Telly chef and prolific cookbook writer, Gino D'Acampo, visits Italy's coast for inspiration for his new recipe collection. Jack Newman finds out more.

Cheeky chappy Gino D'Acampo is bringing a taste of his Italian home (even borrowing recipes off his mamma Alba) in his new book and accompanying ITV series, Gino's Italian Coastal Escape.

The charismatic TV presenter, chef and restaurateur, 41, is hoping to show that simplicity is the key to great Italian food.

Gino, originally from Torre del Greco, Naples, has travelled along "the most famous coast in Europe", discovering the local specialities and authentic ingredients associated with Italy's west coast. It is arguably the gastronomic spine of the country, with the book taking influence from traditional kitchens in Rome, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, and the islands of Sicily and Elba.

It's not just about eating well either, Gino also believes he has "a responsibility to make sure people understand where their ingredients come from", which actually led to him uncovering a few culinary surprises. "You would never associate liquorice with Italian food," says Gino, who discovered a taste for Calabrian liquorice while researching the book. "The more I travel, even for someone like myself who has been in food for so many years, I always learn something new and exciting."

One of his favourite dishes he stumbled upon, and then adapted, is ndunderi (pronounced 'dune-der-ee'), which he found while exploring the Amalfi Coast. "It's like gnocchi but instead of potato, they use ricotta. This is another thing which I had no idea they did there," he explains. "It's so delicate, light and beautiful. Delicious!"

It is characteristic of the food Gino's hoping to celebrate: simple, full of flavour, and all about the ingredients. The chef believes overcomplicating is what most people get wrong when attempting to cook Italian food. "The most important thing that my grandfather taught me, when I was a little boy, was that Italian food must be kept simple. Spend more time getting the right ingredients and less time in the kitchen - this is the secret."

From his grandfather's influence, to his parents' recipes in the new cookbook (including his mother's meatballs), it's clear family is very important to Gino and his food. He hopes to pass on his love of cooking to his three children, and his eldest, Luciano, is already "a huge foodie - he spends all his pocket money in restaurants and he's got a great understanding of food".

Gino and his family spend half the year at his Italian home in Sardinia, and the other six months in England. He hopes his next journey will take him to the Adriatic Coast, "the coast that goes from Venice to Puglia that is not as well-known as Amalfi, but is just as amazing".

While presenting his series, Gino revealed that he tries to emulate his food hero. "One of my favourite chefs is [the late] Keith Floyd, who I had the pleasure of meeting and we did a few cooking shows together. For me, Keith Floyd's shows are what I do now when I go to Italy.

"When I'm doing Gino's Italian Escape, I always have him in mind. I go round the region, finding an ingredient, meeting the local people, then I build my kitchen and I start to cook.

"My kitchen is wherever I am, it could be on the beach, it could be on top of the mountain, or in somebody's house.," says Gino. "That's the style of cooking I like."

Gino's Italy Coastal Escape: A taste Of Italy From The Aeolian Islands To Elba, by Gino D'Acampo, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. Available now.


This is one family recipe you'll want to adopt as your own.

"The secret of my mother's meatballs is very simple - always use two types of mincemeat for texture and flavour (in this case pork and beef) and keep the tomato sauce simple, so you can appreciate the flavour of the meatballs," explains Gino.

"She also used to bake the meatballs before simmering them in the tomato sauce rather than frying them, as is often the case. Always use fresh breadcrumbs rather than dried or toasted, or the meatballs will be tough and chewy."

He recommends serving these guys with plenty of warm crusty bread to mop up all of the sauce.


(Serves 4)

Olive oil for greasing

400g minced pork

400g minced beef

150g fresh white breadcrumbs

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

5tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

100g freshly grated Grana Padano cheese

2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

690ml jar of passata (sieved tomatoes)

4tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2tsp dried chilli flakes

10 fresh basil leaves, plus extra to garnish

Salt to season


1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7. Grease a large baking sheet with oil and set aside. Place the pork, beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, Grana Padano and eggs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until everything is thoroughly combined.

2. Using dampened hands, take small amounts of the meat mixture and roll into 12 equal-sized balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the tomatoes, passata and oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the chilli flakes, basil and some salt. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Carefully place the meatballs in the tomato sauce and partially cover the pan again. Simmer for 30 minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little hot water. To serve, scatter over a few basil leaves.

Gino's Italy Coastal Escape: A taste Of Italy From The Aeolian Islands To Elba, by Gino D'Acampo, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. Available now.