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Cooking Lessons From My Mom and Grandmother

10 May 2017
by Giada De Laurentiis
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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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