A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting one of the most talented chefs, restaurateurs and TV personalities in the world: Antonio Carluccio who of course shares his name with his successful empire of restaurants, artisan Italian produce and cookbooks.
I was invited to a private dinner hosted by the Mr Carluccio himself in London to launch the restaurant’s new autumn menu which includes hearty Italian dishes and an exquisite selection of his signature dishes.
The event took place at their Covent Garden Carluccio’s restaurant, a breathtaking Ventian inspired venue with original period features and rustic charm.
I fell in love with this gorgeous staircase, fresh herbs lined the steps – the perfect backdrop for a quick style pic!
Arriving at the private dining room with my friend and publicist Hayley, we were instantly greeted with prosecco and the most wonderful entreés in the form of Carluccio’s sharing plates including Antonio’s signature Caponata: a traditional Sicilian aubergine sweet and sour stew! So delicious!
We were introduced to Antonio and were lucky to spend a good 20 minutes in deep conversation with him discussing our shared passion for food and his collaborations with Jamie Oliver on YouTube that has seen his recipe for carbonara viewed over 1.6m times! I reckon should add pro-vlogger to his long list of achievements. Even if he did want me to explain blogging, asking me to show him my blog on my phone. He seemed genuinely excited in the power of online narratives.
He did tell me he’s written all 24 culinary tomes of his by hand.
Here I am being a ‘chef groupie’…
Antonio was such a sweet and humble soul and we all had a real giggle together, no less when I told him that he’s the Tom Jones of Italian cuisine. He loved that and agreed!
Antonio also very kindly agreed to share one of his recipes with my Honest readers and has passed on the recipe for his super tasty Spaghetti di Farro Con Luganega which is spelt spaghetti with sausage sauce.
You can find the recipe at the end of this post for this week’s #tastytuesdays and it’s an honour to share it with you all.
The meal itself was utterly divine and Antonio guided us through each authentic course, detailing the inspiration for his recipes and providing insight into his wondrous career.
His passion for both food and life shone through telling the intimate group of diners that, ‘Food is an act of love’ and, ‘Food and sex are so important, you can’t have one without the other’ – I told you he was the Italian Tom Jones 😉
He also informed us that his mantra in the kitchen is ‘MEMF’ – minimum effort, maximum flavour.
This shone though in each of signature dishes – simple, rustic and bursting with flavour thanks to the fresh, seasonal and delicious produce and herbs he uses in his cooking.
Now onto the food
To start, we enjoyed Gambinos Marinara – the juiciest, most succulent prawns, beautifully marinated in olive oil, white wine, cherry tomatoes and fennel seeds – which gave it a lovely sharp and tangy flavour.
This was followed by Fettuce Con Polpette made with tender meatballs in a tomato sauce.
The veggie option was the Penne Giardiniera which is a staple from the Carluccio’s menu. For each dish sold, Carluccio’s donates 50p to Action Against Hunger and has raised an astonishing 1.3m over the past 7 years. An incredible achievement.
For the main, we tucked into Lamb Rosmarino, delicious tender lamb cutlets in a rosemary breadcrust served with black kale, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers and olives.
To end this wonderful meal, we had an assiette of desserts from the new menu featuring tiramisu and a zesty lemon posset. Delightful.
I can’t wait to head back to Carluccio’s again and try more dishes from this captivating menu.
And now for the recipe:
Spaghetti di Farro Con Luganega (Spelt Spaghetti with Sausage Sauce) by Antonio Carluccio
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 350g dried spelt spaghetti pasta
- salt and pepper to taste
- 60g pecorino cheese, freshly grated
For the sauce:
- 30g dried porcini, rehydrated
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ fresh hot red chilli, finely chopped
- 250g sausage meat, removed from the skin and crumbled
- 100ml white wine
- 2 tbsp tomato paste, diluted in 2 tsp of water
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary needles
Soak the dried porcini for the sauce for 20 minutes in hot water, then drain, reserving the soaking water and chop.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan with the butter and fry the onion and chilli briefly. Add the crumbled sausage and porcini and dry stir for 8-10 minutes. Add the wine and then cook for a further 2 minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the rosemary and cook for another 10 minutes on a low heat. Season with salt and pepper and if more moisture is needed add some of the porcini soaking water.
Meanwhile cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water for about 10-15 minutes or until al dente (follow the packet instructions). Drain well. Mix with the sauce and divide between deep warmed plates. Sprinkle with cheese and eat straight away.
Thank you for a wonderful dinner, company and recipe Antonio and thank you Carluccio’s.