Books taste of Italy, from classic to new

Marion Sullivan, Books for Cooks

I love Italian food, perhaps because my great-grandfather's family was from Parma, the home of two of Italy's finest gastronomic products, Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma. Perhaps it's just because the cuisine is wonderful, as are two new Italian cookbooks that hit the stores this month.

"Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking."

This is the latest from Mario Batali, famous restaurateur (15), cookbook author (8) and Food Network icon. Here, Batali and Otto chef/partner Mark Ladner bring the flavors of their restaurant

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria to your table.

The food philosophy in the book, as at Otto, is that "most of the protein comes from small portions of cured meats, cheeses, and grains, with any animal protein as flavoring, and the bulk of the comestibles plant-based, whether leaf, stalk, flower, seed, or drupe."

Look for great antipasti and inspiring insalata (salads). You definitely can learn how to make delicious pizza and find new sauces for pasta.

And there are gelato and sorbetto for the finish.

An extra: an excellent pictorial glossary of cheeses. Hardcover. Ecco. $29.99.

"Giada at Home: Family Recipes From Italy and California."

Giada -- that's Giada De Laurentiis, granddaughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis -- with four cookbooks and a Los Angeles catering company under her belt, is fast becoming a household word on the Food Network.

Here, she combines classic Italian recipes from her family and travels in Italy with "modern" dishes that reflect the "clean, fresh flavors" of California; for example, Rigatoni With Creamy Mushroom Sauce on the one hand and Penne With Treviso (or Radicchio) and Goat Cheese on the other.

Giada includes brunch, soups and sandwiches, along with the customary components, from appetizers to desserts, and makes it all look light and lovely. Hardcover. Clarkson Potter/Publishers. $35.

Serves 6

Ingredients

10 ounces fresh mozzarella

1 1/2 pounds assorted ripe tomatoes (combination of colors, types and sizes)

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small bunch basil, leaves removed

Maldon or other flaky sea salt

Directions

With a sharp knife, cut the mozzarella into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a serving platter, reserving any milky liquid from the cheese in a small cup.

Slice the tomatoes, reserving the juices. Arrange the tomatoes on the cheese.

Whisk the vinegar, reserved tomato juices, any liquid from the mozzarella, and the olive oil together in a small bowl.

Tear the basil leaves over the salad. Pour the vinaigrette over it, sprinkle with salt and serve.

-- Adapted from "Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking"

Marion Sullivan is culinary programs specialist at the Culinary Institute of Charleston. Send your cookbook questions to Books forcooks@bellsouth.net.