Q&A with Chef Mario Batali
Who was your greatest cooking influence?
My mom and dad.
Can I make homemade pasta as fast as you do on your show and cook it straight away, or do I have to let it dry out like my nona taught me when I was a kid?
Cook it straight away—just be careful. It can overcook.
What was the worst meal you've made and for whom?
Late-night fettuccine alfredo for Jim Gandolfini in college...ask him.
I don't keep alcohol in the house. I see it used on many cooking shows, but no one seems to take in account if someone wishes not to use alcohol. Are there other liquid substitutes?
Sure, water or broth. Make sure you use a low-salt broth and add just a squeeze of lemon at the end to tune up the acidity.
What's your favorite music to cook by?
REM, Mozart or Tom Waits.
What would you want your last meal to be?
A very long one—300 courses over many years.
Other than Italian, what's your favorite ethnic cuisine?
Vietnamese or Mexican.
On Iron Chef, after the secret ingredient is announced, do they give you time to plan a menu? Or do you come in with a menu and make adjustments based on what the ingredient is?
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
In the fall, acorn squash; in the winter, cabbage; in the spring, ramps; and in the summer, I just like to slice tomatoes and grill corn.
Fresh pasta made at home by hand is the thing you simply cannot replace with a store-bought product. It is ethereal and delicious and good for everyone who makes it or eats it.
For someone who wasn't lucky enough to have been born into an Italian family with a red sauce recipe that was handed down from generation to generation, do you have one that you would be willing to share?
Yes, in Molto Italiano . Get the recipe here.
What is your favorite white wine? Favorite red?
Tocai from Fiuli by Bastianich and Aragone from Tuscany by me and my partner, Joe.
When you are planning menus, do you plan by what you feel like eating that day, what is in season at the time or other?
The green market and fish market drive all of my menus, and I am lucky enough to feel like eating whatever is in season.
On Iron Chef , when a chef makes more than five dishes, how does judging work? Does a team that makes six dishes get extra points for an extra dish?
It does not add anything to the judging at all from my experience.
When you are spending time at home, do you cook for yourself? Or do you order out?
I like to cook at home, but I also really love to order Chinese food in from Grand Szechuan.
Can you share a great authentic Italian dish that not only my 5-year-old daughter would love but that screams romance so that I can prepare it when my husband and I have our date nights?
Penne ala Norma in my Molto Italiano book.
Where do you get ideas and inspirations for some of your more complex meals?
I always pay attention when I am eating at other [restaurants] and may or may not get a direct idea or the seed of another just by enjoying something someone else made.
What region of Italy, in your opinion, has the best cuisine?
All 21 have great things, but I feel the most at home and in joy when I am on the Amalfi coast or in the city of Bologna.