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The Boston Globe

Food & dining

Simple weeknight meals from Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis

Amy Neunsinger

WHO 

Giada De Laurentiis 

WHAT 

The host of Food Network’s “Giada at Home’’ and best-selling cookbook author tapped into her own family life for her latest book, “Weeknights With Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner.’’ The book gives simple recipes that she prepares for her husband, fashion designer Todd Thompson, and daughter Jade, who was born in 2008.  

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WHERE 

De Laurentiis will appear at 11 a.m. at Williams-Sonoma in Copley Place. 

Q. How did your own life at home inspire this book?

A. I think what happened is that Jade grew up a little bit and started to eat regular food and I started to find that it got more difficult keeping her interested in mealtime. I found that having her help me and having different themes during the week helped keep it creative and fun, so that dinnertime became something fun to look forward to rather than something kind of boring. So that’s how this book was inspired and that’s kind of the main theme - that you don’t cook the same thing over and over and over, because it just isn’t that appealing and it makes it very difficult for kids to keep interested in eating and mealtime. So there’s things like breakfast for dinner, which is one of Jade’s favorite themes of the week, where I make pancakes and things that you usually find for breakfast.

Q. Beyond practicing variety, what lessons do you hope people take from the book?

‘I found that having [daughter Jade] help me and having different themes [for meals] during the week helped keep it creative and fun.’

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A. I tell people that you can make pasta but just try to change up the shapes and the flavors of the pasta. If you get different-shaped pasta, then you can try out brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, all sorts of different ones. Make sure the flavors are different, but always keep it similar to what kids already are familiar with. You don’t want to go off the deep end and do something totally off the charts, because they probably won’t want to taste it. One night’s meal can be served alongside something else the following night.

Q. You were born in Rome, and raised in California. Were you brought up in a spaghetti and meatballs household or did you have more authentic Italian fare?

A. Spaghetti and meatballs? On occasion on the weekends, but I wouldn’t say that was a regular weeknight meal for us. We had eggs for dinner. A lot of people don’t realize but we, as Italians, didn’t eat a lot of eggs for breakfast, so eggs were usually a dinnertime meal. And we had a lot of pasta dishes because pasta’s something that you can whip up very quickly and is also great as a leftover. We ate a lot of fish because you can cook it quickly on a weeknight. We also had our fair share of meat, usually veal or pork, which is more traditional in Italy than beef is. Leftovers were huge for us. If my mom made a pasta dish one night, the next night she’d add eggs to it, fry it up in a pan - that was our dinner. She was really good at creating meals out of things that were left in the fridge.

Q. Did any of her recipes sneak into the book?

A. Yeah, in my “Breakfast for Dinner’’ chapter, I have a crispy breakfast pita pizza. Basically instead of having pizza dough, we would grill pita bread and then put a little mascarpone cheese, a little arugula, Canadian bacon if you wanted to, and then she’d put a fried egg right on top of it.

Q. You’re so busy with your family, the show, the book, touring. Be honest, do you have a personal chef?

A. I don’t, but I do have two lovely ladies who help me with Jade who help out with the cooking. So I just kind of leave my cookbooks out and Jade and her dad pick out recipes the night before that they’d like to have for dinner the next evening. And the ladies that help me with Jade basically shop while she’s in school and make those recipes. So it kind of feels like I’m still home, even when I’m not.

Interview was condensed and edited. Glenn Yoder can be reached at gyoder@globe.com.
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