The Recipes That Made Giada De Laurentiis Famous

Some would say that Giada De Laurentiis's popularity began with her first Food Network show, "Everyday Italian." Others might agree that it was her Le Cordon Bleu education and training at the likes of Wolfgang Puck's glitzy Beverly Hills eatery Spago that equipped her with the skills to get to where she is today. Others speculate that De Laurentiis' culinary journey began much earlier, as did her familiarity with the world of showbiz. Regardless of how De Laurentiis became a renowned chef, she admitted to First We Feast that it can all be traced back to three recipes in particular: The almond cornmeal cake, baked rigatoni with mushrooms and prosciutto that wooed Food Network producers, and the all-too-famous lemon spaghetti that caught her audience's attention.

De Laurentiis grew up in a large (and admittedly famous) Italian family, and it was among them that the chef found the early foods and recipes that kickstarted her career. De Laurentiis quickly became beloved for her simplistic Italian cooking that just about everyone could easily whip up at home. "I think the best recipes hinge on their simplicity and the fact that they look pretty and taste good," she told Food & Wine, adding that she aimed to "make Italian food clean and accessible and beautiful and tasty, with simple ingredients that people can find at a local grocery store." And that, it seems, is the essence of the three recipes that are credited for her popularity.

The two recipes responsible for winning De Laurentiis her first cooking show

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu and working at the likes of Spago to build her culinary skills, De Laurentiis decided to venture out on her own with her Los Angeles-based catering company GDL Foods. It all changed somewhere around this time at a Thanksgiving photoshoot for Food & Wine that De Laurentiis styled. The magazine reached out to De Laurentiis to do an article on what brunch with her and her illustrious family looked like, and it was here the two recipes that kickstarted her career were published.

The 2002 article featured several of De Laurentiis' recipes, which caught Food Network's attention, and subsequently offered the chef her first cooking show "Everyday Italian." But among all the recipes, De Laurentiis told First We Feast that it was perhaps the almond cornmeal cake and her baked rigatoni with mushrooms and prosciutto that sealed the deal for the television network. The two recipes were easy to make but also had a distinctive edge to them. "It got me noticed at Food Network," she told the publication, "executives thought the recipes were accessible to the home cook but unique enough to set me apart from everybody else who was already there." A small demo and nine months of work later, the first episode of "Everyday Italian" aired — all thanks to a sweet almond cornmeal cake and some baked rigatoni.

The case of the lemon spaghetti

Once De Laurentiis' two recipes had wooed Food Network execs enough to green-light her first cooking show, the next step was for her to come up with a dish that would catch the viewer's attention. As it turns out, a bit of lemon, a handful of spaghetti, a generous shaving of parmesan, with a touch of Sicily was all it took, for her lemon spaghetti — first featured in an episode of "Everyday Italian" — to quickly become perhaps the most famous recipe in her long and successful career.

De Laurentiis was sailing across the Sicilian islands over 10 days with her aunt in 2003, and it was there, on a modest shack at a beach, that she took a bite of fresh lemon spaghetti. "It had to have been one of the best dishes of my life, probably because it was so simple and so incredibly decadent in a way," she admitted to First We Feast, reminiscing that she felt an inexplicable urge to cook the dish herself. "It took months to get the measurements right, but it's now one of my most famous dishes," she added. So famous, in fact, that the lemon spaghetti remains the most ordered item at her Las Vegas restaurant GIADA. Considering the fact that simplicity has always been at the core of De Laurentiis' cooking, it only seems fitting that it was a no-frill recipe like lemon spaghetti was primarily responsible for putting her on the map.