Mario Batali is a one-man culinary conglomerate celebrity chef, co-owner of five of New York's most popular restaurants, decade-long Food Network phenomenon, producer of three pasta sauces selling nationwide and a cookware line debuting this summer. And, of course, he's a cookbook author extraordinaire. The newest addition to his appetizing ├Ćuvre is Molto Italiano: Simple Italian Recipes for Cooking at Home, with 327 recipes for his "all time favorites," from the intensely regional cooking of his native Italy to the variations that have evolved here in the Italian-American kitchen. An unabashed reveler in the glories of eating well, Mario bubbles over with enthusiasm at the concept of antipasto, offering up a variety of vegetables marinated, on bruschetta, stuffed, fried and in frittatas; then on to clams Oreganato, Casino and Genovese, Prosciutto with Grilled Fig Salad, a polenta-layered Warm Terrine of Sausage, and more. That joyous enthusiasm continues through the soups, risottos, pastas, fish, fowl, meat (you've got to try the Lamb Shanks with Oranges and Olives), vegetables and dolci, each recipe lovingly introduced with his personal, practical take on the dish. Mario is the conductor of this savory symphony ˆ la Italiana, with its never overly sweet finale, and he directs it with his inimitable brio.

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