Sure to excite lovers of the best Italian cooking, Mario Batali Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages
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with enticing results. Batali, known to fans as "Molto Mario" from his Television Food Network shows, and as chef-owner of Manhattan's much-loved Po and Babbo restaurants, presents nearly 250 of his favorite recipes, traditional and innovative, for delectable salads, pastas, grilled specialties, ragus, and desserts, among others. The collection, inspired by the cooking of Borgo Cappene, a hillside village in northern Italy, and Greenwich Village, where Batali culls exemplary ingredients for his restaurants, reflects Batali's commitment to simple cooking--impeccable ingredients sensibly combined and properly prepared. Cooks seeking deeply flavored, smartly presented dishes will embrace Batali's recipes for everyday meals and for entertaining.
Arranged by courses, antipasti through formaggi and dolci (cheese and sweets), the uncomplicated dishes include White Bean Bruschetta with Grilled Radicchio Salad, Baked Lasagna with Asparagus and Pesto, and Roasted Porgy with Peas, Garlic, Scallions and Mint. Gorgonzola with Spiced Walnuts and Port Wine Syrup with fresh fruit would make a lovely conclusion to any dinner. Throughout, Batali provides advice on dish preparation; there are 32 pages of color photos and dozens of black-and-white shots of life in Batali's two villages. Batali's reliance on the best ingredients simply prepared, rather than on fussy restaurant techniques, places his dishes squarely in the realm of home cooks. They'll find his book a keeper. --Arthur Boehm
New Yorkers have long appreciated Batali's Po Restaurant, and fans of his cable television cooking show have come to respect his no-nonsense approach to teaching classic Italian cooking. Batali emphasizes the essentials of regional Italian cooking, carefully noting the similarities and differences as one travels from one ancient province to another. His pasta dishes come in true Italian style, heavy on the pasta itself, light on the sauce. Seafoods shine as main courses, and Batali's insistence that the famed fish stew cioppino actually originated in Liguria will no doubt offend San Franciscans, who have long claimed it as their own. Meat dishes waste nothing and make efficient use of all parts of the animals, including organs and feet. Although many of the vegetable dishes have some meat garnishes, there are plenty of recipes that will satisfy pure vegetarians, too. Mark Knoblauch