Chicken Liver Pasta Sauce Inspired by Marcella Hazan

April  1, 2021
3 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Marcella Hazan is a cooking icon known for her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (basically required reading if you want to get better at making Italian food). While she’s known for many famous dishes, such as bolognese and Tomato Sauce With Onion & Butter, her chicken liver sauce has flown under the radar—until now.

Slightly adapted from her original recipe, this is a rich sauce made of three different meats: salty prosciutto (or pancetta), hearty ground beef, and velvety chicken livers. Tomato paste and dry white vermouth cut the richness with bright notes of acidity; and whole leaves of sage give an earthy quality that perfumes the entire dish. It has a pâté-like taste with silky, tender pieces of chicken liver in every bite. Hazan recommends pairing it with thick pappardelle, but she also notes that it could be combined with molded Parmesan risotto. Any broad noodle that can be heavily coated will work.

The whole sauce cooks in 15 minutes flat, but will taste like you’ve carefully tended to it for hours. It’s a classic sauce that deserves to be in the same category as her other legendary recipes.

In times when I didn’t have dry vermouth and was too lazy to get some, I’ve used heavy cream in its place. It creates a different sauce that’s creamier and richer. But once you’ve mastered this and find yourself in a sleepy situation, give it a try. —Kiera Wright-Ruiz

What You'll Need
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Chicken Liver Pasta Sauce Inspired by Marcella Hazan
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth (or dry white wine, or heavy cream)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 small shallot or 1/4 small yellow onion, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 prosciutto slices (or 1/4 pancetta slice), diced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 5 whole sage leaves
  • 1/4 pound ground beef, preferably 20% fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound cleaned chicken livers, cut into bite-size pieces, dried with paper towel
  • 1 1/4 pounds 1 1/4 lbs long pasta (such as pappardelle, tagliatelle, or fettuccine), cooked
  • Grated Parmigiano-reggiano, to taste
  1. Mix the tomato paste and vermouth until the paste has dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the shallot, stirring often, until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the prosciutto (or pancetta) and sage. Stir, cook for about 1 minute, then add the beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork and cook until it has lost its raw color, about 2 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high and add the chicken livers. Cook just until the livers have lost their raw color, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste-vermouth mixture. Keep cooking for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and becomes glossy. Taste and increase the salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Toss the sauce with the pasta until coated. Serve immediately with grated Parm, plus even more black pepper to sprinkle on top.

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1 Review

Victoria C. March 31, 2022
I made this recipe using pancetta, not prosciutto, and it was fabulous. Aside from filled pasta, the only fresh pasta I like better than dried is cavatelli and tonnarelli so I suggest for this recipe using the same dried pasta Marcella recommends with her Bolognese sauce, which is rigatoni, conchiglie, and fusilli. Really scrumptious and quick. Don’t forget the parmigiana.