MARCELLA, HAVEN'T WE COME A LONG way? American supermarkets stock fresh pasta; we're dicing sun-dried tomatoes into pasta salads; we're..." 'Fresh pasta in stores is moist because people expect it to be, and pasta is ruined if kept moist," corrects author and teacher Hazan. on a visit to New York City. "It's made artificially soft with semolina and cornmeal flour. It becomes gummy. Why buy it, when it's easy to make your own? And factory-made dried pastas are excellent, better than you could make at home." She adds, "Never use olive oil-based sauces with fresh pasta. It absorbs the oil. And when you sauté garlic, sauté the cloves whole or a little mashed. If done wrong, what you get is a strong acid smell, and that is bad." As for sun-dried tomatoes, "In Italy, they're like pickles, served on the side, never in recipes. I took the cold pasta salad recipe out of my book. Suddenly everyone was eating pasta salad."
But we must be doing something right. "Yes," says Hazan, who lives in Venice in a 16th-century palazzo with her husband, Victor, "Italian cooking in the U.S. is much better. Many persons know al dente, know that tomato sauce doesn't have to cook forever and that you shouldn't use so much sauce. Italian food is healthy, satisfying, and you can eat it every day of your life without tiring of it. People respond to basic flavors. When someone says to me, 'Oh, how beautiful is this dish,' I get worried. I hope it tastes good."