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Mario Batali's Top Waste-Less Tips

Elena North-Kelly

October 05, 2016

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Cutting back on food waste is nothing new in Italian culinary traditions: nonnas throughout the boot have long embraced “ugly” produce and used every scrap, and whole-animal cooking and preserving the harvest bounty are concepts woven into the very fabric of the culture. We caught up with industry icon Mario Batali and his director of environmental health, Elizabeth Meltz, for some Italy-inspired tips, all easy to adopt in your own home kitchen.

Prep Your Mise-en-Place

Before putting your groceries away, take a few minutes to prep and wash the ingredients. You might be more likely to eat them if you clean and prep them first. For example, wash and dry lettuce for salads, cut carrot sticks for snacking, or roast vegetables to use throughout the week. You’ll thank yourself later.

First In, First Out

Adopt a “first in, first out” system in the refrigerator and pantry. Place older foods in front so you use them soonest; store newer, fresher foods in the back.
 

Pickle & Preserve

Prolong the life of vegetables by pickling them. Don’t forget that pickling can be done in small batches. If you have enough vegetables to fill a small saucepot, you can pickle them. Bonus: this is a great way to have ramps in the middle of winter!
 

Freeze It

Get in the habit of anticipating when you’ll have excess food, and freeze it before it has a chance to rot or go stale. Good candidates for the freezer include leftovers, big batches of soup, bread, fresh herbs, and scraps that can be turned into stock.
 

Go Nose-to-Tail

Think like an Italian and use every part of the animal or vegetable you have in front of you. Broccoli stems are delicious cut up and salted, and carrot-top pesto is innovative and tasty. If you happen to have a whole pig in your house, make sure you make the jaw meat into guanciale and fry up that tail!
 


 

In honor of Earth Day last year, JBF Award winner Mario Batali tasked chefs from his restaurant group to fight food waste by creating recipes that employed "ugly food" that would otherwise end up in a landfill. We love this autumnal brown butter cake with bruised pears and walnuts, created by Justine MacNeil, executive pastry chef at the iconic Del Posto Ristorante. Get the recipe.

In anticipation of our upcoming JBF Food Conference, we're looking through the lens of our recently launched JBF Impact Programs, which aim to promote a sustainable food system through education, advocacy, and thought leadership. See all JBF Impact content here.

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Elena North-Kelly is managing editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.