Giada De Laurentiis' Best Cooking Tips For Home Chefs

Who doesn't love Giada De Laurentiis? The sweetheart of onscreen Italian cooking offers an image of perfection, with her impeccable manicures and 1000-watt smile. And it's no surprise! Giada is descended from a famous Hollywood family: Her maternal grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, is credited with exporting Italian cinema not just to the U.S. but to theaters around the world, according to Nicki Swift. Her mother Veronica took up the Hollywood torch, working as an actress, while her dad and brother worked as producers. Even though Giada has told outlets like Food & Wine that she never intended to follow in the footsteps of her famous family, it seems like Giada was destined for the screen!

But her culinary persona isn't just smoke and mirrors. According to her bio on the Food Network, she trained at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris before gaining acclaim on the small screen. Her bestselling cookbooks are beloved by home cooks across the country and worldwide, with both "Giada at Home" and "Weeknights with Giada" gracing the coveted number one spot on The New York Times' list of bestsellers, according to The Kitchn.

And as it turns out, her beautiful Italian dishes and charismatic, relaxed allure are totally attainable for the home cook! She's shared countless tips and tricks to help you reach culinary perfection — or, as she would say, perfezione.

1. Shop smart for ingredients

Any good chef knows that a great dish starts not in the kitchen but the grocery store. And this holds particularly true for Italian cuisine, which is built on a bedrock of phenomenal ingredients. These ingredients are usually simply assembled to show off their innate qualities, Simone Scipioni, a "MasterChef" Italy winner, tells Italics Magazine.

To help home cooks cultivate this sense of elevated simplicity, Giada offers loads of tips for stocking your pantry with only the best essentials. On her site, Giadzy, she offers her take on Italian staples from balsamic vinegar (including a guide to her all-time favorite brands and bottles) to spicy Calabrian chili paste, which she puts on everything from pizza to eggs to a vinaigrette.

Unsurprisingly, given Giada's attention to detail regarding ingredients, she has a lot to say about tomatoes, AKA a stalwart staple of many Italian favorites, from soups to sauces. Not only did she produce a video taking viewers on a step-by-step tour through the tomato aisle of her local Italian grocer, she even crafted an easy-to-use shopping guide of her favorite tomato brands and products.

2. Don't be afraid of anchovies

Growing up, if you were a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" fan, you've probably got the phrase "hold the anchovies" seared into your brain. And we get it! Not only is Michelangelo a charismatic sort of guy, but anchovies boast a strong flavor and a slightly odd texture, described by some as hairy, furry, smelly, and oily, as per Good Food. We get it if they're just not your thing.

But — and hear us out — what if they were?

According to WebMD, the humble anchovy is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in essential, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, not to mention calcium, thanks to the presence of the tiny bones that give them their unique texture. A veritable superfood, they're also far more approachable if you use them not as the recipe's star but as a supporting act (via Giadzy). Giada extols the virtues of the little fish, which, she notes, are rich in umami and offer a sharp, salty taste that bumps up the flavor of a dish. Chopping them up super fine or even puréeing them can reduce any textural woes. So, too, can buying them in a paste form or as an oil known as colatura, which allows you to add only their essence to dishes. Maybe even the turtles would be on board!

3. Cook spaghetti in a tall pot

If you want to piss off an Italian on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook ... show them a video of you breaking spaghetti. Lionfield is just one pair of content creators that have made a name for themselves by reacting to videos of spaghetti torture, and it seems no torture is more, uh, torturous than someone breaking spaghetti in half.

Look, we get it. It can be hard to fit the stiff strands into one pot. This is why Giada offered the ideal solution: cooking spaghetti (and, for that matter, other long noodles like linguine and bucatini — the oddest of pandemic shortages) in a tall pot of generously seasoned boiling water. It's an investment, for sure, to add another pot to your kitchen arsenal, but the payoff is worth it, according to the chef. No more standing in wait, prodding at the noodles until they're wholly submerged. Instead, you get a perfect al dente pasta every time — and have no more fear of retribution from angry Internet Italians.

4. Jazz up store-bought marinara sauce

One thing that makes Giada so wonderfully approachable is that she knows that folks don't always have the time, energy, or, frankly, the desire to cook from scratch every night. She's awesome at providing easy recipes kids will love on her website (inspired by her daughter, Jade) or shortcuts that take store-bought essentials to the next level.

Case in point? Her approach to store-bought marinara sauce. On her site, Giadzy, she approaches the conundrum with no snobbery, instead choosing to embrace the ease with which a store-bought marinara can help you get dinner on the table in a snap. Offering an easy-to-follow list of possible tweaks — including adding garlic, onion, reserved Parmesan rinds, fresh herbs, Calabrian chili paste, or even butter — she crafts a guide to help you turn the ho-hum store-bought sauce into something extraordinary. And above all, she recommends that cooks at home taste their sauce and decide which, if any, tweaks are best for them.

(And if you want to make your pasta that much better, here's one last trick straight from Giada herself: Toss the cooked pasta with Parmesan before adding the sauce. It'll really kick it up to the next level.)

