It must have been 2003 in Venice with the Missus when the true meaning of Italian food got me, and got me good. This amazing, mind-blowing city is host to many cultural icons, such as St Mark’s Piazza (famous for its extraordinarily expensive coffee), Harry’s Bar (for Bellinis and affairs), the gondolas, the art….the tourists! We were on a small budget, which would’ve just about stretched to one of those ghastly miniature Venetian Gonzo masks – had we wanted one….which we didn’t! So dinner in this overpriced city was looking like a salumi panini until we decided to follow some Italians, dressed for dinner, down a side street (yeah I know, Venice is nothing but side streets!).
We stumbled upon a trattoria, blissfully modest with no name above the door and no menu we could see, no dude dressed as a gondolier beckoning us in and thankfully none of those crumby photographs of approximating the food – just in case we had forgotten what spaghetti looked like! It looked a little intimidating to be honest – were we actually allowed in with just basic Italian pleasantries and a phrasebook at our disposal? Well of course, fortune favours the brave…
They didn’t greet us as enthusiastically as perhaps they did the locals, but hey, we were in and we had a table….and we were hungry!
The leather-bound menu was passed our way and we went for a decent local red, recommended by our waiter – his brother-in-law’s vineyard of course – and I went for a Linguini with Langoustines and a Fritto Misto – a fish dish fried at the table.
Oh brother, that pasta! Two grilled langoustines atop a big pile of linguini mixed with a sweet tomato sauce, so simple. The pasta was unlike anything else I’d experienced before – dense in character, with bite, but not too filling and something else, something I couldn’t quite pin down. It remains the most pleasantly surprising plate of food. How can something seemingly as simple as egg and flour turn out so jaw-droppingly delicious?
Well, to celebrate this knack the Italians have – and let’s not forget Jamie’s affinity with this country – of turning peasant food into extraordinary dishes, we here at JamieOliver.com have asked the great Gennaro Contaldo to cook us up his favourite dishes from his home region of Amalfi in Southern Italy.
We kick off this season with a pasta-making masterclass video, filmed in a rustic outhouse in a lemon grove, high up in the hills around Minori.
We’ll also give you a sea bream prepping masterclass, desserts made with limoncello harvested from the same Amalfi hills, Pumpkin Ravioli – and loads more.
To complement this beautiful content, we’ll also be revealing Jamie’s Top 10 Italian dishes.
We’ll be delving into the Italian food loves of Jamie’s chefs at Jamie’s Italian and Fifteen, as well as checking out the Italian influences of Union Jacks main man and second generation Italian Chris Bianco.
So keep an eye on the site and Viva Italia!