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Mario Batali’s New Cookbook All About Veggies

Yes, the man known for his love of pork and offal, has come out with a new cookbook that puts the spotlight on fresh, seasonal veggies.

“Molto Gusto” (Ecco) by Mario Batali is not a vegetarian cookbook per se. But the casual, easy dishes are all about using meat as an accent, while nudging vegetables to the forefront instead.

It’s a refreshing, modern sensibility from a celeb chef, who has lost a ton of weight recently, and has even embraced the new “Meatless Mondays” movement, geared toward getting people to eat more vegetables at least once a week.

See that delicious “Pennette with Summer Squash & Ricotta” above, which I made from the book? Even my husband, aka Meat Boy, loved this absolutely-positively meatless dish. What a shock, huh?

It couldn’t be easier to make, either.

Pennette rigate pasta gets boiled in a big pot of water. When it reaches the al dente stage, it’s drained, then tossed with zucchini and summer squash slices that have been sautéed in olive oil, as well as a big handful of fresh mint.

Divide the pasta among serving dishes. Top with big spoonfuls of creamy ricotta that’s been mixed with olive oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. That’s it.

It’s a dish that tastes of summer. The mint adds lightness to the rich ricotta. The addition of olive oil to the ricotta is genius, lending far more complexity to the fresh, milky taste. Be sure to use a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. When you have a dish like this that has only a few ingredients, you really want to make sure each is top-notch so that they really shine.

From antipasti to salads to pizza and pastas, this book will show you that you don’t have to rely on meat to make a dish distinctive and delicious.

Pennette with Summer Squash and Ricotta

(Serves 6)

Kosher salt

1 cup fresh ricotta

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving

2 to 3 tablespoons warm water

1 pound summer squash or zucchini, or a combination, cut lengthwise in half and sliced into 1/3-inch-thick half-moons

Maldon or other flaky sea salt

1 pound pennette rigate

6 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint

Coarsely ground black pepper1 cup fresh ricotta

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 tablespoons kosher salt.

Meanwhile, whisk the ricotta and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil together in a small bowl. Add the Parmigiano, whisking until it is evenly incorporated. Whisk in 2 table- spoons warm water, then whisk in another tablespoon of water if necessary to loosen the consistency.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring, until just tender and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Season well with Maldon salt and remove from the heat.

Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water.

Add the pasta and the reserved pasta water to the squash, stirring and tossing over medium heat to mix well. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow to steam together for 2 minutes.

Stir in the mint, season with Maldon salt if necessary and with pepper, and transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Garnish with dollops of the whipped ricotta and serve immediately, with additional grated Parmigiano on the side.

From “Molto Gusto” by Mario Batali


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