5. Use a cast iron for the perfect steak

Cooking steak at home can certainly feel a bit overwhelming, but Giada has the perfect tips to ensure success every time. Chief among them? Choosing the right pan. Giada recommends cooking steak in cast irons, which, Organic Authority reports, gets and stays hotter than many other materials. The result, according to Giada, is that picture-perfect, crusty sear on the outside of your steak and a beautiful, juicy rare or medium-rare within.

On her website Giadzy, she recommends treating the cast iron pan "like a grill." She points out that we usually coat the protein in oil and not the grill racks when we grill meat. The same concept applies while searing in a cast iron. You want to brush oil onto your steak and then put it into the hot pan. And since cast irons retain much more heat than nonstick pans, you will be able to get that nice sear.

6. Use a meat carving fork for perfectly plated pasta

If you've been feeling major FOMO as you scroll through plates of pristine, perfect pasta on Instagram, never fear: Giada has got a tip for you. While shorter kinds of pasta are a bit easier to plate with grace, it's unsurprising that merely tipping long, cooked strands of spaghetti into a bowl result in a slightly haphazard look. And it turns out it's easy to make order in the pasta chaos as long as you arm yourself with Giada's secret weapon: a meat-carving fork.

According to a video produced for Giada's site, Giadzy, the double prong of this particular fork makes it perfect for plating pasta. All you have to do is twirl the pasta around the tines of the fork, and then use a spoon (or, if you're not yet that practiced, a ladle!) to transfer the pasta to your serving dish. It may take a bit of practice to perfect, but once you do, you'll be serving up 'gram-worthy portions of pasta for sure.

7. Don't toss out your stale bread

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food waste is a pervasive problem worldwide, with about 1/3 of the world's food lost or wasted every year. It's no surprise that every little step in cutting back on food waste counts. And Giada certainly does her part! 

In addition to saving Parmesan rinds, which she tells EatingWell she loves to use to amp up the flavor of sauces, broths, and soups, she also offers quite a few time-tested solutions to the problem of stale bread. Indeed, the Italian cuisine of her background naturally provides quite a few delicious recipes, ranging from Panzanella salad, which turns stale toasted bread into massive croutons primed for soaking up the vinaigrettes, to warming ribollita, a traditional Tuscan soup that uses stale bread as a thickener. Thanks to these and other tips ranging from croutons to breadcrumbs, you'll never throw out stale bread again!

8. When entertaining, plan ahead to reduce stress

When it comes to entertaining a crowd, things can quickly go from fun to frantic. But Giada knows how to help. First on her list of entertaining tips is perhaps the most important — and it happens long before guests arrive at your house. "My tip for taking the stress out of holiday cooking would be plan, plan, plan," she tells Today. It's a tip intended for the holidays, but it applies to any gathering, big or small. "Plan your menu, prep in advance, and make as much as you can two days in advance."

Picking the menu, doing all of the shopping, and crafting a list of things to accomplish in the days leading up to your dinner (think: marinades, make-ahead desserts, and more) is sure to help. You could decide which serving platters you're using for which dishes in advance, marking them with Post-Its so you're not grasping at straws (or, uh, takeout containers) the day of.

9. Accept help from friends to avoid becoming overwhelmed

Giada's second entertaining tip is just as important as her first: don't do it alone. When you have friends over for dinner, chances are they're all going to ask some version of the same question. This includes "What can I do?", "What can I bring?" and "How can I help?". Instead of refusing their offer, embrace it!

Giada doesn't just ask for help; she actually assigns tasks to those in attendance so that she knows what parts of the meal or gathering are covered. "I tell people what to make in my family," she tells People. "I sort of know what their strengths are." This holds just as true for friends who don't know a sauté pan from a crockpot. Those who use their ovens as extra shoe storage can be counted on to supply other things, like great store-bought bread (which Giada always asks her brother to supply,) a cheese or crudité platter, wine, or even flowers. And feel free to get creative with your requests. Do you have a friend who has their favorite takeout spot on speed-dial but makes a mean margarita? Ask them to shake cocktails for a pre-dinner tipple! Asking people to contribute something they're proud of, Giada says, "empowers everybody."

10. Eat everything in moderation

When Giada first started on the Food Network, she got a lot of flack for her petite frame and the fact that she never really seemed to be eating her food. But according to an interview with Health, the secret to her svelte silhouette is moderation. "I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything," she says. "I know that's really hard for people to understand, but I grew up in an Italian family where we didn't overdo anything. We ate pasta, yes, but not a lot of it. Pasta doesn't make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat."

Her most recent book, "Eat Better, Feel Better," delves into this philosophy, particularly at a time when years of on-set snacking has begun taking a toll on her wellbeing and body image (via People). In a conversation with Today following the release of her book, she admitted that she was "snacking on all the wrong foods — lots of sugar, caffeine, pre-packaged snacks — basically anything that I thought would give me energy to get through the day." But she felt unwell because of it.

When trying to eat healthily, Giada recommends paying attention to your digestion, eating loads of veggies (and even eating vegetarian once or twice a week), and limiting things like desserts and simple carbs.