A Kitchen Table, an Easter Deadline and Family Cookbook author and TV personality Giada De Laurentiis has been having a hard time buying a new table for her renovated kitchen — and her deadline is Easter. She reflects on the decision and how, for her, the kitchen table signifies family.

A Kitchen Table, an Easter Deadline and Family

A Kitchen Table, an Easter Deadline and Family

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5340767/5341018" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Cookbook author and TV personality Giada de Laurentiis. Victoria Pearson hide caption

toggle caption
Victoria Pearson

Giada De Laurentiis has been having a hard time buying a new table for her renovated kitchen -- and her deadline is Easter. She reflects on the decision and how, for her, the kitchen table signifies family.

De Laurentiis hosts the Food Network show Everyday Italian and is the author of two cookbooks. The latest one is Giada's Family Dinners (Clarkson Potter, April 2006); recipes are excerpted below.

Pizza Rustica

Victoria Pearson

This is not really a pizza; it's another version of Easter Pie (a rich, baked cheese pie found in bakeries all over Italy), this time a savory one. Every region in Italy has a different version. This is great to have on hand for lunch or snacks during the holidays when unexpected guests drop by because it can be served warm or at room temperature, and you can reheat individual wedges as needed. To save time, you can make this with store-bought pastry dough.

8 to 10 servings

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta cheese

1⁄3 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 large egg yolks

1 recipe pastry dough (recipe follows), chilled

All-purpose flour, for dusting

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)

4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped

4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni

4 ounces thinly sliced salami

1 (10- to 12-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained

1 large egg, beaten

Position the rack on the bottom of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Squeeze the spinach to drain off as much liquid as possible. Heat the oil in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the spinach and saute until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Blend the ricotta, 1⁄3 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and the egg yolks in a food processor, until smooth.

Roll out the larger dough ball on a lightly floured work surface to a 17-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle half of the spinach mixture over the bottom of the dough. Sprinkle 3⁄4 cup of the mozzarella cheese over the spinach. Spread half of the ricotta mixture (about 1 cup) over the mozzarella cheese. Arrange half of each of the prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami atop the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 3⁄4 cup of the mozzarella over the meats. Arrange half of the roasted peppers in an even layer over the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining spinach mixture over the peppers. Sprinkle 3⁄4 cup of the mozzarella over the spinach. Spread the remaining ricotta mixture over the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the remaining prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami over the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 3⁄4 cup of mozzarella cheese over the meats. Arrange the remaining roasted peppers over the cheese.

Roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch round. Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the doughs together to seal. Using scissors, trim the edge of the dough to 1⁄2 inch. Fold the dough edges in, creating a decorative rim atop the pizza. Brush some of the egg over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake on the bottom rack until the crust is brown on top and around the sides (cover the top with foil if it begins to brown too quickly, before the sides are brown), about 1 hour.

Let the pizza stand until just warm, about 2 hours. (It can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm the pizza in the oven, if desired, or serve it at room temperature.) Release the pan sides and transfer the pizza to a platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pastry Dough

2 crusts

3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1⁄4 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces

3 large eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed

Blend the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Blend in the eggs. With the machine running, add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, with 1 piece twice as large as the second piece. Flatten the dough pieces into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes (and up to 1 day).

Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Fennel

Victoria Pearson

Lamb in Italy represents spring and renewal, so it's traditionally served at Easter. This is a relatively inexpensive way to make lamb for a large group.

6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

3 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (6-pound) bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat

1 3⁄4 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 1⁄2 cups dry red wine

Using a mallet or heavy rolling pin, crush the fennel seeds in a resealable plastic bag. Transfer the crushed fennel seeds to a small bowl. Add the butter, rosemary, and garlic, and stir to blend. Season the butter with salt and pepper.

Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the lamb in a large roasting pan. Pat the lamb dry with paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Rub half of the butter mixture all over the lamb. Refrigerate the remaining butter mixture. Roast the lamb until it is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Decrease the heat to 350 degrees and continue roasting the lamb until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 135 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the meat but not touching the bone, about 45 minutes longer. Transfer the lamb to a platter and tent with foil to keep it warm.

Skim as much fat as possible from the pan juices, then pour the broth and wine into the hot roasting pan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and stir to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the juices reduce by half, about 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Gradually whisk in the remaining cold butter mixture. Season the juices to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the juices to a sauceboat. Using a large sharp carving knife, carve the meat into thin slices and arrange on plates. Spoon some of the juices over the meat and serve.

Holiday Salad

This is a salad my Aunt Raffy makes for every holiday including Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's a wonderful combination of flavors and a dish that will always remind me of holidays with her.

6 servings


Juice of 1 lemon

6 medium Belgian endive, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch circles

1 large green apple, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 ear of corn, cooked and kernels removed, or 1 cup defrosted corn kernels

6 ounces Gruyere cheese, diced into 1-inch cubes

1 avocado, diced into 1-inch cubes

1 large pomegranate (optional)


1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

To make the salad

Place half the lemon juice into a large bowl. Add the endive and apples and toss to coat to prevent them from turning brown. Add the corn and cheese, and toss. Drizzle the remaining lemon juice over the avocado cubes and add them to the salad. Cut the pomegranate in half, if using, and carefully remove the seeds. Sprinkle the seeds over the salad.

To make the dressing

Place the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.

Just before serving, toss the salad with enough dressing to coat. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.