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Cooking Lessons From My Mom and Grandmother

Carrying on the family tradition with recipes inspired by two of the most important women in Giada's life.


It's no secret that my love of food is a family affair. My nonno's home-cooked Sunday lunches were legendary in our family, and he gave all of us kids our first cooking lessons, making pizzas together (and making a mess of the kitchen in the process!). But I learned the less glamorous, equally important skill of feeding a family day in and day out from my mother, who worked hard and still found the time to cook healthy, delicious dinners every night so we could eat together as a family. It's a value I know I'm passing on to Jade every time we cook a meal together.
Whenever I cook a family recipe, it's a special connection to those people who made me who I am. Though my grandmother has passed on and I won't be seeing my mom until my next trip back home to Rome at the end of this month, I wanted to honor both of these amazing women on Mother's Day with a few of the recipes that make me feel closest to them. Carrying on their traditions is so important to me - luckily, these dishes are as delicious as they are meaningful.
Nonna Luna's Bitter Rice
While my grandfather was the family gourmet, my grandmother Silvana Mangano, a famous Italian actress, had a few tricks up her sleeve herself. My Nonna Luna, as we all called her, loved rice in all its many forms. So I created this risotto in honor of the film that made her a star, Bitter Rice - the saffron-infused rice gets a bitter bite from radicchio, while dried cranberries balance it out with some sweetness.
Baked Lemon Ziti
My mother's pasta alla bechamel was a childhood favorite - I used to request it for my birthday dinner every year, just so I could pick the crispy, cheesy topping off all by myself without anyone objecting! My baked lemon ziti adds a zesty citrus twist to her creamy bechamel sauce. Be sure to let the top get nice and browned in the oven - darker than you might think is OK - so you get that extra-crispy top layer.
Pasta Pizza
Two of my favorite dishes, together at last! This was a go-to technique of my mother's for using up leftover pasta, and it's always a crowd-pleaser, especially among the younger members of the family. You can use any combination of cooked pasta, vegetables, and cheese that you have on hand, making it a real lifesaver for any busy mom.

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