cover image Mario Batali Holiday Food

Mario Batali Holiday Food

Mario Batali. Clarkson N Potter Publishers, $25 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-609-60774-9

Americans tend to think of Italian cooking as easy: we have come to rely on 15-minute pastas and hearty, seasonal dishes like minestrone. But here, Batali of Food Network's Molto Mario presents the most cherished Italian dishes--those served, often after days of preparation and with fanfare, during the holidays. Batali focuses on the seafood-rich Amalfi coast, beginning with a Christmas Eve menu that includes Vongole Origanate (clams oreganato), Baccal Vesuviana, Ravioli alla Spigola (Sea Bass Ravioli with Marjoram and Potatoes), and in case you still have any room for dessert, Classic Cannoli. The book consists of traditional Italian menus that take you through the four holidays--Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day--but the recipes can be used for an impressive meal or snack any time. (There is also a separate section on the wines of Campania.) Cooking from scratch is the name of the game, so don't expect shortcuts; however, instructions are generally to the point and the results are well worthwhile. Recipes like Mythic Pasta Dome (a sort of pasta torte) capture the elaborate and festive nature of holiday Italian cooking. Beginners might be intimidated: Baba (lemon cake) requires a yeast rising and the insertion of fine holes in the cake into which a lemon mixture is ""infused."" But once practiced, recipes become easy, and there are some simple yet gratifying recipes, such as No-Bake Chocolate Cookies. If you want to enliven your Italian repertoire with authentic, celebratory dishes, this book is invaluable. Photographs by Quentin Bacon. (Oct.)