Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Taste of Italy with Bertolli and Gennaro Contaldo

Firstly, I must admit that I was a little dubious, and yet at the same time curious about attending an event with a well known brand, about ready made Italian Pasta sauces – mainly as I normally make my own from scratch, and I am pretty happy with them! However, as both friends and my brother seem pretty keen on the Bertolli sauces (I had not actually tried them before this event!), there also being the opportunity to meet the delightful Gennaro Contaldo and have a cookery lesson with him, and the fact that I love to eat and cook a lot of Italian food, I really had nothing to lose :)

And so after a very hot train ride into town and my badly written directions (I got confused with different station exits!) I finally found L'atelier des Chefs, which was the venue for the evening.

After a quick get together with the other food bloggers and a perfectly chilled glass of Prosecco, which was very welcome at this point, Gennaro appeared amongst us and we filed into the kitchen area and adorned ourselves with special Bertolli aprons and glamorous hats, please check out Katie’s blog if you want to see what I look like…… no laughing please!

The evening started with Gennaro demonstrating for us the Soffritto technique (onion, carrot, celery all finely chopped, plus a bashed clove of garlic, gently sautéed in olive oil). Bertolli's sauces are now based on this method, resulting in tasty, rustic sauces inspired by 150 years of the brands history.

Me and three other bloggers then went up to the stoves and made our own, by god it was hot with 4 gas burners on, plus the smell of chopped onions which resulted in my eyes streaming and looking like an idiot!  After making the soffritto, we added tinned tomatoes, Gennaro added lots of diced chillies and after a short simmer, we decanted into these cute jars which had our names on:

After the decanting, Gennaro then demonstrated with gusto our dinner meals. I will be honest in that when he was making the starter, it was filling me with dread, I saw capers go in = 1st pet hate, then a jar of the Arrabbiata sauce, lovely, then fillets of mackerel went in = 2nd pet hate! I was not looking forward to this and thought would try a spoon out of politeness… However maybe my taste buds have been deceiving me, as I proceeded to eat nearly all of it! Mackerel is still not on my favourites list, nor capers, however it was still a very tasty dish!

Our main course consisted of penne with a slow cooked chunky beef ragu and the Basilico sauce, something I think my fiancée would love for the meat content alone!

There was also a delicious veggie option made with mushrooms and courgettes, which was pretty tasty for something cooked so quickly, and from a jar!

One main thing I can say about the Bertolli sauces, if the lovely Helly doesn’t mind me stealing her words upon tasting one of the Bertolli sauces – ‘I can’t believe this came out of a jar’. Rather grudgingly I will admit openly the Basilco sauce did not taste like it was from a jar as it tasted far too fresh and tomatoey! Out of all the sauces I will most likely buy this one again. In fact I have since made a delicious dish using the Basilico sauce and it will appear on the blog in a couple of days…in the meantime here is a picture of the linguine bolognese I made recently using the Bertolli bolognese sauce:

The bookshelf has truly finally collapsed in on itself as now proudly sits a copy of Gennaros book, Passione. Definitely in need of a new, bigger bookshelf!

Many thanks to Bertolli for inviting me, the ever lovely ladies at Wildcard and of course the wonderful Gennaro Contaldo who was a real pleasure to meet, so full of life and character, and last but not least the team at L'atelier des Chefs.

Also additional thanks for the fab little ‘Supplement to the Italian dictionary’ book, I’ve had good fun testing out the hand signals on the family this week!


  1. Ooh I'm so jealous of you meeting Genaro, he seems such a warm, down to earth person. I iwll have to try those sauces.

  2. What a treat to have that time with Gennaro!

  3. It was fun wasn't it. Well done for using some of the sauces. I am on a freezer eat down and have not used mine yet. And indeed "I can't believe that they come from a jar".

    I wore my hat in the pub afterwards, much to everyone's amusement.

  4. I love that guy! :) I've banned myself from using jars of pasta sauce, although I have to admit, those dishes look scrumptious!

  5. Me too Janice.
    I've always liked Gennaro.

    & just look at that jar with your name on it. How cool is that.

    You look great in your chef's hat too!

  6. Sounds like you had a lovely day,Anne!You can never have too many books.Second, Gill...so coool to have your name on a jar!x

  7. That looks like so fun! What a real treat! I have so far only used Bertolli olive oil.

  8. Great write up and your chefs hat suited you! I've used my jar of basil sauce as the base for a pizza and it was great. Well done for conquering your dislike of mackrel

  9. Lucky, lucky, lucky Anne! There's nothing more to be said... except what a great time you must have had!

  10. Totally jealous as I love Gennaro, what a blast!

  11. I wish to meet this man as well. He is the man who inspired and nurtured the man who has been inspiring my culinary journey in so many ways. Jamie Oliver, I'm glad I met Jamie already.


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