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5 easy dinner ideas from TV chef Gregg Wallace’s new Italian cookbook

These easy dinner ideas from Masterchef cooking supremo Gregg Wallace’s new Italian Family Cookbook will hit the hearty and healthy spot for everyone

Gregg’s Italian Family Cookbook shares recipes for dozens of popular comfort food classics prepared the authentic way – using fresh and simple ingredients.

Gregg and Anna Wallace created the recipe book taking inspiration from their Italian heritage and family. They include all of the recipes you need to prepare countless delicious combinations for any occasion – antipasti, first courses, second courses and desserts.

They seek to pass on their love for Italian cuisine by sharing recipes for family meals, quick snacks, romantic dinners and celebrations.

We chose five easy dinner ideas that you can make on any night of the week. All of them are quick and nutritious, perfect to share with your family and friends.

Easy dinner idea #1: Mushroom Risotto (Risotto ai funghi)

easy dinner ideas - mushroom risotto

‘Traditionally, risotto is a dish from northern Italy because it’s one of the few areas that can successfully grow rice. It’s not particularly popular in the south, but you do come across it. Personally, I don’t care where I am when I eat it’. Gregg

Serves 2 – 3

Ingredients:

  • 60g (2¼oz) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 litres (70fl oz) hot water
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 80g (2¾oz) butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 400g (14oz) risotto rice
  • 150ml (5fl oz) white wine
  • 50g (1¾oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Place the porcini in a large bowl, add the water and cover with clingfilm. Leave to soak overnight, or for at least 5 hours.

2. Drain the porcini, reserving the water (it’s worth then pouring the reserved liquid through a sieve lined with a sheet of kitchen paper to get rid of any grit from the mushrooms). Squeeze the mushrooms dry, then roughly chop. Put a glug of olive oil into a frying pan and cook the mushrooms for 10–12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

3. Place the reserved porcini water in a pan and bring to a gentle simmer.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes without colouring until soft. Tumble in the rice, stir to coat with the butter, and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the wine and let it bubble for a few minutes.

5. Start adding the hot porcini water a ladleful at a time, stirring until it’s absorbed. Keep doing this until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is creamy but still has a slight crunch; this should take no longer than 30 minutes.

6. Add the cooked porcini to the risotto, sprinkle with the Parmesan and give it a good stir before serving.

Easy dinner idea #2: Tuscan Bread Soup (Ribollita)

easy dinner ideas - ribollita

‘This is a dish that we had a lot during the war. It was a great way of using up any leftover bread and vegetables, but was also very comforting and nutritious. Of course, it tastes just as good nowadays.’ Nonna (trans. grandmother)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 130g (4½oz) smoked pancetta cubes
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1 small head of Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves, 1 crushed and 1 cut in half
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 300ml (10fl oz) chicken stock
  • 1 Parmesan rind
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half, or 4 thick slices of sourdough bread
  • Salt and freshly groundblack pepper

To serve:

  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Method:

1. Put the olive oil into a large saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally and scraping up the bits stuck to the pan, until golden brown and crisp – about 5 minutes.

2. Add the leek, carrots, celery, cabbage and crushed garlic. Give it all a good stir, then cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, cannellini beans, stock and Parmesan rind and stir again. Bring the soup to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200ºC, 180ºC fan (400ºF), Gas Mark 6.

5. Drizzle the ciabatta halves with the extra olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown – about 5 minutes.

6. Rub one side of the toasts with the remaining garlic clove, then place each toast in an individual soup bowl.

7. Ladle the soup over the toasts, sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley and serve straight away.

Semplice e buono!

Easy dinner idea #3: Mozzarella and Tomato Salad (Insalata di mozzarella e pomodoro)

easy dinner ideas - mozz tomato salad

‘As a child, I always spent the summer with my nonna in Italy. We would visit the local buffalo mozzarella shop every day, and I can clearly remember walking into the chilled room through the beaded curtains across the door.

‘The mozzarella would be placed in a clear plastic bag filled with salted water, and I couldn’t wait to get home and eat it. The cheese had many layers to it, and I would sit and peel them off until I reached the delectable creamy centre. Fresh mozzarella, combined with sweet red tomatoes and fresh basil, makes a simple and beautiful salad’. Anna

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 x 150g (5½oz) buffalo mozzarella cheese, drained
  • 600g (1lb 5oz) tomatoes (any mixture you like)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly groundblack pepper
  • Large handful of fresh basil leaves, to serve

Method:

1. Tear your mozzarella into pieces – there’s something very satisfying about this and it gives the salad a lovely rustic look, but you can use a knife if you prefer. Place on a large serving plate.

2. Chop the tomatoes into chunks and scatter them over the mozzarella. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tear the basil into pieces and scatter over the salad.

Yes, it’s really that easy!

Easy dinner idea #4: Vegan white Bean and Garlic Soup (Zuppa di fagiola bianchi e aglio)

easy dinner ideas - white bean soup

‘When I was a schoolboy, I would often get home to find this soup bubbling away in a cast iron pot over an open fire. It was so welcoming and satisfying that I still think of it fondly’. Gregg

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 125ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 x 400g cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 250ml (9fl oz) vegetable stock
  • 4 thick slices of white bread
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly groundblack pepper

Method:

1. Put the olive oil into a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the garlic, stirring often, until it turns a light golden colour. Be careful not to let it overbrown or the flavour will be bitter.

2. Tumble in the beans, add the stock, a pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper, then cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

3. Spoon roughly half the beans into a blender, add just a little of the stock and blitz until you have a purée. Don’t worry if it’s not completely smooth – the more rustic the better.

4. Return the purée to the pan of beans, stir well, then cover and simmer for another 6 minutes.

5. While the soup is simmering away, toast the bread and place each slice in an individual soup bowl.

6. Sprinkle the parsley into the soup, and turn off the heat.

7. Ladle the soup over the toast and serve straight away.

Molto saporito!

Easy dinner idea #5: Pizza Margarita

easy dinner ideas - pizza margarita

‘This classic pizza was named after the first queen of a united Italy, when she visited Naples’. Anna

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil, for greasing and drizzling
  • Flour, for dusting
  • 1 ball of pizza dough (see page 131)
  • 225g (8oz) mozzarella cheese, torn or sliced
  • Small handful of basil leaves

For the basic pizza sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 140g (5oz) passata
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Oil a perforated pizza tray (the perforations will help to create a crisp base).

2. Next, make the sauce. Put the oil into a small pan over a medium heat and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes. Discard the garlic once it has flavoured the oil. Pour in the passata and cook for 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

3. Lightly flour a work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 30cm (12 inch) circle, then place it on the prepared tray.

4. Spoon 3–4 tablespoons of sauce over the pizza base, leaving a clear 2cm (¾ inch) border around the edge (any remaining sauce will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days). Dot the mozzarella and basil leaves over the surface, then drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 7–10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

easy dinner ideas - greggs italian family cookbook - book jacketAll recipes have been extracted from Gregg’s Italian Family Cookbook by Gregg Anna Wallace, published by Mitchell Beazley (2019, Octopus Books, £20). The book is also available to buy on Amazon.

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