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How to make TV chef Gino D'Acampo's smooth fennel and tomato soup with prawns

Whenever Gino D'Acampo plates up impressive-looking meals on TV, he can rest assured that along with the usual chorus of 'Oohs' and 'Aahs' in the studio, somewhere in southern Italy, at least one person will be bewildered by the fanfare.

"Every time my mother sees me on television, she says to me, 'I cannot understand how you make a plate of pasta and end up with a job on television! Italian people make plates of pasta every day and nobody notices.

"You make a plate of pasta and end with a job on television'," explains the lively 38-year-old cook, who won I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! in 2009.

Naples-born chef Gino D'Acampo
Naples-born chef Gino D'Acampo

According to D'Acampo, his mama "always has something to say" about his food. So presumably when he sends over a batch of DVDs of his latest series, Gino's Italian Escapes: A Taste Of The Sun, his dear old mum will have plenty of feedback.

"Often I say to her, 'Don't tell me too straight, lie to me!'" the chef confides, laughing.

At least he had a great time making the programme, spending an idyllic month exploring his home country once again.

Gino D'Acampo
Gino D'Acampo

While the previous series focused on southern Italy, the second helping, which is accompanied by a book of the same name, sees Gino travelling around the north of the country, sampling regional specialities.

"The north side of Italy is completely different to the south, and the food is very different," says the Naples-born foodie, who says his dream travelling companion is his wife Jessica, with whom he has two sons and a daughter.

"The people are different, the ingredients are different. I did enjoy this time, because it was like 25 days travelling the most beautiful places in the world. I mean, how lucky am I?"

If you fancy an Italian job in your kitchen, here are two recipes from Gino's new book to have a go at.

Gino's smooth fennel and tomato soup with prawns
Gino's smooth fennel and tomato soup with prawns


(Serves 6)

2tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

2 large fennel bulbs, halved, cores removed and sliced

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into quarters

800ml hot vegetable stock, made with stock cubes

500ml passata (sieved tomatoes)

1 bay leaf

200g cooked peeled prawns

1tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus extra to garnish

Salt and black pepper to taste

Here's how to do it

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a medium heat for eight minutes, until starting to soften. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the fennel to the onions and fry for two minutes. Add the potato, vegetable stock, passata and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 25 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and remove and discard the bay leaf.

Blitz the soup with a hand blender until smooth. Add in the prawns, reserving a few for a garnish, with the chopped dill and continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Serve hot, sprinkled with the reserved prawns and garnished with a little dill.

My grandfather's tagliatelle from Gino's Italian Escape: A Taste Of The Sun
My grandfather's tagliatelle from Gino's Italian Escape: A Taste Of The Sun


(Serves 6)

2tbsp olive oil

1 onion, very finely diced

2 celery sticks, very finely diced

1 large carrot, very finely diced

500g minced pork

500g minced beef

50ml red wine

50ml milk

4tbsp tomato puree

300ml passata

400ml chicken or vegetable stock

500g fresh tagliatelle

Parmesan shavings, to serve (optional)

Salt and black pepper

Here's how to do it

Heat half the oil in a large saute pan and fry the onion, celery and carrot for five minutes, until soft and starting to colour.

While the vegetables are cooking, put all the meat in a large bowl, pour over the remaining olive oil and crumble the meat between your fingertips. Add the meat to the pan and fry until brown - around five minutes.

Deglaze the pan by adding the red wine and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the milk. Simmer for two minutes before stirring in the tomato puree, passata and stock. Simmer gently for three hours until reduced and thickened.

Once cooked, remove from the hob, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and leave for 20 minutes - you do not want the sauce to be boiling hot when you serve it.

When ready to serve, bring a large pan of water to the boil and season generously with salt. Add the pasta to the pan and cook for two to three minutes, or until just cooked.

Drain the pasta, then return to the pan with the sauce and toss to combine. Serve in bowls with a few Parmesan shavings scattered over, if you like. Enjoy!

Gino's Italian Escape: A Taste Of The Sun by Gino D'Acampo, is published in hardback by Hodder, priced £20, available now.
The series of the same name is on ITV on Fridays

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