Saturday, May 19, 2012

Weekend Cooking -- Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner

Giada De Laurentiis is Food Network's tiny Italian fireball -- small in stature, but on fire in the kitchen. Her large personality fills the television screen each week during her latest cooking show Giada at Home, where she cooks delicious eats for her friends and family. She is also a coach for this season's Food Network Star, which debuted last Sunday.

Although primarily an expert in Italian food, Giada also throws other foods into the mix at times. Her newest cookbook, Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner delivers exactly what it promises. Recipes with ten ingredients or less that busy families can cook during the week. As in her television show, Giada focuses on Italian, but includes a section titled "Change of Pace" where she features Asian, Spanish, and Greek cuisine, as well.

While included are photographs of Giada's food and family, the meat of this cookbook are the recipes themselves. This is not an ode to a television star, but a real cookbook that real people can use. Weighing in at 240 pages, there is a recipe for everyone in this cookbook. Giada divides the recipes in Weeknights with Giada into some basic sections (i.e., "Veggies & Sides" and "Dessert") but also some more innovative, personalized sections such as the aforementioned "Change of Pace" or "Breakfast for Dinner."

Several of the recipes from Weeknights with Giada will make it onto my table this summer, as they simply sound like warm-weather treats. I can't wait to make a version of Giada's Caramelized Onion, Chicken, and Grapefruit Salad, which sounds big on flavor without including soft cheeses. Finds like that are a plus for me as a pregnant woman struggling to enjoy salads without feta, bleu cheese, or some other forbidden-during-pregnancy cheeses. (The delicious-sounding Fig and Brie Panini will just have to wait until after October!) The Apricot Oat Bars (using both apricot preserves and dried apricots for ease and simplicity) sound like perfect summer-month treats, or even breakfast.

However, my instinct is to turn immediately in Weeknights with Giada to the "Pasta and Grains" section. Not only because Giada's Italian expertise makes this a no-brainer, but because I am a pasta lover. I could eat it almost every night (whole wheat, of course), but I get tired of the same old ingredients and preparations. Giada includes several easy, new takes on pasta that I'll be trying. Penne in Almond Sauce, for instance, which includes shredded rotisserie chicken, frozen peas, lemon, and basil, sounds delicious. So does the Sweet Corn and Basil Lasagna, the recipe for which you can find on Amazon's page for Weeknights with Giada.

The recipe I will probably make first, however, is one of the most simple. It just speaks to me for some reason:

Wagon Wheel Pasta with Pancetta and Peas, 

Photo from Weeknights with Giada
1 lb wagon-wheel shaped pasta
1/4 c plus 1 T olive oil
8 oz pancetta (for which I will probably substitute bacon, as pancetta isn't readily available where I live)
2 large or 4 small shallots, chopped
1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 c sugar snap peas, cut into 1-in pieces
1 1/2 c shelled edamame beans
1 c frozen peas, thawed
1 c grated Parmesan
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh mint leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. 

Add the shallots to the pan and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the snap peas and simmer for 2 minutes, until tender.

Add the pasta, cooked pancetta, edamame, petite peas, Parmesan cheese, the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the salt, pepper, and mint. Toss until coated, adding the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed to loosen the sauce. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

This is a post part of the Beth Fish Reads blog series Weekend Cooking, which is open to anyone with a food-related post, including: book and movie reviews, photography, recipes, and other items. To browse this week's posts from all over the web, click on over to her post from today, about the book Farmers' Markets of the Heartland


  1. Mmmm... you're right, this does sound delicious. I like the ease of Italian cooking, but pasta is probably my least favorite starch, so I always have to push myself to try more. I'll have to get this cookbook out of the library.

    1. Cecelia, there are plenty of other non-pasta recipes that I think you'd enjoy! Out of the 240 pages, pasta takes up perhaps 20-30 of them. So there are plenty of other delicious things to choose from!

  2. I love Giada's recipes...they often seem so simple yet are so tasty.

  3. I have never seen those wagonwheels before - I will have to check out the supermarket for them.

  4. I'm a big Giada fan and I don't have this book yet. I'm going to have to look into getting a copy. Wagon wheels are such a fun shape.

  5. The wagon wheel pasta looks great! I think the kids would like it :) I love watching Giada on TV, but do not have any of her books yet.

    1. Yes! I think wagon wheels are perfect for the kiddos! :)

  6. I love the wagon wheel shaped pasta! The recipe looks delicious!

  7. I like Giada, too, and would like to take a closer look at this cookbook - will see if my library has a copy.

  8. I think all the libraries are going to be empty of Giada cookbooks! :) Library cookbook sections are such a perfect way to try before you buy -- cook a few things, figure out if it's a book you want permanently in your home. I hope you all check it out & enjoy!

  9. I am a big fan of Giada :) and also i am the biggest follower of her Food Recipes :) God Bless her

  10. Good post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I'd be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Many thanks!

    Check out my webpage: Psn Code Generator

  11. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished
    to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog
    posts. After all I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

    Feel free to surf to my page: Microsoft Office Gratuit

  12. Greetings, I believe your site may be having web browser compatibility problems.
    Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine
    but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some
    overlapping issues. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!

    Other than that, wonderful website!

    Here is my web page :: Dailymotion.Com



Related Posts with Thumbnails