Simple Italian Food from TV Chef Mario Battali

Brett and Mary-Lauren Factora with their daughters Cassandra, Sage and Isabella around their dining table at the start of our meal.

Dear Beloved Gourmet Club,

After scanning the globe from Asia to The America’s, we have decided to land in Italy to enjoy the recipes and cuisine of Chef Mario Batali.

We have not been to any of his restaurants or watched his show.  However, we did catch a segment about him on the Food Network where he struck us as a colorful character with a mix of part chef, part artist and part marketeer.  He came highly recommended from some family and friends.  As we studied his recipe books and the web, we found some fun and interesting variations on some otherwise ordinary dishes.  We hope you agree.

The menu is as follows:  Please note that the yields are provided on each recipe and will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Most will need to be doubled, the dessert will need to be 1 and ½ ed.


Bonnie/Art                 Warm Terrine of Sausage, Peppers, Polenta, and Mozzarella

Rochelle/Llew          Prosciutto di Parma con Insalata di Mele Parmigiano (Prosciutto with Apple Salad)

ML/Bret                      Grilled Shrimp with White Beans, Rosemary, Mache, and Mint Oil

ML/Bret                      Asparagus Sformato with Fondata

Rochelle/Llew          Risotto with Porcini, Shiitake, and Vin Santo

Amy/Dan                  Tiramisu-the Dinosaur

We look forward to welcoming you all this Saturday, March 31st at 7:30 at our home.

Warm Regards,

ML and Bret


Warm Terrine of Sausage, Peppers, Polenta, and Mozzarella

Serves 6

8 oz sweet sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½” wide strips
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½” wide strips
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into strips 3 inches by ¼” by ¼”
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups quick cooking polenta or yellow cornmeal
¼ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

preheat oven to 350o

Arrange the sausage in a baking pan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.  Drain off the fat, then crumble the cooked sausage to resemble rough bread crumbs.  Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Gently sauté the garlic until golden brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the bell peppers and sauté unil soft but not browned, 7 to 8 minutes longer.  Remove from heat, transfer the garlic and peppers to a bowl, and let cool.

Bring the mozzarella to room temperature.  Arrange the sausage, peppers, garlic, and mozzarella in separate bowls.  Set out a terrine, 13X4X4 inches.

Bring the water to a boil, adding the salt and sugar.  Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water in a thin stream, whisking continuously.  Lower the heat and cook until the polenta resembles the texture of hot cereal, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat.  The polenta will begin to thicken immediately, so time here is of the essence.

Moving quickly, pour a ¾” layer of polenta into the prepared terrine.  Sprinkle all the crumbled sausage over the polenta.  Cover the sausage with about 1½ cups more polenta, using a spatula to smooth the top.  Next, make a layer with the peppers and garlic cloves and top with another 1½ cups warm polenta.  Smooth and flatten the polenta to make a nice, even layer all the way around the edges.  Arrange the mozzarella over the polenta (but do not bring the mozzarella to the edges as it will stick to the sides when it melts).  Fill the terrine with a final layer of warm polenta, there may be polenta left over.  Smooth the top all the way to the edges.  Cover the terrine with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 4750

To serve, invert the terrine onto a cutting board.  (It should come out quite easily.)  Cut the terrine in ¾” thick slices.  Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately.


Prosciutto di Parma con Insalata di Mele Parmigiano (Prosciutto with Apple Salad)

Serves 4


1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and cored
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and cored
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 head radicchio di Treviso, leaves detached
Salt and pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for shaving

Place the prosciutto on a large platter. Julienne all apples and place in a mixing bowl. Add the poppy seeds, olive oil, vinegar and radicchio and salt and pepper, to taste and toss to coat. Arrange the salad in the center of the plate and shave curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the salad and ham. Serve immediately.


Grilled Shrimp with White Beans, Rosemary, Mache, and Mint Oil

Serves 4



1½ cups cooked great northern beans
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram leaves
juice and zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
2 cups fresh mache, washed and spun dry
12 jumbo shrimp (about 1 1/3 pounds), preferably with heads on and partially peeled
¼ cup mint oil

Mint Oil

½ cup packed fresh mint leaves
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring saucepan of water to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath.  Plunge the mint leaves into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove to the ice bath.  Squeeze out the excess liquid and puree in a food processor for 1 minute with the olive oil.  Makes 1 cup

Preheat the grill or broiler

In a mixing bowl, stir together the cooked beans, rosemary, olive oil, onion, marjoram, and lemon juice and zest.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the mache to the beans and toss to combine.  Arrange in the centers of 4 plates.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, brush with a bit of additional oil, and grill just until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.  Prop 3 shrimp against the mache and beans, teepee fashion, on each plate.

