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Q&A With Celebrity Chef Mario Batali

Melanie Dunea

Star chef and dad to two teenage boys, Mario Batali made family the focus of his new cookbook Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours. Here, Batali talks picky eating habits, how to get kids in the kitchen and what's in his fridge.

What were your eating habits like as a kid?

I ate whatever my parents or adults put in front of me. Saying no wasn't really an option when I was growing up.

You have two sons, ages 15 and 13—what are their eating habits like? Did they go through any picky eating phases? How did you handle them?

They're great eaters and always have been! They went through some short phases of not liking parsley, but they're over it now. I always involved them in the cooking process, so at the end, they wanted to eat the finished dish, because they helped prepare it!

Do your sons cook or bake? 

My eldest son loves to bake! And he's really good! Two years ago he made a cake that looked just like a nutella bottle—it was amazing! They both like to cook, but Benno's really into it!

How can parents include kids in the cooking process to make them feel involved?

Easy—give them tasks—depending on their age and agility it can be anything from shucking peas, to peeling potatoes to cutting an onion. The focus can't be on how perfect they do a task…it's just cool that they are helping at all.

What are some fun ways to cook foods that picky eaters usually won’t touch – like green veggies, for example? 

Throw greens into a dish you already know they like, like a lasagna or or a sauce. They may eat around it, but they may also go with it and realize it's not that bad after all!

What’s your favorite fast weeknight dinner recipe?

The kid's babysitter is an amazing cook, and her tacos and rice and beans are the best!

What’s in your fridge right now?

Pickled vegetables, leftover homemade soup, cheese, wine, orange juice and five different kinds of hot sauce.

What are some pantry and fridge staples to always have on hand for quick weeknight cooking?

Olive oil, Maldon sea salt, aceto manodori [balsamic vinegar], almonds, Parmigiano Reggiano and San Marzano tomatoes.

How do you stay in touch with your family with your busy schedule?

I plan my schedule around my family—they always come first…no matter what.

What are some tips you can offer for stress-free New Year's Eve entertaining?

Cook and shop in advance. Don't wait till the last minute. And cook seasonally—the food will taste better and you'll save yourself a lot of time looking for ingredients!

Try two recipes from Mario Batali's new cookbook Molto Batali: