Many people will understand Gregg Wallace as the former greengrocer-turned-MasterChef-co-presenter along John Torode – and a man who absolutely, sincerely loves a pudding. Not many people think he can cook, even though.

“They do not comprehend!” says Wallace. “Unfortunately on MasterChef they do not let me cook – I like to cook, but they do not want me to, they need John to be the cook. You can’t paintings with food for 25 bizarre years and not be interested in cooking.”

He admits his cooking skills have evolved but, mainly given that he met his fourth spouse, Anna, who is Italian. “I do lots greater cooking than I ever did and it’s because of Anna and her own family [they’re from the Lazio region near Rome]. Oh my god, I’ve found out a lot from her!”

So a lot so that the couple have now written a cookbook collectively, Gregg’s Italian Family Cookbook. But while the MasterChef and Eat Well For Less presenter has laid claim to a number of the recipes, absolutely it’s all born out of the food Anna, her mum Rina, dad Massimo and Roman nonna, had been making for years. It becomes simply a “satisfied twist of fate” that Wallace married right into a family where meals are the beating heart.

“It changed into meals that were given me and Anna close together,” the London-born 54-year-vintage explains.”That Italian approach to food is some thing that I’ve usually, usually liked, and to find out that I become falling in love with a girl who turned into a top-notch cook, after which to find out that her family have been additionally first-rate cooks, became quite a revelation for me.

“I realised, alongside a beautiful female, I was joining a circle of relatives,” he provides.

Wallace met Anna, 21 years his junior, again in 2013 (she reputedly made a touch on Twitter to speak about a rhubarb and duck recipe), three years earlier than they tied the knot. They welcomed their first baby into the sector, a boy, Sid, in advance this 12 months.

Wallace’s love affair with Italian delicacies began when he made a series that noticed him travel via the u. S. A. With the late Charlie Hicks and primary sat all the way down to a simple plate of orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) in Puglia. “I turned into just like, ‘Wow, food shouldn’t flavour this top’,” he recalls. “From that point on, I’ve been completely and wholly in love with the meals of Italy.

“I love that it’s pretty simple and that it comes out of necessity, most of it, feeding large households on little or no – it is so that ridiculously smart.”

Big, normal own family feasts, all of us gathered within the kitchen, was a vital part of Anna’s upbringing, spending school vacations in her nonna’s residence in Roma, sucking the heads of prawns as a infant and learning a way to cook dinner. “The entire family chefs and I’m pleased with this, they recognize my Anna because the nice prepare dinner – she used to return domestic from faculty and cook dinner for her mother and father,” Wallace says. “She’s a much better cook than me.”

Their cookbook is a collection of smooth-to-make Italian classics -“I don’t want to innovate, most are incredibly easy, and that is the point” – and you will possibly realize almost all of the dishes. Think pizza Bianca, grilled sardines and salsa di Pomodoro – recipes that do not require many steps or elements. A few you may in no way have tried, like gnocchi alla Romana, made from semolina instead of potato, or ribollita (Tuscan bread soup), and some require a chunk greater effort and time, like Rina’s porchetta (Roman roast pork belly).

Wallace says he is found out lots from Rina. “I love bagna cauda [a sauce made from anchovies and garlic], but it saved splitting so I phoned my mate Michel Roux Jr. At the Gavroche and he said, ‘The oil is too warm’. So I saved trying, and it saved splitting. Anna’s mum came alongside and put a spoon of milk in it, and it just emulsified superbly,” he says, giggling. “Michel Roux nil, Reni Sterpini one!

“They’ve taught me a way to make pizza dough – I can’t roll it spherical though, mine still seems like a map of Africa,” he adds. “They’ve taught me the way to make fresh pasta in minutes. Anna’s taught me better fish cooking; she’s taught me higher meat cooking; she’s taught me everything.

“And her dad? I’ve never seen everyone cook dinner squid like that at the fish fry, and his rabbit is of the size. That guy just barbecues, he wasn’t brought up with a stove.”

In Italian homes, it’s as an awful lot about the act of preparing a meal as it is consuming it. “Her family have taught me just to slow down,” says Wallace. “It’s either you’re well going to sit down and put together and consume lunch, or you are not going to trouble in any respect. It’s not labour to put together meals for people.”

You may additionally imagine that simple Italian dishes are delicious due to the fact the substances are better or brisker. However, Wallace says it is a common misconception. “In Italy, they don’t have fresh tomatoes in iciness, they make passata, they use tins of tomatoes.

“What you want to do is start relying on tinned tomatoes, vegetables in oil, tinned tuna; all of this stuff are top, and they are reasonably priced, and they’re nice. If you have got tins of tomatoes, tins of fish in brine or oil and you have were given flour – you then’ve were given loads of dishes!”

What approximately puddings then? Well, it truly is one issue Wallace nonetheless thinks the British do higher – even though, he adds: “Anna’s espresso pannacotta is a factor of absolute splendour.”