In cooking, as in other imaginative activities, it isn’t always possible to explain exactly why some things work. This is one of its mysteries that keeps you from being self-satisfied, that causes you always to think about what you are doing, that prevents you, no matter how long you have been at it, from putting your curiosity away.
We were in Rome at a crowded time, we had failed to make timely plans for dinner, and had to settle for a table at an unfamiliar trattoria. All of the dishes on the menu were standards but for this one. It seemed peculiar within the unadventurous context of the other offerings, and as I briefly thought about it—mazzancolle, a variety of shrimp popular in Rome, baked with artichokes and mozzarella—I couldn’t imagine how it could be any good. But I was intrigued, as well as bored by the alternatives, so I ordered it.
At the first taste I couldn’t believe my luck. It was sublime. If I hadn’t been ashamed to appear so gluttonous, I would have ordered another portion.
A 2-inch-high oven-to-table baking dish, 11 inches long and 7 inches wide, or one of approximately equivalent capacity
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.