Saturday, August 13, 2016

Happy Cooking - Cookbook Review + Recipe

Happy Cooking by Giada De Laurentiis

When I first was learning how to cook Giada De Laurentiis was one of the first chefs I "met" through Food Network.  She balanced out the heavier cooking of Paula Deen who was also big at the time and plus who doesn't love pasta?  The more I've cooked and experimented the less fond of Giada I got.  She has lots of cookbooks and lots of recipes but frankly most of the ones I made were on the underwhelming.  "Fine" and "okay" are not how I want dinner described!

But every once in awhile one of her recipes will be amazing and become an instant favorite and that is what keeps me picking up Giada's books - though I tend to pull them off library shelves than bookstore shelves now.

Happy Cooking is a little bit of a departure from her usual cookbook.  While her previous books leaned more toward more either family style meals or cooking for entertaining this book feels more personal.  This is the food you want to make at home when you need to detox a bit from a spell of really rich food.  The recipes lean towards the simpler side in terms of preparation.  Most foods are steamed or baked or sauteed in just a drizzle of olive oil.  There's even a chapter on eating clean

There are a ton of recipes in this book.  2 or 3 on every page along with tips, suggestions, and anecdotes from Giada's own life. The photography is lovely but it's mostly Giada herself about to take a bite of something and not much of the actual finished product of the recipe.  The chapters range from breakfast, to main dishes with different levels of preparation times, snack and small plates, soups, salads, sweet treats, and the usual pasta chapter that is always in her cookbooks.  Some of the recipes that caught my eye are Orzo Salad with Fresh Citrus and Red Onion, Corn Fritters with Cherry Tomato Salsita, and a pizza crust that sounds delicious.  There's even some heartier dishes that I think my whole family would like such as - Italian White Bean, Pancetta, and Tortellini Soup, Skirt Steak with Pistachio Gremolata, and Stuffed Chicken Parmesan.  But there a lot of recipes I don't think I would get much use out of.  A lot of recipes are centered around mussels or clams and there is a lot of fish.  There is also a LOT of swiss chard and the darker greens which while good for you aren't necessarily a crowd pleaser.  There is also risotto in every imaginable form.  I could probably go 2 weeks and not repeat a risotto recipe.

So like I usually am with Giada, I'm torn on this book.  It's pretty to look at and there are a number of recipes that sound appealing but there's also a lot that are definitely not for me.   And even the ones that I find appealing aren't necessarily recipes I would consider family friendly.  This would be a book I'd definitely get if J was on a business trip for a couple of weeks and I would indulge myself with risottos and orzo salads but not one I'd use much if he was here.  It's definitely a cookbook worth checking out but I think the intended audience is pretty specific so you may want to go check it out at the library before purchasing.

There are a couple of recipes I'm planning on trying and interestingly enough they both involve tortellini!  The Tornado who is currently in the running for pickiest eater is in love with tortellini and it's one of the few foods he'll not only eat willingly but looks forward too.  Today I thought I'd share Giada's recipe for Brown Butter Tortellini because brown butter is just delicious!

Brown Butter Tortellini

1 (9 oz) package fresh cheese tortellini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (the higher the fat content the better it tastes)
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed (I'll probably leave this out and just serve it with a a salad)
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus more from serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the tortellini and cook for 1 minute less than the package directions, about 7 minutes.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter, then cook until the solids begin to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.  You may have to scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the brown bits from the bottom; keep an eye on it.  It should smell nutty and appear golden brown, not black.

When the butter is browned, add the cooked pasta, the peas, and salt to the skillet and toss gently to coat in the butter.  Add about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, the dill, lemon zest and juice, and cheese.  Cook for another minute, stirring gently to coat the pasta evenly and adding the remaining 1/4 cup pasta water if needed.  Serve topped with more cheese if desired.

Sounds pretty good right?  For me this is the kind of recipe that Giada really excels at.

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. Giada is one that sometimes her stuff looks good but not all the time for me. I do like her as a host on Food Network Star though :) My husband is a picky eater so I have a hard time with most cookbooks because I can't make a lot and this sounds like one of them unfortunately!

  2. I liked her previous cookbooks better than this one. And better than her last one come to think of it. She seem to take a departure in the writing and while I like many of her recipes, this one wasn't a favorite. It's well laid out though and has lots of good photos,

  3. I've never been fond of her or her cooking. I have enjoyed her somewhat on Food Network Star.

  4. I've watched Giada on and off but never really got into her recipes. I watched her again yesterday and she made a salmon dish. I really don't like salmon, but I think I might like it they way she did it, so I plan on making it soon.

  5. I received this cookbook as a Christmas present and loved it. There are a number of re pies I have made over and over again.

  6. OK, you convinced me. I'll never buy a book by this author! Useful review.

    thanks!... from mae at

  7. Good review. I actually have pretty good luck most of the time with Giada's recipes and got this book at Costco a while back. I have only made the Artichoke Risotto with Feta and Herbs from it so far, which was really tasty. But I do know what you mean about cookbooks that have a lot of recipes you wouldn't use. Since I stopped eating meat/poultry a few years ago, I tend to look for books with lots of fish and veggie recipes which makes this and her previous cookbook Giada's Feel Good Food more appealing to me than some of her previous books. ;-)

  8. I have similar feelings about Giada. I like to watch her but her food seldom appeals. However, I will give this tortellini recipe a try. It sounds good.

  9. Terrific review! I like the sound of the brown butter tortellini. :)

  10. Sounds like a fantastic pasta dish. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  11. I remember her from back in the day, but only a few of those recipes I tried. As she evolved over the years she seemed a little arrogant based on her behavior on TV Network Stars, I didn't feel warm and fuzzy. Still she is a beautiful and talented woman, so I would love to give this book a try. Great review! Hugs...

  12. I know exactly what you mean by Giada's recipes. Even when a recipe attracts my attention, the results are usually just okay. Nice review!

  13. I seem to feel that way about a lot of cookbooks these days. I thought she was good as a judge on Food Network Star. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book.

  14. I love brown butter anything! This recipe sounds quick and delicious. Be prepared because Sebadtian is still a picky eater. Ugh. Maybe he will eat this. Thanks again for sharing a recipe. :)

  15. I have not read any of her cookbooks, but have watched her periodically on the Food Network. My favorite episodes are when she is in Italy and takes us on a tour of the local markets.

    This sounds like a book I might enjoy from the library. Thank you for the honest review.