From creamy, garlicky pastas to heavenly cheese, you can't beat an Italian feast. So who better for us to speak to about Italian cooking than Italian chef and TV presenter Gino D’Acampo?
Gino grew up in Naples, Italy, and inherited his love of cooking from his Grandmother (or “nonno”) Giovanni. He moved to London in 1995, and has since been on our TV screens, iPads and bookshelves sharing his passion for Italian food with the masses.
We chatted to Gino about his beloved Italian food, his favourite pudding and the tools you need to be a superstar in the kitchen.
What do you think is a healthy yet quick dish to make for breakfast?
My favourite breakfast that is nutritious and very quick to do is eggs. Of course not everyday because that’s not good for you, but I like to have eggs in the morning at least three times a week as it gives me a lot of energy. I make poached eggs, which is very healthy. I do a little dressing with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and that’s what I put on top of them.
What is your ultimate comfort food?
Pasta, because it's very easy to prepare. With pasta, you boil the water, the pasta cooks in six or seven minutes, by the time the pasta is cooked, I fry a little bit of pancetta, black pepper, a few mushrooms, a bit of chili, toss everything together - job done.
People seem to have the impression that typically Italian foods such as pasta, cheese and pizza aren't necessarily healthy choices. Is this true, or just a misconception?
That is a very big misconception. The problem that people have is that they eat too large portion sizes. Italians have been eating pasta for hundreds and hundreds of years, and we’ve never been an obese nation. We do the pasta, the pizza, all the cheeses, but it all has to do with how much you eat. The average portion of pasta is between 75 -80 grams, and people will often eat around 150 to 200 grams. My tip would be to always weigh the pasta before you actually cook it.
Which ingredients do you think everyone should have in their kitchen at all times?
People should always have a good bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a packet of pasta, tinned tomatoes and a good cheese somewhere in their fridge.
Do you think people underestimate how important it is to have gadgets like a food processor or even a hand mixer in their kitchen?
Very much so. People always say, “Gino, what can I do to improve in the kitchen?” And one of the first things I always say is to get the right utensils. I’ve been working very hard with Robert Dyas on a range of utensils and electric goods that make people’s lives easier in the kitchen. Something simple like a good, sharp knife will make all the difference in the world when you cook. People often think to get the best ingredients or the best cheeses and they don’t think that the utensils that they’re using are rubbish. So, invest in good utensils.
We’re big fans of your “Eating Italian” apps for the iPad and iPhone. Do you think that technology has helped people in the kitchen or made them a bit lazy?
I think it’s definitely made things easier. Everyone now can have an iPhone, and if people want Italian recipes, with a touch of a button I can tell them exactly how it’s done, step-by-step.
Cupcakes, macaroons and whoopie pies are all very popular at the moment, but do you have a favourite Italian dessert?
I like ice cream, to be honest. I’m the kind of guy that would put a bowl of vanilla ice cream in a glass, and top it up with double espresso. In Italian that is called “Affagato”. That’s the kind of dessert I like to have.
When you’re missing Italy or feeling nostalgic, is there a certain dish you like to make?
If I’m feeling nostalgic, the first thing I do is open a packet of spaghetti, olive oil in a pan, garlic, a little bit of chili, a sprinkle of fresh parsley, and that’s it. It reminds me of my mum.
Fancy lunch with Gino? Enter our competition to join him for lunch at his favourite London restaurant on 5 April, in addition to winning over £350 worth of Gino D’Acampo kitchen gadgets.
If that wasn't enough, 50 runners up will also win a Gino D‘Acampo Ice Cream Maker and a signed copy of Gino D’Acampo’s recipe book, The Italian Diet.
Picture credits: Rex Features