Legendary Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan died Sunday at the age of 89. “She was the first mother of Italian cooking in America,” restauranteur Lidia Bastianich tells The New York Times. When Ms. Hazan came to New York in 1955, Italian cuisine was still exotic, and a plate of spaghetti was served with sauce reminiscent of ketchup. Hazan also knew no English and had no formal culinary training when she arrived, but after overcoming a bout of culture shock, Hazan fell into teaching an Italian cooking class in 1969.

Craig Claiborne, then the food editor of The New York Times, was taken by Marcella’s simplistic, balanced approach to Italian cooking, and visited Hazan for lunch in 1970. “I have never since then had to be concerned about how to occupy my time,” she wrote in her memoir. She published her first cookbook three years later, and went on to change the way Americans cook Italian food forever.

Check out this video, in which The Times’s Mark Bittman asks Hazan to tell the story of how she first started to write cookbooks.

Then, take a look at Marcella Hazan’s recipe for Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (aka the most famous tomato sauce on the Internet).

[via NY Times]

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