Gennaro Contaldo – Inspiring Italian cook and friend of fellow famous foodie Jamie Oliver.
As well as this, Gennaro is a cook book author and tv personality (BBC 2, “Two Greedy Italians) having frequently featured in Jamie’s programmes and on YouTube.
Yesterday Gennaro shared his taste and talents for mediterranean cooking in my local city of Cardiff.
Hosted in none other than Jamie’s Italian in The Hayes, I was one of a lucky few to be invited along for a masterclass.
Arriving at 10:30, I sat down with an English Breakfast tea with two local bloggers, a journalist and Gennaro himself.
Passionate, genuine and full of interesting stories and knowledge, Gennaro sipped an espresso and shared with us his love for local Welsh food. He particularly enjoys the fresh fish, fruit and mushrooms (you only have to head to Cardiff’s Indoor Market to see this in abundance).
Gennaro is very enthusiastic about home cooking with your family. Being a father himself, he believes passion, love and education are important when it comes to food. It was easy to see why he gets on with Jamie Oliver so well when they share such similar values.
Like many others, I’m guilty for the occasional quick-fix microwave meal and eating in front of the television (or computer, blogging……..). Even so, I’d agree spending time with your family over dinner is an important tradition that we should never completely sacrifice with modern lifestyles.
Gennaro was quick to show us that even with a demanding schedule, home cooking doesn’t have to be a chore – or time consuming!
Mixing wheat flour, water and two eggs in a bowl, he proved that fresh pasta is so simple to make (here’s his recipe video for future reference: click). The dough can even be stored in your fridge for a few days to be reused.
It’s also surprising how a little can go a long way – a fist full of dough is enough to feed around half a dozen!
It was great to get some hands on experience – with the pasta machine chugging away (you can roll and cut it however), we all got the chance to take off some tagliatelle and fold it over our fingers ready for boiling.
Heading for the bustling kitchen, Gennaro explained step-by-step how we can make flavoursome pasta dishes in mere minutes using a good stock of fresh, easy to source and inexpensive ingredients.
It was a very insightful experience; we smelt the fresh herbs and contributed to the dishes – “do you like chilli?”, he asked before chopping some up for the cooking cod fish.
With the sauces simmering, our pasta was put in for boiling. I’ve never tried it al dente before, “to the tooth” he explained was the English translation. I was very curious to sample its taste and texture.
In almost no time, three generous sized pasta dishes were put together – not before a final sprinkle of parmesan or olive oil drizzle of course.
If you need further convincing how quick and easy his pasta’s are, save this recipe video on his YouTube for later: Simple Spaghetti. It was very much like one of the dishes he prepared for us in the picture below.
Forks at the ready, we plunged them straight into this steaming pasta dish. I really liked how the firm tagliatelle gave the meal more bite, allowing me to fully appreciate the fresh, fragrant tomato and garlic sauce it was infused in.
Gennaro offered me some ciabatta to try with the cod dish (above left). Soaking up the sauce was a great way to see how the ingredients and fish worked swimmingly to give a smash of flavour.
The aromatic mushroom spaghetti (above right) was also distinct and delectable, and Gennaro’s love for mushrooms really translated (a similar recipe of his available here). After chewing the remaining leftovers, he asked if we’d ever tried the truffle pasta.
Shaking our heads he couldn’t resist racing to the kitchen to whip up a plate in mere minutes. The creamy sauce was too enticing for me not to dunk another slice of ciabatta into – delizioso indeed!
I had a terrifically tasty and thought-provoking experience, Gennaro’s enthusiasm for his craft was infectious and showed a little love, effort and education can elevate your cooking to new heights.
I saw firsthand that Jamie’s Italian provides high quality food that as Gennaro notes, “is accessible to all”. A visit to the restaurant with the family isn’t going to cost you the earth.
I think the ‘rigatoni pomodoro’ (currently priced at £6.25/£9.95 depending on portion-size) would be a great option, and if you love mushrooms perhaps the ‘porcini fettucine’ would be worth a try!
The chef’s and staff within Jamie’s Italian were very attentive, sociable and shared the same passion for food.
Just take a look at this mackerel and vegetable pasta made by one of the chef’s (below). I was so surprised to hear the commitment and workmanship that went into this one dish out of many they’ll magic up over a typical day.
Thanks again to Gennaro, Jamie’s Italian restaurant & PR, and St. David’s Shopping Centre for inviting me along! It was also a pleasure to meet a few fellow foodies.
Are you feeling inspired to get cooking or visit Jamie’s Italian? I’d love to know what you think in the comment section below or via twitter.