Giada De Laurentiis has pasta in her blood. Years ago, her grandfather, legendary Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis, ran Italian restaurants in New York and Beverly Hills. While other kids frolicked on playgrounds, De Laurentiis hung out in her nonno's kitchens. After graduating from famed Le Cordon Bleu International Culinary School in Paris, she moved back to L.A., where she eventually opened her own catering business. Today, the 34-year-old chef shares her family recipes on Food Network's Everyday Italian (Saturdays, noon/ET) and in her new best-selling cookbook of the same name. TV Guide: What makes Everyday Italian different from all of the other cooking shows on TV?
Giada De Laurentiis: I've created recipes and simplified them with ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. It's fine to use marinara sauce from a jar — if that's the only way I can get you into the kitchen. TV Guide: Italian cooking isn't exactly low-cal, but you look amazing. What's your secret?
De Laurentiis: Portion control. I eat everything, but I eat small amounts of everything. And I do outdoor activities like hiking and biking. TV Guide: With the current Atkins, no-carb craze, do you find yourself having to defend Italian food?
De Laurentiis: Yeah. People don't realize that pasta isn't the only thing Italians eat. We eat a lot of vegetables, chicken, meat and fish. Everyone looks at me and asks how I stay so thin when I eat all that pasta. But I don't always eat pasta. TV Guide: What is your first memory of food?
De Laurentiis: It would probably be in the kitchen with my mother. She used to make us these Parmesan crisps, and I'd help her put little mounds of them on a cookie sheet. My mom would give each of us a task. TV Guide: Does your husband, clothing designer Todd Thompson, help in the kitchen?
De Laurentiis: He doesn't cook. He's from the Midwest and he grew up on Chef Boyardee ravioli. He loves his fast food, but he does appreciate my cooking. TV Guide: What's his favorite dish of yours?
De Laurentiis: The penne alla vodka. And the chicken saltimbocca that has prosciutto and spinach in it. TV Guide: What is your ultimate guilty-pleasure food?
De Laurentiis: Chocolate cookies and brownies. I make cookies and I freeze them. Peppermint Patties, I adore. And plain old Hershey's chocolate chips — I eat a handful.