Summer dinner ideas: easy, Italian-inspired recipes that require almost no cooking

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From chopped salad to ceviche, these summer recipes are quick and easy – and require virtually zero time sweating in front of a hot stove.

It’s hot. So hot that electric fans have become the most covetable home accessory around. So hot that “hope you haven’t melted!” has replaced “hope you’re as well as you can be in these strange times!” as a de facto email greeting. So hot that for those of us still working from home, a sports bra and retro gym shorts feels like absolutely necessary attire.

In the middle of a heatwave, standing in front of a hot stove feels about as appealing as walking around in a faux fur coat. But we’ve still got to eat – so what do you make for dinner when you have zero inclination to actually cook?

Below, you’ll find three simple Italian-inspired recipes that involve no (or almost no) cooking. For a light supper, try the watercress tartines from The Vegetarian Silver Spoon cookbook. Like a cross between egg and cress sandwiches and elegant Italian canapes, this recipe only requires you to boil a few eggs before you can walk away from the stove entirely.

For something a little more substantial, there’s sea bass ceviche, courtesy of Big Mamma Cucina Popolare (the cookbook by the group behind Insta-famous restaurants Gloria and Circolo Popolare). This elegant dish can be prepped, stuck in the fridge for an hour while you have a cool shower and/or a glass of chilled white wine, then served – no fuss or heat necessary.

Finally, food writer Erin Gleeson’s Italian-inspired recipe for chopped pesto salad is so simple, it’s just one sentence long – giving you more time to bask in (or complain about) the heat. Enjoy.

  • Watercress tartines (tartine al crescione)

    watercress egg tartine recipe

    Serves: 4

    Preparation time: 25 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
    • 60ml mayonnaise
    • juice of 1 lemon, strained
    • 1 bunch watercress, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
    • 4 to 8 slices white bread, crusts removed
    • salt and pepper

    Method

    In a large bowl, stir together the hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the watercress.

    Cut the slices of bread in half and spread the mixture over them, dividing it evenly.

    Place the tartines on a platter, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Just before serving, garnish with watercress sprigs.

    From The Vegetarian Silver Spoon: Classic and Contemporary Italian Recipes by The Silver Spoon Kitchen (£35, Phaidon), out now

  • Sea bream ceviche with mango (ceviche guevara)

    ceviche recipe easy

    Serves: 4

    Preparation time: 20 minutes

    Resting time: 1 hour

    Ingredients

    • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
    • zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
    • 4 x 75-g/2¾-oz sea bream (or sea bass) fillets
    • 6 Little Gem lettuces
    • drizzle of olive oil
    • 1 ripe mango
    • 20 small coriander leaves
    • salt and pepper

    Method

    Mix the onion with the vinegar to tone down the sharp flavour. Cut the sea bream fillets into 1-cm/½-inch cubes. Put them into a dish and sprinkle with the lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper.

    Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and set aside in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

    Remove and wash the largest lettuce leaves and reserve them for serving. Place the remaining leaves in a dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Set aside.

    Peel and pit the mango and cut the flesh into 1-cm/½-inch cubes.

    Assemble the salad by placing 1 large tablespoon of ceviche in each reserved lettuce leaf. Add the diced mango, onion slices and coriander leaves.

    Serve with the Little Gem salad and enjoy!

    From Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes by Big Mamma (£27.95, Phaidon), out now

  • Pesto chopped salad

    pesto salad recipe

    Preparation time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 1 sweetcorn, kernels removed
    • 1 cucumber, peel on, cubed
    • 60g chopped roasted walnuts
    • 40g pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
    • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
    • ¼ red onion, diced
    • 3 tbsp pesto

    Method

    Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature.

    From The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson (£26.99, Abrams), out now

Images: Simon Bajada; © 2019 Erin Gleeson

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