The Italian chef, 45 – known for his tan, family-friendly recipes and a certain level of moodiness – says at dinnertime the “talking is more important than the food, to be honest with you, because there’s no point having a great meal and everybody don’t talk to each other. Or everybody is distracted watching television – that is not the way.”

Family life is at the core of D’Acampo’s new cookbook and ITV series, Gino’s Italian Family Adventure.

D’Acampo is at pains to point out how many people have tried the recipes in it. The book’s been “tested to death” and features dishes written by his wife and kids. It’s a cookbook designed “not just from a chef point of view”, he says, but also from a “housewife point of view; from a teenager point of view; from a child’s point of view”.

Perhaps strangely for a chef and cookbook author, D’Acampo says he doesn’t want to “force anybody to cook”.

“If you approach the kitchen with negativity, look, just go and get a takeaway, get a ready meal,” he says blithely. “It’s about creating a balance. Right? So, if throughout the week, one day you’re getting a takeaway and one day you get a ready meal and the rest of it you cook yourself, fantastic.” And on those nights you do cook, he and his family are happy to provide the recipes.

Spicy aubergine bake with mozzarella and pecorino cheese


(Serves 6–8)

6 large aubergines (about 2kg in total)

5 eggs

150g plain flour

300ml olive oil

350g grated mozzarella cheese

150g finely grated pecorino cheese

Sea salt flakes

For the sauce:

4tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1.4L tomato passata

4tbsp chilli oil, or to taste

20 basil leaves

250g mascarpone cheese

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Slice the aubergines lengthways into slices about 2.5mm thick. Place in a sieve, sprinkle over some sea salt flakes and leave over the sink for one hour to allow any excess liquid to drain from the aubergines. We use salt flakes here to draw out the moisture, as fine salt would be absorbed into the aubergines.

2. In the meantime, to prepare the sauce, place the four tablespoons of olive oil and the onion in a large shallow saucepan and fry over a medium heat for eight minutes, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon. Pour in the passata and chilli oil, then add the basil, one and a half teaspoons of fine salt and one teaspoon of pepper and stir for two minutes.

3. Add the mascarpone, stir to combine all the ingredients, then reduce the heat slightly and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Taste: this is the time to add in a bit more chilli oil if you want a stronger kick. Set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4.

5. Put the aubergine slices on to some kitchen paper and pat dry. Place the eggs, one teaspoon fine salt and half a teaspoon of pepper into a medium bowl and beat well. Pour the flour on to a medium flat tray. Dip each aubergine slice into the flour and then into the egg to coat all over. Heat 10 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large frying pan and fry the aubergine slices until golden on both sides, about two minutes each side. You will need to work in batches. (Depending on the size of your frying pan, it should take about six batches.)

7. Transfer the slices on to kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil. After three batches have been browned, add the remaining olive oil to your frying pan and heat until very hot. Continue to fry the remaining aubergine slices, again transferring them on to kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.

8. Layer one-third of the aubergine in a rectangular oven dish, measuring about 30 x 25cm. Spoon three ladles of the tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle over 100g mozzarella and 50g pecorino. Repeat the process twice more. You’ll have a little more than three ladles left of the tomato sauce and 50g mozzarella to make a last layer; this extra sauce on top is absorbed through the dish while it cooks and keeps it extra moist.

9. Sprinkle over a pinch of pepper and cover with foil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil from the oven dish and continue to bake for a further 30 minutes.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about five minutes before portioning. Serve with some crusty ciabatta bread and salad. Just like mamma used to make.

Tagliatelle with mixed seafood, garlic and white wine


(Serves 4)

250g live mussels

250g live clams

100ml dry white wine

4tbsp extra virgin olive oil

50g salted butter

4 garlic cloves, sliced

4 large langoustines

8 large unpeeled raw prawns

4tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves

350g dried tagliatelle pasta

20 cherry tomatoes, halved

Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Pour four litres of water into a large saucepan, add one tablespoon salt and bring to the boil.

2. Scrub the mussels and clams under cold running water. Rinse away the grit and remove any barnacles with a small, sharp knife. Remove the ‘beards’ from the mussels by pulling the dark, stringy pieces away from the shells. Drop the clams from a height into a large bowl a few times, to help them expel their sand, then wash briefly in cold water for a couple of minutes. Check none of the clams are open or broken, and, if they are, discard them. Discard any open mussels or clams that do not shut when tapped firmly on the sink, or any which have broken shells.

3. Place the mussels and clams in a medium saucepan, pour in the wine and cook with the lid on over a medium heat for five minutes. Tip into a colander set over a bowl, so you can save the juices, discard any that remain closed and set the colander aside.

4. Put the olive oil and butter into a large frying pan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the garlic and gently fry until it begins to sizzle. Pour in the cooking juices from the mussels and clams – leaving behind the very last of the juices which might contain grit – and simmer for two minutes. Season with three-quarters of a teaspoon salt and half a teaspoon of pepper and stir occasionally.

5. Now stir in the langoustines and prawns and fry them for one and a half minutes. Using tongs, turn them over and continue to cook for a further one and a half minutes until they all turn pink all over. Add the mussels and clams with the parsley and stir until heated through, about two minutes.

6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente; my preference is to cook it for one minute less than instructed on the packet, giving the perfect al dente bite. Drain and tip back into the large saucepan you cooked it in. Pour over the seafood sauce, add the tomatoes and lemon zest and toss all together over a low heat for 30 seconds, allowing the flavours to coat the pasta.

7. Remove the prawns and langoustines and place on a plate (this will make it easier to serve up the pasta, mussels and clams). Equally divide the pasta between four warmed serving plates or bowls, then top each portion with a langoustine and two prawns. Serve with lemon wedges.

Crispy breaded pork chops with rosemary


(Serves 4)

4 bone-in pork chops, 250–300g each

3 eggs

150g fine dried breadcrumbs

3tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

250ml olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Place the pork chops on a chopping board, and, with a sharp knife, cut two slits into the fat; this will ensure the chops don’t curl up during cooking. Place the chops in between two sheets of cling film, and, using a meat mallet or a rolling pin, bash down the meat until each chop is about one centimetre thick. Set aside.

2. Break the eggs into a large bowl with one teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper and gently whisk with a fork. Place the breadcrumbs on a medium flat tray and mix in the chopped rosemary.

3. Take one chop at a time and first coat in the breadcrumbs on both sides. Gently shake off any excess. Immediately immerse the chop into the eggs, making sure both meat and bone are covered, then again coat in the breadcrumbs. Place the pork chop on a chopping board, and, with the palm of your hand, slightly press down the meat part to get the meat in shape. Coat all the pork chops in the same way.

4. Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan and place over a medium heat. Take a pinch of breadcrumbs and sprinkle them into the oil: if they start to sizzle, the oil is hot enough.

5. Cook the pork chops, two at a time, for four minutes on each side to have medium-cooked meat, if you prefer your meat medium-well done, fry for one minute longer on each side. You are looking for a golden/light brown colour all over.

6. Drain the crispy chops on kitchen paper and sprinkle over a little salt.

Gino’s Italian Family Adventure: Easy Recipes The Whole Family Will Love by Gino D’Acampo, is published by Bloomsbury. Photography Haarala Hamilton. Available now.