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?”
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).