Drizzle with the mint oil and serve.


Asparagus Sformato with Fondata
2 cups bechamel sauce, recipe follows
1 pound fresh medium asparagus, rough ends removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg, or to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs and 2 yolks
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted under broiler
Bechamel: Balsamella 
1 stick unsalted butter 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
4 cups hot milk 
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces fontina cheese 
6 ounces heavy cream 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan until frothing. Remove from heat and stir in flour with a whisk. Cook over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 of the hot milk and whisk until smooth. Add remaining milk and whisk until smooth. Bring to boil, add nutmeg, lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Can be used hot or cold.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Blanch the asparagus until just tender (1 minute) and remove to ice bath and refresh. Once the asparagus has cooled, remove from the ice bath and pat dry.
Cut the cooled asparagus in 1/2. Cut the top 1/2 into 1/2-inch pieces and set the pieces aside. Place the bottom halves in a food processor and blend into a fine puree.
In a mixing bowl, mix the pureed asparagus, the bechamel, salt, nutmeg, Parmesan, eggs and yolks. Stir until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the top halves of the asparagus pieces which had been previously set aside.
Butter an 8-inch bundt pan and coat with bread crumbs. Pour the asparagus mixture into the bundt pan. Fill a 12-inch baking pan 2/3 filled with hot water. Place the bundt pan on the baking pan, so that the bundt is standing in the hot water. Carefully place the baking pan (with the bundt pan) into the oven. Bake until the top of the sformatio is golden brown and a dipped toothpick comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the fondata.
To make the fondata: Mix the grated fontina, the heavy cream, and the salt and pepper in small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy.
To serve: Turn the sformato out onto a large plate. Cut into 2-inch slices and place the slices on serving plates. Spoon the fondata over the slices and serve immediately.
Risotto with Porcini, Shiitake, and Vin Santo

Serves 4

4 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
8 ouncecs fresh porcini mushrooms, stems and caps sliced ¼” thick
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, hard stems removed and slice ¼” thick
1½ cups Arborio rice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup Vin Santo (an Italian wine, substitute a fino or amontillado sherry)
½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a simmer and place on a back burner over low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 12-14 inch sauté pan over medium heat,  Add the onion and sauté until translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned but not fully cooked, 6 to 7 minutes.  Add the rice and stir 1 minute to coat thoroughly.  Ladle ½ cup of warm stock over the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed.  Add another ladle of broth and continue to cook, keeping the risotto at a slow boil and adding more stock.  Repeat until riceis quite al dente (12 to 14 minutes).  Add the butter, wine, and cheese and bring to a boil again, continuing to stir until the rice is done – firm and tender all the way through.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Tiramisu-the Dinosaur

Serves 6

4 ounces strong espresso (or substitute 2 teaspoons instant coffee in 1/2 cup water)
2 ounces Italian brandy
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups mascarpone cheese (may substitute ricotta or cream cheese)
30 small savoiaridi, or 15 broken in half (a.k.a. Ladyfingers)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1/4 inch pieces
3 ounces milk chocolate, shaved or grated
6 large wine goblets

Mix coffee and brandy together and set aside.

Over a double boiler, beat egg yolks and sugar until mixture lightens in color and forms ribbons (i.e. halfway to zabaglione). Allow to cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold mascarpone into egg yolk mixture one quarter at a time. Fold mascarpone mixture into egg whites and set aside.

Lay savoiardi along edges of wine goblets all the way to the bottom, lining the entire glass (while keeping 6 savoiardi for later use). Using a pastry brush, and paint the cookies with the espresso/brandy mixture.

Fill each goblet one third full with mascarpone mixture and sprinkle with broken chocolate. Lay one savoiardi across center and and paint with coffee mixture. Fill each goblet with remaining mascarpone mixture, topping each with shaved chocolate. Lay one savoiardi in each of the remaining 5 goblets and and paint with espresso mixture.

Can be served at room temperature. Tiramisu was served chilled in the 1980s.