Gennaro Contaldo’s fast flavours


The chef says this dish makes “a fantastic starter or delicious light lunch”.
“This is a lovely salad to make during the spring, when fresh peas are available,” promises Jamie Oliver’s best mate, chef Gennaro Contaldo. “For speed, you can buy ready-podded peas.

“Burrata is a fresh cheese from Puglia, which looks like mozzarella but has a very creamy interior. Good Italian delis will stock it, but if you prefer, you can use bufala (buffalo) mozzarella instead.”

(Serves 4)

  • 175g fresh peas, podded weight
  • 85g watercress
  • Leaves of 2 gem lettuce hearts
  • 250g burrata, or buffalo mozzarella

For the crostini:

  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • A pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 4 slices of good-quality crusty, seeded wholemeal bread, toasted

For the dressing:

  • 2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the peas and cook for about two minutes, until tender but not overcooked. Drain, rinse under cold running water and drain well.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the crostini. Place the sunflower seeds, basil leaves and olive oil in a blender or food processor and whiz until you obtain a smooth consistency. Combine with the salt and chilli flakes. Toast the bread and spread with the sunflower seed paste. Set aside.

3. Combine the dressing ingredients.

4. Arrange the watercress and gem lettuce leaves on a large serving plate, sprinkle over the cooked peas, and pour over half of the dressing. Gently break up the burrata or mozzarella and scatter over the greens. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve with the crostini on the side.


An impressive supper that doesn’t involve much work at all.

“I love mackerel – not only is it a lovely fish, but it’s nutritious and quick to cook,” explains Italian chef, Gennaro Contaldo. “Cooking al cartoccio is an excellent way of keeping all the flavours intact in a healthy way.

“Serve the cooked mackerel in the foil, so that the delicious juices can be enjoyed with some good bread to mop them up,” he suggests.

(Serves 2)

  • 2 mackerel (about 240g), heads removed (if desired) and cleaned
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 organic unwaxed lemons, finely sliced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

2. Rinse the mackerel under cold running water, then pat dry well with paper towels. Place the fish on a large piece of parchment paper, which is in turn placed on top of a large piece of good-quality aluminium foil (you can place the fish on individual sheets or all in one package).

3. Place on a baking tray. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the mackerel, including inside the cavity. Place a rosemary sprig inside each cavity, together with the garlic and half of the lemon slices. Top the mackerel with the remaining lemon slices, drizzle with olive oil, then wrap tightly in the foil and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

4. To serve, place the whole parcel in the middle of the table and tuck in.


A perfect after-dinner treat.

“Soft amaretti, or amaretti morbidi in Italian, are like little cakes and are not to be confused with the hard, crispy variety of amaretti,” explains Italian chef, Gennaro Contaldo. “Made with ground almonds, they are gluten-free (although always check the packet) and are obtainable in Italian delis or in larger supermarkets.

“They are delicious eaten on their own; filled with a rich, creamy centre, they also make a lovely, quick dessert. If you can’t find raw pistachios, substitute with walnuts, chocolate chips, candied fruit, or a combination, if desired.”

Makes 12-24 (depending on size!)

  • 20g raw pistachios
  • 75g cup ricotta
  • 75g cup mascarpone
  • 15g caster sugar
  • 3tsp Marsala wine, plus extra for brushing
  • 20-24 soft amaretti biscuits
  • A little icing sugar, for dusting


1. Toast the pistachios in a dry frying pan set over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the ricotta, mascarpone, sugar and Marsala wine in a bowl, until light and fluffy. Finely chop the pistachios and stir in. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge.

3. Using a really good, sharp knife, slice the amaretti horizontally in half, so you end up with a bottom and top of each little cake, keeping any crumbs. Brush each slice with a little Marsala.

4. Take the creamy mixture out of the fridge and stir in the amaretti crumbs. Place a dollop of the cream on the bottom slice of the amaretti and sandwich together with the top half. Arrange on a plate and dust with icing sugar, to serve.


Gennaro Contaldo’s Fast Cook Italian by Gennaro Contaldo, photography by Kim Lightbody, is published by Pavilion Books, priced £20. Available now.