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How to make a simple Italian feast

Mario Batalihe still likes to keep things simple. The television icon, restaurateur, and culinary innovator' newest book, "Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home," brings us a sumptuous feast.
/ Source: Weekend Today

Though he has become a culinary superstar, Mario Batali still likes to keep things simple. The television icon, restaurateur, and culinary innovator' newest book, "Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home," brings us a sumptuous feast that spans his career and showcases hundreds of his simple-to-prepare, classic Italian recipes.

Tuna and Ricotta FrittersPolpette di Tonno e Ricotta
(makes 6 servings)

Once you have fried these and they have cooled, you could reheat them in a light, simple tomato sauce and serve them as a hot main course. You could also toss them with a little spaghetti - kind of like a tuna meatball.

Ingredients:2 pounds russet potatoesTwo 6- to 7-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil1 cup fresh Ricotta, drained in a sieve lined withcheesecloth for an hour1 bunch Marjoram, leaves onlySalt and freshly ground black pepper3 large eggs, separated3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, for deep-frying1 cup all-purpose flour1 cup fresh bread crumbs2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley1 tablespoon lemon zest

1. In a large pot, bring 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until easily pierced with the point of a paring knife, about 25 minutes; drain.2. Peel the potatoes and, while they are still warm, pass through a food mill into a large bowl. Immediately add the tuna, ricotta, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the egg yolks and mix well to combine. Using two tablespoons, or your moistened hands, form the mixture into golfball-sized balls and set on a baking sheet.3. In a large deep saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 370 degrees. Meanwhile, place the flour in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat the egg whites in another bowl. Put the bread crumbs and parsley in a third bowl. Working in batches, dredge the tuna balls in the flour, then dip in the egg whites, letting the excess run off, and dredge in the bread crumbs. Carefully drop the balls into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve hot.

Asparagus with Citrus, Parsley and GarlicAsparagi alla Gremolata
(makes 4 to 6 servings)

I love the way the jumbo asparagus trumpet the arrival of spring. There are restaurants in Italy, particularly Rome, where they devise whole menus of asparagus to celebrate this king of vegetables. This can be served as a side dish or an antipasto.

Ingredients:1 1/2 pounds jumbo asparagusZest and juice of 2 large lemonsZest of one large orange2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley2 tablespoons fresh mint cut into chiffonade1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

1. Snap off the fibrous bottom part of each stalk of asparagus (it will break off naturally where it becomes tough, provided that you grasp the very bottom of the woody stalk with your fingertips.)2. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 3 tablespoons salt. Set up an ice bath next to the stovetop. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove and immediately submerge in the ice bath to cool for 5 minutes, moving the stalks frequently to be sure no hot spots remain; add more ice if it all melts.3. Remove the asparagus and drain on a kitchen towel, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and juice, orange zest, the garlic, parsley, mint, and olive oil, and toss gently to mix well. Arrange the spears on a platter and pour the mixture remaining in the bowl over them. Sprinkle with the sea salt and serve with a flourish.