Mario Batali Cookbook "Molto Italiano"
I recently purchased Molto Italiano box set from Barnes and Noble for a great price. I was excited to try my first Mario Batali recipe and I decided to start with Spaghetti con Salsa or Spaghetti with carmelized onions, anchovies and toasted bread crumbs.
I followed the directions exactly (could be wrong?) and the dish came out look somewhat appetizing but the whole dish ended up getting thrown out. My boyfriend and I took a couple bites and it was just well not good in our opinion. Has anyone else tried this recipe and if so did you enjoy it? How about any other recipes from this book? I am hesitant to waste my time and money making other recipes from this book. :(
October of '08 was Mario Balali month at Cookbook of the Month. Participants cooked from three of his books, but there are many reviews of recipes from Molto Italiano and lots of those reviews are very positive. If you go to this main thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/561501 you can follow the links. The review will tell you in the first line which book it was taken from.
I have "Mario Batali Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages" that I picked up from cookbook of the months a few years ago.
I find it a great glossary and reference for Italian foods and cooking processes, but I bet I;ve only made 2 or 3 recipes out of the book itself.
Many of the ingredients seem to be hard to come by unless you have access to a well stocked italian market (one that specialized in true imported Euro ingredients) and while the recipes seem to be not overly complicated, they do tend to lend themselves towards true but seemingly eccentric and regional flavors that may seem foreign to American palates.
IIRC, I also did an anchovy, breadcrumb olive oil spaghatini type dish and later a stewed chicken dish. Both were acceptable but nothing that wowed me for flavor or depth.
I suggest trying a few more simple recipes from the books and see what you find before you shelve the books.
I feel I am the last English-speaking person on earth interested in Italian food on whose radar Mario Batali is not even a blip. But, like you, I bought that book when I saw it at a good price, thinking it might be an easy way to find out what all the fuss is about. Of course, I haven't even opened it. But I did just now to read that recipe. Personally, I think it's very peculiar, and the headnote is useless. "Never" is a word I don't like to use in the sense of "impossible," but I have never seen an Italian cook soak anchovies in milk (Swedes do that with herring, so it's not wacko) or combine sweet onions with the savory garlic-chile-anchovy triad.
This is one of my favorite cookbooks and I cook from it very often. Two nights ago I made the terrific Chick Pea, Pasta Soup, which uses saffron so perhaps it has an Abruzzese origin. I make this soup at least once a month; I omit the pasta and use an extra can of chick peas. Another favorite is the Romagnola Onion Soup on p. 128; I usually use duck fat instead of pork fat in this one:
I find the soup recipes, especially, are very good and can be changed to accommodate the ingredients you have on hand. I have never tried the recipe you mention, however.
I really think that any spaghetti recipe that is based on anchovies can be a tough one for most people. I have done many different recipes that are anchovy based and no matter what, I still don't like them. So maybe it's the anchovies and not Mario.
The two recipes I made from that book during COTM that I really loved and have made again (several times) are the Lamb Shanks with Oranges and Olives (which uses his Basic Tomato Sauce, also good) and the Meatballs with Ricotta in Milk. I recommend both recipes.