Let’s make one thing clear. Although celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis is an Emmy-winning Food Network personality, cookbook author, restaurateur, and entrepreneur, she cooks her meals in her home kitchen like everyone else.
“Using a commercial or production kitchen doesn’t work for what I do,” says De Laurentiis, who cooks up to five times a week in her LA home. “I try to teach the average person how to prepare a certain dish without too many steps. This translates to being at home and using my own pots and pans on my own stove. This is how you make the kitchen truly accessible.
De Laurentiis shares even more expertise via Giadzy, an Italian lifestyle platform that offers more than 200 curated artisan products (from breadsticks to artichoke spread), recipes, travel guides and more. “People were telling me during the pandemic, ‘I can’t go to my mum’s and the Italian pop grocer, so what do I do now?’ she says, “Then after the world reopened, our perspective changed on where we eat, how we eat, and what we eat. Eating at home just makes you feel better. (Giadzy was his childhood nickname.)
To feel better in the kitchen, think about quality items rather than quantity. “I look at people’s drawers and there’s a ton of gadgets and utensils in there that nobody ever uses,” she says. On the other hand, a well-stocked pantry can work wonders: “If you have all the basics, you’ll never feel like you can’t whip up a meal in a snap. You will only have to go to the store to buy vegetables and proteins.
Want more information? De Laurentiis spoke with CNN Underscored about her recipe for culinary success.
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A good knife sits at #1 on his list. “You want one that feels good in your hand,” she says. The chef chooses a Japanese Santoku utensil because it’s lightweight yet sturdy, and she notes that a metal handle — as opposed to a wooden one — is ideal for cleaning. She uses a serrated knife for bread and a small paring knife to slice tomatoes, lemon zest and other citrus fruits. And don’t forget to sharpen them! De Laurentiis does this every day.
It’s a biggie on many levels. After all, a Dutch oven “is fantastic for soups, stews, sauces, stews, and anything that requires a long cooking time,” she explains. “Cast iron allows it to heat more evenly without burnt spots.” She likes a heavyweight Le Creuset because it features a seven-ply construction, ensuring excellent heat distribution. She keeps her pan right on her stovetop and advises her fellow cooks to do the same: “Pick a fun color that looks great in your kitchen!”
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De Laurentiis has Made In high-sided stainless steel pans in various sizes (8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch, in case you were wondering). But, she adds, “It’s only because I cook a lot for different numbers of people. You really only need one, especially if you live alone. As she explains, the right casserole simmers with possibilities. “You can make bases for sauces, Chicken Piccata, Milanese, and you can scramble eggs in it,” she says.
The truth is that De Laurentiis will opt for any type of uncooked pasta due to its long shelf life. The only condition is that the noodles are made in Italy. “American wheat tends to be the worst of the bunch because it’s highly processed and modified and makes me feel bloated at night,” she says. She has handpicked imported pasta on her site because it is of higher quality with minimal ingredients. Just durum wheat semolina and water, to be exact.
No rotten tomatoes here. “Fresh tomatoes aren’t always in season, don’t always have the right flavor, and you won’t be able to store them for two months,” she says. But canned or jarred tomatoes in any form are always ready (red-dy?) to go. “I mix the peeled tomatoes with a bit of dried oregano and make pizza sauce,” she says. “You don’t even have to cook it.” That said, she also uses it as a base for soups and stews.
“Salt is the basis of all flavors, isn’t it? ” she says. “But people under-salt their food and instead add more butter and fat because they compensate. They don’t realize that salt itself isn’t bad for you. Stuff processed with any preservatives is bad for you. De Laurentiis sprinkles kosher salt on its salad dressings and pastas because it’s thicker and “I can feel the amount I’m using with my fingertips.” She also likes to season it with dried oregano and lemon zest.
According to the chef, spice is the variety of life – and a savory dish or stew. This packet is a spicy mix of dried Calabrian peppers, tomato, parsley and garlic. “I like it because it’s a taste bomb,” she says. “Nor do I have to go to a high-end grocery store and buy fresh oregano or rosemary for $7 that will go bad.”