Cooking with Antonio Carluccio and Cirio tomatoes

“I would love to make love on a bed of fresh basil” by Antonio Carluccio the godfather of Italian gastronomy.

This man makes you smile. He has such a good sense of humour and such an avid imagination when it comes to describing food.

Antonio Carluccio is originally from Salerno and has been living in the UK for over 40 years. He has had a very interesting life living and working in different countries. He is a chef, a book writer, he is often on TV and he is the founder of the restaurant chain Carluccio’s. His greatest passion is mushrooms.

Antonio Carluccio

I was invited for an evening with Antonio who has partnered with Cirio the oldest and most popular Italian canned vegetables brand founded in 1856. This was to celebrate the 160th anniversary of Cirio.

Cirio Naples

Antonio grew up with Cirio tomatoes and so did I. Some people in Italy even describe Cirio as a specific type of tomatoes used to make passata. My mum sometimes says: “I need to buy some Cirios”. How funny.

cirio

As Antonio was talking I could see what’s behind his success. His passion for food is just overwhelming: “Wonderful, fantastic, amazing..” As he mops up tomato sauce with bread to make a scarpetta and puts it straight into his mouth he cannot help himself by describing the intense explosion of flavours you can taste in your mouth out of a very simple dish.

Antonio you are my hero.

Carluccio and Cirio

Antonio cooked “pappa al pomodoro” for us, a Tuscan soup made with slices of toasted bread previously rubbed with garlic cloves and Cirio traditional passata then cooked for 50 minutes over a low heat. This is served with basil leaves and plenty of olive oil.

Cooking with Carluccio

Antonio kept smelling the basil as he was cooking saying this is one of the best perfumes in the world. I can certainly agree with that.

pappa al pomodoro

Then he made “Cozze alla Tarantina” or mussels Taranto style a very simple and tasty dish: Just fresh mussels, Cirio finely chopped tomatoes, a drop of white wine and plenty of fresh basil. The kitchen smelt simply divine!

Tarantina Mussels

I laughed a lot, Antonio has a good sense of humour.

Cookery lesson

He said that “with tomatoes you can do hundreds, no thousands, of things!’ ‘Since I was very small, my mother cooked with Cirio tomatoes’ and so did mine I was thinking.

Tomatoes are the base for many dishes in Italian cuisine. He said you should never add sugar when making a tomato sauce and only use tomatoes that are perfectly ripe. That is the secret, if the tomatoes are good then your sauce will be good just as it is. No need whatsoever to add any sugar.

Now I must say that I always add a tiny amount of sugar to a tomato sauce partly due to the fact that some tomatoes are not completely ripe and they retain some acidity.

Antonio has a “mof-mof” principle: minimum of fuss and maximum of flavour. This means that Italian food is simple. There is no need to add too many ingredients to complicate flavours.

“When making a meat ragu’ sauce for pasta let it bubble up slowly like the lava of a volcano..”

He said that what you need to cook good Italian food is to use good quality ingredients so you won’t need to cover up the flavours with sauces or extra ingredients.

And rightly so! A few, good quality ingredients make the best Italian meals ever.

Grazie Antonio.

Antonio Carluccio and I_

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9 Responses to Cooking with Antonio Carluccio and Cirio tomatoes

  1. Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    He is such a cooking legend and I have heard from a few people what an amazing guy he is. I am gutted I couldn’t make this event, as it looked like a lot of fun – with delicious food too.

  2. elisabetta

    Wow, what a fantastic opportunity being able to meet Antonio Carluccio my first Italian chef hero. I’ve seen all his tv series and have one of his books. I never miss any of the programme repeats like last weekend’s The Two Greedy Italians which is hilarious! Antonio is a veteran cook and so knowledgeable. I’d love some pappa and cozze now, they are delicious. I’ve been buying Cirio for years and now I can buy Mutti too.

    • Alida

      Ciao Elisabetta,
      I was really excited to meet Antonio. He really is, as you rightly say, a veteran Italian cook. He has so much experience and knowledge about food and so much passion for it too! He is also very kind and has a very pleasant personality. I loved the Two Greedy Italians too.. so funny!

  3. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,
    How lucky are you to have been invited to hear such a delicious man talk about food. I have to remember what Antonio quoted about the basil..It is a very distinct flavor and I remember growing up with the aroma of the ragu sauce percolating up the stairs to my room. I have never seen this brand of tomatoes in NY..Cirio must be only in the UK or Italy. I use what my mom used and that is Tuttorosso brand tomatoes. I love when he took the bread and moped it with sauce. I can relate to that, my family including me have done that in the past. The bread just melts in your mouth and you are left with the flavor of the sauce. Just awesome! This must have been an outstanding opportunity for you to have met him and listened to him speak. Thanks for sharing…love the photo of you and Antonio! Have a good week ..Ciao!
    Hugs Dottie 🙂

    • Alida

      Yes I loved meeting Antonio and I have a few of his books too. So nice to grow up with the delicious smell of freshly made passata!

  4. Chiara

    mi piace Antonio Carluccio, ho comperato alcuni suoi libri e ne ho recensito uno per la mia rubrica “Un libro, una ricetta”, deve essere stata una magnifica esperienza Alida,complimenti !

    • Alida

      Si ed e’ anche molto simpatico. Ho visto la tua rubrica un bell’articolo. Ciao!

  5. Kate - Gluten Free Alchemist

    What an amazing opportunity and fun event. Antonio is a bit of a legend. You must have been thrilled to meet him!

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