Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian, written by Gennaro Contaldo, showcases a variety of Italian dishes perfect for those who are short on time without compromising on flavor. Highlights include Bruschette con Pesche e Prosciutto (Bruschetta of Peaches and Prosciutto), Cavolfiore al Forno (Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon, Paprika, and Bay Leaves), Risotto Caprese (Risotto with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil), Scaloppine di Vitello con Porri e Arancie Sanguinello (Pan-Fried Veal with Leeks and Blood Oranges), Crema di Mascarpone con Pere e Noci (Mascarpone Mousse with Pear and Walnuts), and so much more. I will also be sharing his recipe for Carbonara di Salmone Affumicato (Smoked Salmon Carbonara) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Gennaro Contaldo is an acclaimed chef, food writer, restauranteur, and TV personality. He grew up in Minori on the Amalfi coast and started working in restaurants at the age of eight. In addition to being the co-host of the series Two Greedy Italians with Antonio Carluccio and regularly appearing on Saturday Kitchen, he is also the author of many other books including Passione (find the review here), Pannetteria (find the review here), Gennaro’s Italian Year, Gennaro’s Italian Home Cooking, Gennaro’s Slow Cook Italian, and Gennaro’s Easy Italian.
Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian
Chapters are divided according to course: Salads, Soups, Pasta, Risottos, Fish, Meat, Vegetables, Desserts, and Simple Sauces.
Being a huge fan of two other cookbooks of Gennaro’s I reviewed last year (Passione with Ndundari con Salsa di Pomodoro e Basilico / Panetteria with Panini All’Olio), I was so excited to make my way through Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian. I received the book shortly after arriving in our new home and it was perfect for quick meal ideas while I put my kitchen back together.
For this book, Gennaro focuses on “the Italian philosophy of using a few good ingredients and cooking them in a simple, unfussy way.” He states just because the meals come together quickly, they don’t have to be unhealthy fast food. To save even more time, Gennaro has included a list of Italian kitchen essentials for the pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and fresh produce along with helpful tips throughout.
Many of the recipes are accompanied by a full page, beautifully styled photo of the finished dish. The titles are written in Italian and English with measurements in US Customary and Metric. Every recipe includes a headnote with background information, tips, ingredient ideas, cooking time, and serving size.
This book is a great pick for those who are looking for quick and easy Italian meals. Gennaro states that of course Italian food is not just pasta and has included so many wonderful recipes for meat, fish, and vegetable dishes. I do plan on making many of those in the near future, but for this review I still found myself drawn to the wonderful variety of pasta dishes. I even added the Mafalda Corta con Spinaci e Mascarpone (Creamy Mascarpone and Spinach Pasta) to the menu plan for next week.
Most of the recipes come together in less than 30 minutes, with some as quickly as 10-15. The ingredients are generally readily available, though a few may require the help of a specialty Italian market such as pane carasau, limoncello, savoiardi cookies, amaretti cookies, pancetta, bresaola, veal escalopes, golden raisins, prosciutto, risotto rice, Taleggio, Castelluccio lentils, ricotta salata, bucatini pasta, guanciale, and dried porcini mushrooms.
Carbonara di Salmone Affumicato (Smoked Salmon Carbonara)
Carbonara is a favorite of mine (the base reminds me a bit of the way my grandmother would always make pasta for me), but this Carbonara di Salmone Affumicato was my first time trying the dish with smoked salmon. I will definitely need to keep smoked salmon on hand more often. It is such a delicious and easy meal.
The pasta is cooked until al dente and tossed with smoked salmon trimmings and a splash of white wine. The pot is then removed from heat (this part is important to avoid scrambled eggs) and the mixture is tossed with beaten egg yolks to create a rich and creamy coating.
Gennaro states that cheese doesn’t generally go with fish, but he enjoys a little grated Pecorino sprinkled over the top of the carbonara and I heartily agree.
I also made Orecchiette con Salsa al Pomodoro e Ricotta Salata (Orecchiette Pasta with Tomato and Ricotta Salata), Lasagne al Pane Carasau (Tomato and Ricotta Lasagne with Pane Carasau), Risotto con Salsiccia (Sausage Risotto), and Torta al Tiramisu (Tiramisu Cake).
I made the Orecchiette con Salsa al Pomodoro e Ricotta Salata (Orecchiette Pasta with Tomato and Ricotta Salata) in August and it was such a wonderful way to showcase the best of summer. Orecchiette pasta is cooked until al dente, tossed with a simple tomato sauce, and topped with fresh basil and grated ricotta salata.
The Lasagne al Pane Carasau (Tomato and Ricotta Lasagne with Pane Carasau) may be in the pasta section, but technically no pasta is involved in the recipe! Sheets of pane carasau, a crispy thin flatbread from Sardinia, are layered with a basic tomato sauce, mozzarella, and a ricotta mixture, then baked until golden and bubbling. Using this flatbread in place of lasagna noodles work in two ways- they allow the dish to actually cook more quickly and the resulting lasagne ends up being a bit lighter. I was able to locate pane carasu at the Eataly in Los Angeles.
Risotto fans will find an entire chapter dedicated to this dish. I tried the Risotto con Salsiccia, but other versions include Risotto al Quattro Formaggi (Risotto with 4 Cheeses),Risotto al Calamari e Zafferano (Calamari and Saffron Risotto), and even Risotto Festivo (Celebration Risotto with Prosecco, Shrimp, and Scallops). For the sausage risotto, ladles of hot stock are stirred into risotto rice that has been flavored with crumbled Italian sausage, red onion, and rosemary until the mixture is cooked through. It is served hot with additional butter and Parmesan.
Of all the recipes I tried, the Torta al Tiramisu (Tiramisu Cake) was the most involved, but still not as time-consuming as many other cakes. The baked pan di Spagna (sponge cake) base is brushed with a sweetened espresso Marsala mixture and layered with a mascarpone cream and grated dark chocolate. Mine didn’t turn out nearly as beautiful as the photo in the book, but it was still quite delicious and had all the wonderful flavors of a tiramisu.
Carbonara di Salmone Affumicato (Smoked Salmon Carbonara) Recipe
Excerpt from Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian
Carbonara di Salmone Affumicato (Smoked Salmon Carbonara)
- 11 3/4 ounces (320 g) spaghetti or linguine
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 oz, 20 g) butter
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 7 ounces (200 g) smoked salmon trimmings
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- A little grated Pecorino to serve (optional)
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente (check the instructions on your package for cooking time).
While the pasta is cooking, lightly beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the milk and some salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the bay leaves and sweat for 1 minute. Add the smoked salmon trimmings and fry, stirring, for a couple of minutes to heat through. Add the white wine and allow the alcohol to cook off for a minute or so. Season with black pepper.
Drain the pasta, add it to the frying pan with the smoked salmon, and mix well. Remove from the heat, pour in the egg mixture, and mix well to combine. Serve with a little grated Pecorino, if desired.