Food You Can Eat: Marcella Hazan’s Tagliatelle in a Chicken Liver Sauce

“Mattie, we ran into The Faithful Hound’s best bro buddy this morning and the guy was telling me he’s been eating a lot of chicken liver, and that dogs really love it. Have you ever had it?” “Of course I have and so have you. I used to make something using it but this was years ago and I can’t remember what. Your friend, whom I’ve never met, because you and the dogs meet in the park in the pre-dawn hours, which is all very suspicious by the way, is probably Jewish and it’s now Passover.” “Put your mind at ease Mattie because he’s a grandfather and his wife is usually with him. If I buy some, do you think we should give some to the dog, and could you try to remember what we ate?” I wracked my brain but came up blank. Then, right on time, came my daily email from Food52 (which I subscribe to, along with Taste of Home, which @elliecoo mentioned recently) with a story and recipe for Marcella Hazan’s Chicken Liver Pasta Sauce. That was it! Genius. I hadn’t made this in probably 25 years and I don’t know why. I think it’s delicious, and I made it recently. It is in no way kosher/fit for Passover.


So this is Marcella’s recipe, as slightly adapted by Food52, and then further adapted a little by me.

1 tsp tomato paste

2 shots of dry vermouth. This is 3 oz. Food52 says to use 2 oz, but no, not if you’re me. This is a sauce so you won’t get drunk off this, I just like the favor of dry vermouth and always have plenty on hand. They also say you can use dry white wine, or heavy cream for the alcohol-averse, but I’ve never done this.

1/4 stick of butter/2 tbsp

A little diced onion. Food52 says 2 tbsp but you can probably guess how much that is (not a lot).

2 cloves garlic, minced. Food52 says 1 large one, but when I do this again I’m going to use 3 garlic cloves, I think. Garlic is healthy.

“3 slices of prosciutto or 1/4 slice of pancetta, diced, about 3 tbsp.” I forgot to ask Better Half to put this on the list, so I used 3 slices of this smoky, spicy deli salami that we had. Close enough.

3 or 4 bay leaves

1/4 lb fatty hamburger. Here’s a somewhat shameful confession. Beter Half is a big fan or our wholesale club and in the “emergency rations” component of our sub-zero we usually have a pack of frozen hamburger patties, so I used one of those, thawed, and broke it up.

Some salt and black pepper. I omitted the salt.

1/2 lb of chicken livers. These should be ready to go (don’t get them in schmalz, which you might around Passover) and they’re sold in plastic tubs at one of our local supermarkets. Wash and dry them off, and slice these so they’re in small chunks. Put aside a couple of chunks for the Faithful Hound.

1 lb. tagliatelle, which I happened to have. I think in the Food52 image I used for illustration they used pappardelle. Something like this, pasta that’s fairly long and flat.

A metric ton amount to taste of grated parmesan. Do this beforehand and have it ready.

I wish I still had that Marcella Hazan cookbook, her stuff doesn’t seem to be online. She died at the ripe old age of 89 in the Florida Keys, so well done. I only mention this because Food52 doesn’t seem to mention where the pasta comes into all of this, just that it does. So what I did was start with boiling some water in a pasta pot. For this I think you want the noodles to be pretty well done, not al dente, so you’ll have time for this.

Mix the tomato paste and the vermouth (or dry white wine, or heavy cream) well in a small bowl and put it on standby.

In a fairly large skillet over medium heat, pour in a little olive oil and the butter and heat it up and stir until the butter is melted. Add the onion and let that cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the salami/prosciutto/pancetta and cook for another minute. Add the beef and cook for a couple of minutes. Use a fork and get the beef so it’s not chunky, if it was. Put the fork aside and let it cool.

Now up the heat to medium-high and add the chicken livers. These you don’t break up any further. Wonder when that water in the pasta pot is going to boil, and remember reading in a post, was it on the Takeout?, about how induction stovetops bring pasta water to a boil much faster than gas or electric. After about three minutes (still no boiling water for the pasta) of a little stirring around add the paste/vermouth. Let this go for 5–8 minutes, and it’s during this time, if you have my stove, specs upon request, the water will be boiling. Add the tagliatelle, pappardelle, whatever. Give the skillet contents a stir every so often. Taste it and see if it seems edible (it will). Move the skillet off the heat and while it’s on another burner and you’re waiting for the pasta to be done it will keep cooking a little bit and also thicken a little bit more.

When you’re tired of waiting for the pasta and it’s no longer al dente dump it into a colander in the sink and drain. If you shake the colander it will release more of the liquid, which you actually may or may not want.

You’re done, now combine the sauce with the pasta and eat up! The way I did this made for a large sauce:pasta ratio, so have bread on hand to sop up (and maybe spoon over) some of the sauce.

As for the Faithful Hound, while you get the Kitchen Elf to put the pasta on plates, quickly fry up the chicken livers you saved for him in the skillet that you haven’t cleaned out. Put the cooked chunks in a small bowl and mash with that fork you have put aside, stick it in a freezer for a minute or two to take the heat off, add it to his kibble. Flavor profile: a dog will go crazy. FINALLY, the three of us you can eat in peace. Until, around the table in the living room, because The Better Half has colonized the dining table to serve as his New York office of his Global Corporation, an unpopular topic comes up, such as, I don’t know, whether 80s Madonna was better than 90s Madonna.



  1. Our four dogs are socialists; they all get the same treats. Violet cannot have organ meats because they are high in purine and are bad for her Cushing’s disease. So, nobody gets organ meats (including the Carnivore). However, I am happy that the Faithful Beast gets the goodies!

    • Violet might not be missing much. My previous dog, who was about as ravenous as the current beast, wouldn’t touch chicken livers and we got her as 7-week-old puppy and she would eat anything, including clothing and shoes. Maybe that’s the last time I stopped making the Hazan sauce, so around 1999 or so. 

        • My first cookbook was a second-hand edition of her second US-issued cookbook back when your namesake crossed the Alps, or so it feels like. I can’t remember its name. During college, for self-preservation, I learned how to cook from classmates. Then, post-grad, a friend of a friend and I became roommates and I thought, “He is a keeper so I’m not going to let this one get away!” so I upped my game and started cooking from that. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’m almost sure some of my instinctive…muscle memory? It’s not quite that…comes from that cookbook. 

          If my husband ever makes an honest man out of me and we have a public ceremony I have half a mind to track down a Hazan child or grandchild and invite them to celebrate with us. It is somewhat due to Marcella that I owe my relationship. We’ll have been together 35 years next August.

  2. What kind of Vermouth do you like? I have a cheapo bottle but am interested in an upgrade, partly for drinking, when this one runs out. I prefer dry but won’t scoff at sweet either.

    • I am not knowledgeable about vermouth so I can’t really help you.

      I put in a monthly order from a Manhattan liquor dealer for all our needs and when the vermouth comes up I go with whatever they recommend and seems reasonably priced. I’ve never been steered wrong but I don’t normally serve or drink it on its own; it’s there for cooking and the very dry gin martinis. 

  3. Cracks me up that this recipe, which at first glance I was like “oh organ meats, this is one of those peasant fare dishes that is delightful but uses hardly any expensive things” ended up containing three separate kinds of meats/animals. 

  4. Oh, and don’t forget the vermouth! Now that you mention it I’m now wondering how “traditional” this recipe is. Italy was, even into the 1950s, a very poor country, with a lot of out-migration. I think this might be something from the booming 1960s, so a little old fashioned, like a lot of stuff that I make, but not something that everyone was scarfing down during the Mussolini period. 


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