I bought this to give as a little extra gift for my son to open on his birthday in November. He appreciates good food (like his mother) and likes to eat healthy but hearty. I have countless cookbooks but not a one by Mario Batali, that is until now. I am keeping this one and getting my son another one in time to gift. What immediately struck me in this book was the use of both familiar and some unusual (but accessible) and very unusual ingredients to use in cooking--kohlrabi, cardoons (like a huge celery), endive, radishes, plus others. To me, personally, I love trying out new spices and ingredients, or using familiar ingredients in an unusual way--that is the adventure for me. When I have guests over for dinner, I like to serve at least one thing that they may never have had before or recently, or something familiar served in a new way. This book does that for me. Then there are the basics, yummy roasts, short ribs, mostly meats & fowl, some shellfish, pastas (also many unusual kinds), polentas, vegetables, beans, etc.. There are a variety of soups, entrees, sides, and desserts to choose from. The recipes are overwhelmingly 'rustic,' and the pictures bring that forth--no fru fru here. (There's also a recipe for cannoli and shells, one that I make myself in the same way). Almost every recipe has its own picture which draws you right in. The Table of Contents is laid out clearly to find any recipe at a moment's glance. Each of the twelve chapters is organized by the months of the year so that the menu matches the season. As the title implies, none of these recipes are involved or complicated. The layout of the recipes has all ingredients and directions printed on one page and on the opposite page is the picture. If you desire to make one of the dishes with some unusual ingredient you know you can't find, there is a large resource guide in the back of book to find it...or as I have been known to do, I substitute; call me a rebel. I don't let anything hold me back if I'm ready and willing to try out a new recipe.
Do I have any negatives? Yes, one very minor one. In just a few recipes, (thankfully few) notations in the recipe 'suggest' buying Mario's product to complete the recipe. It's not a big deal but I cringe when I see the author stoop to this level. If you want someone to know your products exist, mention it once in the foreword, then don't mention it again in specific recipes. To my mind, it is tacky. Despite this one minor negative, it is easy to see that a lot of effort and thought went into this cookbook. For now this review is one to let others know about the book, that it's worth having for all the reasons I've mentioned. So many cookbooks, so little time, as they say; but I will use this one soon and report back when I do. It's getting cold out so I think I will start with the Tuscan Ribollita soup (in "chapter October") after I buy some fresh greens; then I'll be ready to go. I just wanted to share the basics with everyone in the meantime, bc I am very pleased with the many thoughtful features of this book that I wanted to let the word out.
UPDATE: Made the Ribollita soup, halved it, which still made plenty for up to 6 people. Easy to make. I used broth instead of water. Finishing up leftovers today. The Marinated Broiled Portobellos were fast and tasty, to be eaten warm or room temp. The Prime Rib paste/marinade, great. Used it on steak too.