Life

Gino D'Acampo cooks up a storm on the Italian coast

Telly chef and prolific cookbook writer Gino D'Acampo visits Italy's coast for inspiration for his new recipe collection. Jack Newman finds out more

Gino D'Acampo on the Amalfi Coast, where he travelled in preparation for his new cookbook Gino's Italy Coastal Escape

CHEEKY chappy Gino D'Acampo is bringing a taste of his Italian home (even borrowing recipes off his mamma, Alba) in his new book and accompanying ITV series, Gino's Italian Coastal Escape.

The charismatic TV presenter, chef and restaurateur is hoping to show that simplicity is the key to great Italian food.

Gino (41), originally from Torre del Greco, Naples, has travelled along "the most famous coast in Europe", discovering the local specialities and authentic ingredients associated with Italy's west coast. It is arguably the gastronomic spine of the country, with the book taking influence from traditional kitchens in Rome, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, and the islands of Sicily and Elba.

It's not just about eating well either – Gino also believes he has "a responsibility to make sure people understand where their ingredients come from", which actually led to him uncovering a few culinary surprises.

"You would never associate liquorice with Italian food," says Gino, who discovered a taste for Calabrian liquorice while researching the book. "The more I travel, even for someone like myself who has been in food for so many years, I always learn something new and exciting."

One of his favourite dishes he stumbled upon, and then adapted, is ndunderi (pronounced 'dune-der-ee'), which he found while exploring the Amalfi Coast.

"It's like gnocchi but instead of potato, they use ricotta. This is another thing which I had no idea they did there," he explains. "It's so delicate, light and beautiful. Delicious!"

It is characteristic of the food Gino's hoping to celebrate: simple, full of flavour, and all about the ingredients. The chef believes overcomplicating is what most people get wrong when attempting to cook Italian food.

"The most important thing that my grandfather taught me, when I was a little boy, was that Italian food must be kept simple. Spend more time getting the right ingredients and less time in the kitchen – this is the secret."

:: Gino's Italy Coastal Escape: A taste Of Italy From The Aeolian Islands To Elba, by Gino D'Acampo, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. Try the recipes from the book below for yourself.

MAMMA ALBA'S MEATBALLS

(Serves 4)

Olive oil for greasing

400g minced pork

400g minced beef

150g fresh white breadcrumbs

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

5tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

100g freshly grated Grana Padano cheese

2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

690ml jar of passata (sieved tomatoes)

4tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2tsp dried chilli flakes

10 fresh basil leaves, plus extra to garnish

Salt to season

Preheat the oven to 220C. Grease a large baking sheet with oil and set aside. Place the pork, beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, Grana Padano and eggs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until everything is thoroughly combined.

Using dampened hands, take small amounts of the meat mixture and roll into 12 equal-sized balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the tomatoes, passata and oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the chilli flakes, basil and some salt. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Carefully place the meatballs in the tomato sauce and partially cover the pan again. Simmer for 30 minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little hot water. To serve, scatter over a few basil leaves.

ZABAIONE WITH LIMONCELLO AND STRAWBERRIES

(Serves 6)

200g ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced

140ml limoncello (lemon-flavoured liqueur)

80g caster sugar

6 egg yolks

Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus extra for decoration

120ml double cream

Put the strawberries in a medium bowl with four tablespoons of the limoncello and two tablespoons of the sugar. Stir and set aside at room temperature for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl (preferably stainless steel) with the lemon zest and remaining sugar. Whisk using a balloon whisk until pale and creamy.

Set the bowl over a pan of very gently simmering water. The base of the bowl should not touch the water. Add the remaining limoncello and whisk constantly until the mixture foams and thickens. This should take about five minutes; remember, the mixture will thicken further as it cools.

Fill a slightly larger bowl with iced water and set the bowl with the zabaione mixture inside it. Leave to cool completely, stirring occasionally (it should take about 25 minutes). Put the cream in a medium bowl and whip until thick enough to form peaks. Gently fold a quarter of the cream into the cooled zabaione, then the remainder. To serve, divide the strawberries and their juices among six dessert glasses and top with a large dollop of zabaione. Sprinkle over some grated lemon zest. Serve immediately.

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