thighs for $5.49—and chicken livers for $2.99. More affordable, just as meaty, with a silky-buttery finish.

A simple pesto, eggy carbonara, and creamy Alfredo are all special, but there’s something luscious and inviting about chicken liver sauce that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere. It’s also a breeze to make.

Like most good sauces, this recipe is built on a foundation of shallot, butter, and garlic. Then comes the ultimate trinity of pork, beef, and chicken. (Yes, it is a lot of meat. And yes, it’s good that way.) As soon as it hits the heat, salty prosciutto flares and curls, leaving crisp edges. Tomato paste and wine add acidity, balancing the richness. Whole sage leaves lend an earthy quality. And the chicken livers give the dish a pâté vibe.

It may sound like a lot of effort, but the whole sauce cooks in 15 minutes flat. Simply add pasta and dinner is done.

Hazan recommends a thick pappardelle—I’ve used tagliatelle and fettuccine with great results. A wider pasta is best because it helps carry the sauce, but any pasta of your choice would be just as tasty. The sauce leaves every noodle licked in a glossy coating, and I can’t help but be transported back to Italy.

I’ve made this dish for my closest friends, my husband, and even his boss—everyone has loved it. It might not be as famous as the tomato sauce, but it’s just as iconic.

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