No one has to tell a good Italian cook about simplicity or seasonality; it’s in their DNA, and Mario Batali has made it his mission to spread that Italian culinary credo. With 14 restaurants, eight cookbooks and TV appearances galore, the exuberant, larger-than-life Molto Mario is the current champion of La Cucina Italiana. Now he’s added a “proplanet resolve” to his message, “greening” his restaurants and reminding us of the social cost of our food decisions. Not pushy and hardly a vegetarian, Mario suggests that meals made up of a few vegetarian antipasti, maybe a sampling of salumi, a salad, pizza or pasta, some good cheese and a delectable dolce are sumptuously simple. In other words, you don’t need a “meat and potatoes” main course. And in Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking, Mario offers the Italian classics that have made Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, his Manhattan palazzo of pizza and pasta, so resoundingly successful. Seasonally orchestrated, super-low in animal protein, these are the go-to recipes for creating your own incredibly inviting “pro-planet” meals. Try Spring Peas with Mint, Penne with Walnut Pesto, Pizza with Funghi and Taleggio, Tricolore Salad, Ricotta Gelato—nobody will ask, “where’s the beef?”

Serves 6

12 ounces ripe cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
6 tablespoons crème fraîche
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Fresh chive sticks for garnish

Put the tomatoes in a serving bowl and add the vinegar, tossing to coat. Season with salt, and let marinade for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Combine the crème fraîche and oil in a medium bowl and whisk until the cream just holds a soft shape.

Garnish the tomatoes with dollops of the crème fraîche, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chives, and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Molto Gusto (Ecco 2010).

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