Monday 18 December 2017

Insider secrets from an Italian kitchen

Chef Marco Roccasalvo has won acclaim at campo de' fiori with his authentic Italian recipes which you can now try, too

AS A COUNTRY, we're in love with Italian food.

Walk down the street of any town or village in Dublin and you'll spot the ubiquitous Italian restaurant or pizzeria. Walk into any supermarket and you're guaranteed to find an aisle or two of Italian-inspired produce. And the same goes for book shops — go into the cookery section and you'll find any number of tomes dedicated to the art of Italian dishes.

The latest is Inside the Italian Kitchen (Greatfood.ie, €20), written by Marco Roccasalvo and Anne Kennedy. Having come to Ireland a decade ago, Marco decided to go against the grain when he opened his restaurant, Campo de' Fiori, in Bray.


Rather than taking the tried and tested ‘safe' formula of adding cream to sauces or making carbonara with white wine, he took a stripped down, back-to-basics approach to Italian cooking. Dishes were served with an authenticity that people appreciated, with the restaurant winning a loyal following amongst locals and the wider Dublin population.

Now, in an effort to let more people in on the secret of great — but simple — Italian cooking, he has penned Inside the Italian Kitchen, which includes dozens of his favourite recipes. But as easy to follow as these recipes are, there's also plenty of information on the importance of ingredients and what you should have in your cupboard, with particular emphasis on ingredients that won't cost the earth. Here are just three of the recipes that he's sharing with Herald readers before the book is published next week.

Simply perfect pasta sauces in minutes

If you're desperate for diperato or fresh pesto, Marco tells you how...

Penne del disperato

This is a recipe that I began to cook when I was very young. It was one of my first experiments. I like to make it very spicy. If you have a problem with chilli, reduce the amount or don’t use it, but it won’t be the same.

Serves 4


250g of pancetta Tesa

2 garlic cloves, peeled, halved and stem removed

15ml extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps of chilli flakes or 1 spicy fresh red chilli, chopped finely

800g of tinned tomatoes or passata

A pinch of salt

160ml of fresh cream

400g of penne rigate

50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated

50g Pecorino Romano, grated

10g fresh parsley, chopped finely


Cut the pancetta into cubes. Fry the garlic gently in olive oil. Add the pancetta and fry for 2-3 minutes over a low heat.

When the pancetta is lightly coloured, add the chilli and after a few seconds add the tomato. Add a pinch of salt and simmer for 7-8 minutes over a medium heat.

Add the cream and, at the same time, cook the pasta in boiling water. Usually penne takes about 10-13 minutes to cook, depending on the quality.

Reduce the sauce until it is thick and cook the pasta until it is al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain well and toss it with the sauce. Add both the cheeses and parsley. Toss together and serve.

Linguine al pesto

Here’s my personal pesto recipe. I serve it with linguine. Cook the pasta al dente and toss it with the fresh pesto. Store pesto in the fridge for 2-3 days, just add a little more oil to cover it.

Remove one hour before use.

Serves 4


50g of basil, leaves only

A pinch of salt

150ml of extra virgin olive oil

40g of pine nuts

20g of walnuts

½ clove of garlic, peeled, halved and stem removed

20g of Parmesan Reggiano

20g of Pecorino Romano

400g linguine

Salt (7g for each litre of pasta-boiling water)


Make the pesto by hand or in a food processor. (By hand is better.)

If you go with the mortar and pestle, put in all the basil with the salt and a third of the olive oil. Pound it until you get a soft green paste. Add the pinenuts, walnuts and garlic and another third of oil. Continue to pound until all the nuts and garlic are blended.

Put the green paste in a bowl and only now add the cheese. Mix with a spoon, adding the rest of the oil.

If you use a food processor blend all the ingredients together except the cheese. Pulse for a few seconds, then pulse until all the ingredients are reduced to a paste. Put the pesto in a bowl and add the cheese. Stir with a spoon.

Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain. Toss the pasta in a bowl with the pesto. (Avoid warming your pesto.)

Constolette di agnello al vino bianco

You may think that this recipe is too simple to be good. But simple things are very often the best. Ask your butcher for the best lamb — spring lamb is good. You can eat this dish with your hands and believe me, it is not a sin to do this.

It’s a pleasure.

Serves 4


12 lamb cutlets

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

A knob of butter

1 clove of garlic, peeled, halved and stem removed

5g of fresh rosemary leaves

5g of fresh sage leaves

A pinch of fine salt

A good grinding of black pepper

100ml of dry white wine


Warm a large nonstick pan and place your cutlets in it, making sure there is plenty of space for each (you don't need oil).

Cook the lamb for 6-7 minutes on each side over a medium heat.

While the lamb is cooking, warm the olive oil and butter in a saucepan. Add the garlic, rosemary, sage, salt and pepper. Add the wine and cook over a medium heat until reduced by half. Pour the wine sauce into the pan with the lamb.

Cook over a low heat for a minute, turning the cutlets in the sauce until all of them are dressed. Serve immediately.

Inside the Italian Kitchen is on sale at all Donnybrook Fair stores (Morehampton Road, Dublin 4; Baggot Street, Dublin 4 and Greystones, Co. Wicklow); at Campo de' Fiori Restaurant and at www.greatfood.ie

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