Readers may recall that earlier this week I had the opportunity to participate in an online Q & A with Mario Batali via Food and Wine’s Facebook page. I already shared Chef Batali’s answers to our two questions, but I wanted to go back and recap the event: the questions from the readers were great, as were his answers! What IS the deal with using olive oil in pasta water: is it a major no-no, or a helpful tip? Does Chef Batali have tips for making the perfect gnocchi? Or new, inventive recipes? Suggestions for high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars? Food & Wine fans asked some great questions, and Mario’s answers were very informative, so I thought I would put together some of the more interesting questions and answers and share them with our loyal readers. Enjoy! I hope you learn something new… or at least get a laugh at Chef Batali’s humorous responses to a few of the questions.

Q: What region of Italy do you refer to for inspiration?

A: Emilaia-Romagna and the Veneto.

Q: What type of potato do you think is best for making a nice, light gnocchi?

A: Old russets, never a waxy or “new” potato.

Q: What’s your wine of choice?

A: Morellino di Scansano from Fattoria Mozza.

Q: Is there one tip to making the best spaghetti sauce?

A: It’s all about the shopping: buy really good San Marzano tomatoes from Campania.

Q: Do you recommend a particular brand of olive oil?

A: I am loving Primo Olio from Sicily right now.

Q: Mario. what is your opinion on adding olive oil to pasta water during cooking ? I have heard so many different opinions.

A: Don’t do it!!!!!!!!!!!

Q: I would like to invest in a wonderful aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling. Do you have a preference?

A: I like Aceto Manadori and I like Giusti’s Aceto Tradizionale.

Q: Hi Mario! What would you suggest about a delicious pasta that I can cook for a guy that he won’t be able to resist? Even for a non-pasta lover.. 🙂

A: A non pasta lover?? Lose him!! (This was my favorite!!!)

Q: Italy has so many wonderful wine regions – some aren’t as widely known as others. Which is your favorite and what food would you pair with it?

A: I love Tocai–now called Friulano–and I love it with scampi simply grilled with a squeeze of lemon.

Q: I’ve recently taken a class with a local chef dealing with knife techniques and it’s improved both my ability and willingness to experiment more in the kitchen on a regular basis. Can you recommend another skill/course that would help the average home cook as much as this one has helped me?

A: Basic butchery and baking are two important fundamentals.

Q: I love the idea of simplicity in Italian cooking–letting flavors shine. I ADORE scallops–what’s you’re favorite preparation?

A: Sliced thin raw with a squeeze of tangerine and chili flakes.

Q: What’s more important to you…memorable preparation, or memorable ingredients?

A: Ingredients always rule out.

Q: I’d like to try and cure my own meats…what is a good meat to start with for a first timer?

A: A whole muscle like beef bresaola or a duck breast.

Q: Mario – what is the secret to keeping gnocchi light? Mine are too dense and heavy.

A: Work the flour in to the potatoes when they are still warm and do not knead them other than just bringing the dough together.

Q: Is there ever a time you enjoy drive thru or macaroni and cheese out of a box?

A: Never. Processed food is the satan in my heavenly earth.

Q: Hi Mario, big fan. What does the addition of grated carrot do for the basic marinara flavor? I’ve used an onion that has been spiced and worked into a frond-ish paste to get sugars.

A: It sweetens the sauce without adding processed sugar.

And there you have it! Some very interesting questions and some very informative answers. Thanks again to Food & Wine and to Chef Batali for this inspirational Q & A! I feel as if I gained a new perspective on Mr. Batali’s philosophy of cooking: his outlook on using fresh ingredients and making simple, delicious dishes is something we can all apply to our home kitchens. You can read the rest of the dialogue on Food & Wine’s Facebook page, and I highly suggest checking out Mario’s website for in depth information on Italian food and wine.

On another note, it has been a great week for Sedimentality! First I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Batali, and then I received a heartfelt “thank you” from one of my favorite authors, Nancie McDermott, for my review of her book, “Quick and Easy Thai”. THEN the husband and I hosted a sparkling wine tasting at our house (tasting notes to come soon!) and experienced some of the best espumantes that Argentina has to offer. Whew! We are detoxing for the rest of this week and enjoying the high from each of these incredible experiences. We hope that you all have a beautiful weekend full of good food, good wine, and good company.
Cheers!