Super Mario!

Top chef, TV host, official cook of NASCAR ... Mario Batali knows what we really want to eat

Mario Batali grabs a brawny handful of parsley leaves and tosses them into the pot without looking. Onstage before a crowd of 400 at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, Batali is demonstrating how to make fregula soup with clams. It's a simple recipe--fregula is just a kind of pasta--but the soup looks a mess. An intemperate amount of chili flakes has gone in, as has what seemed unadvisedly large pinches of saffron, which has a neat but metallic flavor that can overwhelm. As Batali stumbles over a loose cord onstage, it occurs to me that he must be exhausted. It's...