The Simple Art of Cooking: Now That’s Italian

On November 2 the James Beard Foundation held a gala reception/dinner/auction titled “Now That’s Italian” to celebrate the unique contributions of American chefs to Italian Cuisine at Guastavino’s in New York City. The effervescent Mario Batali was one of the award-winning chefs who participated in the event along with our own Joseph Realmuto of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and New York City.

The reception featured an Italian marketplace with some of the most imaginative and savory appetizers I’ve had the pleasure of tasting, such as crusty cauliflower fritters, miniature mascarpone-based brioche tarts, soft quail egg miniature ravioli with truffle butter, shellfish risotto in a mussel shell and Realmuto’s addictive warm truffled oxtail tartlet with autumn squash.

In a brief interview with Batali, I asked what some of his favorite standard company recipes are? “Foods that can sit at room temperature or braised dishes such as osso bucco,” he replied. I totally concur, as osso bucco can be successfully prepared ahead and reheated and it is splendid for a dinner party. With Thanksgiving on our minds I asked Realmuto what he would prepare for Thanksgiving that can be made ahead and frozen. Here is his local roasted cheese pumpkin soup to get you started! [expand]



One of Mario Batali’s favorite do-ahead company dishes.

Makes 4 servings

Four 3-inch thick osso bucco (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

1 small Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 rib celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

2 cups basic tomato sauce

2 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed

2 cups dry white wine


For the gremolata

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts toasted

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375°F

Season the osso bucco all over with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Place the osso bucco in the pot and brown on all sides, rolling them on their sides to get all the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the carrot, onion, celery and thyme to the pot and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are golden brown, and slightly softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, stock and wine, and bring to a boil. Place the osso bucco back in the pot, making sure they are submerged at least halfway; if necessary, add additional stock.

Tightly cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, make the gremolata: In a small bowl, gently mix the parsley, pine nuts and lemon zest.

Remove the osso bucco from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the gremolata before serving.

Reprinted from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano (Ecco, 2005).


Local Roasted Cheese Pumpkin Soup

Get a head start for Thanksgiving with Chef Joseph Realmuto’s pumpkin soup.

Serves 6

 1 4-pound cheese pumpkin, cut in half, seeds removed

1 cup water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, peeled

2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 whole cinnamon sticks
Salt and freshly ground black, about 1/4 teaspoon each, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

Cut Pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Rinse seeds in a colander under water then

transfer to paper towels and let dry. Roast seeds on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 8 minutes; reserve for garnish.

Preheat oven to 400°F

2. Season inside of the Cheese pumpkin with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan cut side down with one-cup water. Place pumpkin in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until it is soft to touch and tender to a knife. Remove from oven and let cool. Once the pumpkin is cool scoop the flesh from the shell and reserve.

3. Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add oil and warm until you see it start to ripple. Add onions and garlic and sweat for 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring so the vegetables do not take on any color. Once the vegetables are soft and translucent, add the reserved pumpkin, chicken broth, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, adjust heat to medium low and simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

4. Remove the cinnamon sticks and puree the soup in a blender or with an emulsion stick blender until it is a smooth puree. Return soup to the saucepan, add cream and maple syrup and bring back to a simmer. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve soup hot, garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chopped parsley.

Note: Soup may be frozen in a suitable container. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat when ready to serve.

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