When you think of Italian food, it’s hard not to picture big bowls of steamy spaghetti and cheesy chicken Parmesan (okay, and a bottle of wine).
Food Network host Giada De Laurentiis says Italian cuisine doesn’t have to be like that. Catch her in a free moment, and the star of Giada at Home (and editor-in-chief of Giada Weekly) loves de-mystifying many of those Italian food misconceptions.
“My motto has always been ‘I eat a little bit of everything, and not a lot of anything.’ Italian culture is all about having little bits of lots of things and sharing everything family style,” says De Laurentiis. So while she’s never one to pass up a piece of hearty lasagna, she balances it with a green juice the next day.
What else is she sipping and nibbling off camera? Check out what’s in her fridge, and steal her ideas for quick dinners (hint: it’s all about the steamed greens and chickpeas) or what to whip up on the fly for gluten-free guests.
What are some common misconceptions about Italian food? People think it’s all big, heavy meals that consist of a huge plate of pasta. In reality, pasta is an appetizer or side, not the main (and only) event. Some parts of the country—like Sicily—have food that’s more pasta based, but it changes pretty drastically depending on where you are.
So, how would you describe your diet? It’s important to always have an awareness of what you’re eating, so I try to eat as organically, locally, and seasonally as possible. I also keep an eye on my gluten, sugar, and salt intake.
What are the Pyrex containers filled with on the second shelf? Looks like some yummy greens and pasta. I have steamed broccoli and green beans, and plain pasta, so I can toss it with tomato sauce or peas and sausage.
That sounds delicious. Where do you go food shopping? I try to go to the farmers market every weekend, with my daughter, Jade. We hunt from tent to tent for the best produce (and sample, of course!). Then I head to my local grocery store to supplement throughout the week.
What do you use the chickpeas for? Chickpeas are super diverse and great to have on hand. I toss them in salads, bake them for crunchy snacks, or pop them in the food processor with a little lemon, olive oil, and salt for a dip with veggies.
What are some of your favorite quick meals to make at home? Lemon spaghetti, baked halibut with Lima beans in a little foil pack, a soup with little pasta stars, carrots, celery, peas and a nice, big piece of Parmesan rind in yummy chicken broth, or leftover lasagna. It’s never the same.
That’s such a nice variety. If someone was coming over to your house tonight for a last-minute dinner party, what would you make them? I would make an arugula salad tossed in a little lemon and olive oil with some fresh burrata, pink pepper, and sea salt to start. Then serve a chicken piccata with fried capers and this gluten-free pasta I’ve been meaning to try, and finish off with Jade’s specialty for dessert: chocolate fondue with fresh fruit skewers. Come around 7:00 p.m. and bring your favorite wine. —Molly Gallagher
(Photos: Giada De Laurentiis)