I will use any excuse to write about (or eat) food. So, when I discovered that not only is September national rice month and national mushroom month, but that today is also James Beard award-winning chef Mario Batali’s birthday, well, I just had to bring it to your attention. Sounds like a good excuse for whipping up a pot of creamy risotto, yes?
The library has a number of Batali’s cookbooks. One of my favorites is the relatively slim and fairly impractical “Holiday Food.” These are not get-it-on-the-table-in-30-minutes dinners but are instead let-me-show-you-how-much-I-love-you-by-making-you-a-Mythic-Pasta-Dome menus. (Batali also appears on the cover in those ridiculous but endearing orange clogs of his, which always make me smile.) If you need recipes more conducive to weeknight cooking, check out “Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking at Home.”
Of course, nothing says Italian cooking like pasta. If you want a book that is as much a pleasure to look at as it is to cook from, “The Geometry of Pasta,” published by the aptly named Quirk Books, is for you. Or perhaps you don’t want to cook pasta but want to read about other people cooking pasta. (I suggest cooking pasta and then eating that pasta while reading about pasta.) “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” is a lighthearted memoir about the food that sustained New Yorker Giulia Melucci through several failed relationships. I also recommend “On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta,” cooking teacher and travel writer Jen Lin-Liu’s attempt to discover who actually invented our beloved noodles.
There are Italian cookbooks galore on the library shelves, so join me in celebrating Mario, rice, mushrooms and more. Buon appetito!