Giada De Laurentiis Makes Her Quesadillas With An Italian Twist

Made from just two ingredients, tortillas and cheese, quesadillas originated in Mexico but have become popular throughout the U.S. and beyond. They can be made with meat, beans, vegetables, salsa, and a variety of additions. While variations on the theme aren't necessarily authentic, there's something about the simplicity of the idea that lends itself to experimenting with flavors. Easy to make for a quick meal or snack, there's no limit to all the tasty stuffings that are excellent between melty cheese and toasty flatbread. 

On an episode of her Food Network show, "Everyday Italian," Giada De Laurentiis shared her unique twist on quesadillas by blending Italian ingredients into a delicious fusion with Mexican cuisine. She makes hers using regular flour tortillas, but the similarities to what you'd eat in Mexico or the American Southwest end there. Where traditional quesadillas are usually made with Oaxaca cheese, De Laurentiis takes a sharp turn towards Italy by replacing it with fontina cheese. Its flavor is nutty and sweet, with a creamy and dense texture, and it melts extremely well. Along with the fontina, she also uses grated parmesan cheese.

Next, she caramelizes onions in sugar and layers them on top of the cheese. She adds a bed of roasted red peppers straight from a jar, and another layer of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley. But her biggest and possibly tastiest addition? She slips in prosciutto or salami.

Use Italian meats and cheeses for a different flavor profile

In an interview with Refinery 29, Giada De Laurentiis discussed her and her daughter's love for quesadillas as a quick go-to dinner. She also drops a couple of tips for further Italianizing the dish. The first is to add more than one cheese. You could opt for the aforementioned fontina and parmesan or come up with your own suitable blend — for example, asiago and burrata, or classic mozzarella and pecorino. Ricotta cheese doesn't melt like regular cheeses, but its soft and creamy texture would work here too. 

For heartier fare, she also includes Italian cold cuts, like prosciutto or salami. And if your prosciutto is clumping together, just follow Ina Garten's tip for working with sticky prosciutto and pop it into the microwave. You may be surprised to learn that some prosciutto (specifically prosciutto crudo) is raw — it's just cured in salt. Its sweet, salty, and hammy flavor is perfect in a quesadilla where it will get slightly cooked while heating. Prosciutto cotto, on the other hand, is already cooked and has a lighter flavor.

Salami is also a cured meat made from pork, and there are many different types. Whether pungent with garlic or spicy with peppercorns, the rich and fatty taste of salami pairs nicely with melted cheese.

Mexican food that tastes just like Italy

To make your own version of a crossover-dilla, think of what goes into your favorite Italian dishes and how you can incorporate those ingredients into a cheesy folded tortilla. Are you a pizza lover? Mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, green bell peppers, and black olives would all be lovely here, served with pizza sauce on the side for dipping. As you might imagine, if it tastes good inside of a calzone or stromboli, it will probably work in a quesadilla too.

Or how about Caprese salad? The fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil used to make one could easily double as ingredients for a satisfying vegetarian quesadilla, perhaps with a balsamic vinegar glaze drizzled on top.

Try making a garlicky pesto from fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Spread the paste on a tortilla and layer with mozzarella, more parmesan, spinach, and fennel sausage for a truly Mediterranean take on the Latin American favorite.