I just got Mario Batali's new cookbook this week, "Molto Italiano." Below, I describe what I made from the book last night, but first, a few words about the book itself.
I read through it with enthusiasm -- many of the recipes are from his show on the Food Network, but there are so many new ones, and everything sounded (and looked) so good! The photography is excellent, with very few gratuitous shots of the author, and mouthwatering photos of the food. I love Mario's philosophy on food and cooking, and enjoyed reading the text accompanying the recipes. The writing was well done and the author's voice really comes through. It was as if I had the television on and could hear his voice as I was reading the book. I recommend the book to anyone who loves authentic and simple Italian cooking. Even the most complex dishes wouldn't give an experienced cook any trouble. His "Babbo" cookboox, while a nice coffee table book, was just not practical for anything other than a blowout meal and I know I will get much more use out of the new book.
I made two recipes from the book: Porcini Salad with Arugula, and Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel.
First, the salad. It's very simple -- just a lemon vinaigrette, arugula, shaved parmesan and warm, grilled fresh porcini mushrooms. The just-off-the-grill porcini slightly wilt the arugula and soften the shaved parmesan. If you are lucky enough to live where you can get great fresh porcini (I live in San Francisco and can get local porcini in season), this dish is a wonderful and simple salad.
The ricotta gnocchi were, in a word, fantastic. I used a local sheep's milk ricotta from the Sonoma Valley (Bellwether Farms). The sauce is made up of homemade marinara, with some additions: toasted, ground fennel seeds, fresh chopped fennel, chopped red onion, garlic, celery, carrot and red pepper flakes, along with your favorite crumbled and browned Italian sausage. But what was really surprising were the gnocchi. I've made potato gnocchi countless times, and also gnocchi alla romana (made of semolina flour), but had never made ricotta gnocchi. They were as soft and light as feather pillows, but amazingly were not overwhelmed by the weight of the sauce. A truly inspired combination. I should have taken a photo, but the cookbook has great photos of each dish and mine looked just like the book!