5 Essential Kitchen Tips We Learned From Giada De Laurentiis’s Latest Cookbook

Hot tip: Don’t throw out that pasta water!

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Giada De Laurentiis holding slice of pizza.

Giada in Italy. Photo, Aubrie Pick.

Giada De Laurentiis’s ninth cookbook, Giada’s Italy, takes readers on a cross-country culinary tour of this beloved foodie destination. It’s filled with mouth-watering food photos as well as shots of the Food Network star visiting her favourite local cafes and vendors. She honours her own family traditions with recipes inspired by her grandmother, Silvana Mangano (a famous Italian film star). Giada tells readers how to adapt classic Italian dishes with ingredients that are easy to find in typical North American grocery stores. Here are some the best tips I picked up from the book.

giada-cakeRecipe: Giada’s Ice Cream Cake

Giada’s must-have pantry items would make a great charcuterie board

Among staples like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Giada keeps a few Italian specialty items around at all times, and honestly, together they sound like they’d make one heck of a charcuterie board. Her must-haves include Calabrian chili paste, finocchiona (Tuscan salami with fennel), oil-packed tuna and anchovies, bright green castelvetrano olives, an assortment of different cheeses and speck. Just add some fresh focaccia or crostini and you’re party ready!

Keep crostini on hand at all times

Crostini couldn’t be easier to make (cut a baguette into thin slices, brush them with olive oil and stick them in the oven until they’re toasty), and if you top ’em with some of your pantry staples, Giada says you’ll always have a snack ready for whenever a friend pops by — or if you just need something to munch on mid-afternoon. Bake up a batch or buy some crostini (Ace Bakery’s are yum!) to store in your pantry.

Don’t dump your pasta water

Pasta water is essential for making extra creamy (non-tomato) sauces, so don’t pour all that starchy liquid down the drain when your noodles are done cooking. For dishes like cacio e pepe and alfredo, a splash of pasta water is essential.

giada-pizzaRecipe: Giada’s Positano Pizzas

Store-bought pizza dough is your friend

It’s alway impressive to serve 100 percent homemade pizza, but who has time to make dough on a hectic weeknight? For her latest crop of pizza recipes, Giada calls for store-bought dough, which seems much more realistic for mid-week pizza night (and it still beats delivery!). And she even suggest having fun with your dough by making your ‘za into different shapes, like adorable little hearts.

Bacon isn’t the only meat you should candy

Candied bacon is one of those rare treats that’s delicious anytime, whether at brunch or atop a mid-afternoon cupcake. But Giada ups the sweet-and-savoury ante by including a recipe for candied prosciutto in her cookbook. This candied deli meat, she says, is great crumbled on top of a salad as well as on antipasto plates.

Watch: How to make pizza dough