Chef shares his family’s culinary treasures

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Guiliano Hazan | Photo by Andrea Hillebrand with Peter Bernard

Baked Tomatoes

This is a gem from my mother’s notebook of Nonna Mary’s recipes. I remember Nonna Mary serving these tomatoes along with assorted grilled meats during the summer in Cesenatico. They are also a perfect accompaniment to veal cutlets, and together they make a great sandwich, one of my favorite lunches that my mother would pack for me to take to school.

Time from start to finish: 1 hour

1/2 loaf Italian bread (about 8 ounces)

5 to 6 sprigs flat leaf Italian parsley

1 medium clove garlic

1 tablespoon capers

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed

2 large tomatoes or 4 small ones

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Cut away and discard the crust from the loaf of bread and cut the loaf in half lengthwise. Bake for 5 minutes on each side. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 350°F on convection heat or to 375°F in an oven without convection heat.

Cut the bread into chunks small enough to fit easily in a food processor. Place them in the food processor and pulse until you have fairly even crumbs that are not too fine. Set aside 1 cup of crumbs and reserve any extra for another use.

Finely chop enough parsley leaves to measure about 2 tablespoons. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Put the parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, capers, salt and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Mix well until the ingredients are evenly distributed and the bread crumbs are well coated with the olive oil. If there doesn’t seem to be enough olive oil to coat them all, add a little more.

Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and scoop out all the seeds. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Fill the cavities with a generous amount of the bread-crumb mixture, heaping it on top of each tomato half.

Bake until a brown crust forms, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 4.

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The Hazan name carries a lot of weight in cooking circles, and in the newly published Hazan Family Favorites (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95) Giuliano Hazan readily acknowledges the renowned food-loving family into which he was born.

Hazan, who lives in Florida and runs a cooking school in Verona, Italy, recognizes the debt he owes to his mother, Italian cooking doyenne Marcella, who built her reputation as author of The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating (1973), Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (1986), and others.

He also cites the culinary influence of his paternal and maternal grandparents, talking in his latest book about the enticing kitchen aromas that beckoned family as well as friends and neighbors. Growing up, he often served as “official taster” as his mother prepared meals, basking in her praise on how he had developed the equivalent of a pitch-perfect palate.

Giuliano Hazan, himself recognized for his best-selling The Classic Pasta Cookbook (Dorling Kindersley, 1993), How to Cook Italian (Scribner, 2005), and Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta (Stewart, Chabori and Chang, 2009), says he has cherished memories of favorite dishes set before him as a boy by his mother and grandmothers.

While adding a few of his own touches, he recreates close facsimiles of many of those old favorites. They complement new recipes gleaned from yearly expeditions to Italy or inspired by the local farmers market.

Hazan Family Favorites is divided into chapters comprising 85 recipes in all typifying a classic Italian dinner: appetizers, salads and side dishes; primi: soups, pasta and rice; secondi: meats and seafood; and dolci: dessert dishes.

Home cooks will find the recipes — whether for pizza, stuffed zucchini, pappardelle with sausage and peppers, grilled shrimp or strawberry gelato — are straightforward, use readily available ingredients and produce reliable results.

Hazan personalizes the book with family memories or tips on the best way to enjoy a dish that he attaches to each recipe.