They say that Salerno is the Amalfi Coast’s best kept secret so I probably shouldn’t tell you about it. It’s important, you see, that this grand old signora of a city remains a secret otherwise all and sundry will be aching to reside in one of its cute little teracotta-roofed appartamentos piled, one on top of the other, in what’s left of its medieval centro storico each one wistfully gazing out to the cerulean-blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. I shouldn’t tell you about the Via Roma that comes to glorious life as the endless days of summer slowly cool into the chattering dance of the evening passeggiata. And I definitely shouldn’t tell you about the Lungomare Trieste, widely considered to be the most beautiful beachside promenade in all of Italy. I have probably already told you too much; suffice it to say that, if you fancy avoiding the bonkers influx of holiday makers to this beautiful little corner of the world, you can do a lot worse than making Salerno your base. There are virtually no concessions to tourism and yet you will find yourself able to travel with an almost indecent ease to some of the most glamorous places on earth, including breathtaking Ravello, dreamy Positano and the glorious Islands of Capri, Ischia and Nerano; and Naples, in our view one of the most intriguing cities on earth, is a mere 35-minute train ride away. From a culinary perspective, Salerno is justifiably famous for, amongst other things, a delicious pasta dish made with Amalfi lemons; its world-class buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes; melons, citrus, figs and grapes; my all time favourite, parmigiana di melanzane (if you ask me nicely, I will tell you which restaurant makes the best one); authentic Neapolitan pizzas (way better than any we tasted in Naples); and rustic breads baked in communal brick ovens. Early one morning, after the day’s baking had finished and our favourite baker had no further need of his hot oven, we decided to sit close by in order to watch the Italian mamas walking up the hill with their dishes ready to bake. Several of them, I noticed, had skillets of eggs mixed with whatever vegetables they had to use up, a kind of oven baked frittata in the making. This recipe is inspired by that idea; it is simply an Italianate variation on my Provençal baked goat’s cheese & herb omelette. This is probably one of my most loved recipes and, if you have neither the time nor the inclination to make it yourself, you might like to know that a version of it will be making a regular appearance throughout my residency at the School House Gallery in York.
Knob of butter
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, finely sliced
2 sweet red peppers, seeds and membranes removed and finely sliced in long lengths
Half tsp of sea salt
30g fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 large free-range eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
100g Fontina cheese, thinly sliced (ask your local Italian deli to do this for you)
How I make it
Heat an oven to 220C and butter a shallow 10-inch pie dish.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the sliced onions, red peppers and salt. Cover, turn down the heat and allow the peppers to cook until they are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs together and season.
Add the cooked onions, peppers and chopped parsley, mix together and pour the mixture into the pie dish. Carefully cover the mixture with slices of Fontina cheese.
Place the dish into the oven and bake until the frittata is firm in the centre, around 25-30 minutes.
Remove the dish from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Run a knife around the sides and transfer to a large serving plate. Enjoy warm or a room temperature.
In the photo, I have served it with a generous helping of my Sicilian tomato & caper salad.