Remembering Marcella: Roast Chicken with Lemons

cookbook coverThis weekend, Mark Bittman published an article remembering Marcella Hazan, an Italian immigrant who brought “real Italian food to the United States.”  I immediately went to my bookcase and reached for my copy of her cookbook, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This classic was lovingly lugged to Santa Barbara all the way from Genoa by our Italian exchange students, knowing that I was a chef and that this cookbook would give me a taste of Italy. Boy, did they hit the nail on the head.

As I flip through the pages, I am reminded how simplicity can be the most powerful of ingredients.  For example, Marcella’s Roast Chicken with Lemons is just that – chicken and two lemons.  Her Italian Potato Salad is nothing like I’d ever had at a summer barbecue growing up.  Served warm, her version is a platter of sliced boiled potatoes, drizzled with red wine vinegar, salt and olive oil.  I add chopped parsley for color.  Delicious. Simple.  Thank you, Marcella.


Yields: 4 servings


  • One 3- to 4-pound chicken
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 small lemons


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Wash lemons and set aside to dry.
  2. Rinse the entire chicken in cold water; remove any giblets. Trim any loose fat. Set chicken out and let it air dry for 10 minutes. Pat it completely dry with paper towels.
  3. Season the bird with a generous amount of salt and pepper, inside and out. Don’t skimp.
  4. Gently roll the lemons across the counter with your hands to soften them. Prick each lemon about 20 times with a toothpick or fork. Stuff the lemons into the cavity.
  5. Using kitchen twine, truss the chicken, tying back the wings and closing the cavity loosely.
  6. Place the chicken, breast-side down, onto a large roasting pan. Roast in the upper third of the oven for about 30 minutes. Carefully turn chicken over, and roast it for another 30 minutes, breast-side up.
  7. Increase oven heat to 400°F and roast for another 20 minutes.  You know the chicken is ready when the juices run clear (not pink).
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before carving. Drizzle the juice form the bottom of the pan over carved chicken and serve.

Adapted from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking 

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