Giada De Laurentiis' Homemade Twist On SpaghettiOs

Many people remember the excitement that came with opening up a can of SpaghettiOs during their childhood. For millions of developing tastebuds, there was nothing quite like the canned rings of pasta swimming in a tomato and cheese sauce, sometimes accompanied by mini meatballs or hot dog slices. Giada De Laurentiis, admittedly, can't relate. The Italian chef, author, and television star, instead, grew up eating her mother's homemade version of tiny pasta in tomato sauce which she recently showed her fans and viewers how to make.

During a segment she filmed for her YouTube channel, Giadzy, De Laurentiis admitted she had never in her life tasted real SpaghettiOs and that simply having the can in her hand was sacrilegious as a second-generation Italian-American. Upon sampling it, she declared, "I don't taste any cheese here. It needs salt, it needs seasoning; it could be so much better." Naturally, she proceeds to show her viewers just how good a little pasta in tomato cheese sauce can be. Using a homemade sauce and a pasta called gnocchetti, which while technically means mini-gnocchi are not tiny, doughy pillows but small, curled pasta shells.

The De Laurentiis version of SpaghettiOs

Giada De Laurentiis' recipe for her homemade take on SpaghettiOs includes a sauce that, she says, went on everything during her childhood. To make it, she combines garlic, red onion, canned cherry tomatoes, basil, carrots for sweetness, and a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind, an ingredient De Laurentiis calls "the flavor bomb." After the sauce is cooked and pureed, she adds a knob of butter for richness. Indeed, the finished sauce looks like a standard tomato sauce you could use for any pasta dish or on things like eggs, fish, or beans.

She adds cooked gnocchetti to the sauce along with plenty of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Finally, in order to increase the cheese flavor and to give the dish what she calls a nostalgic, throwback feel, De Laurentiis tops her bowl of pasta with shredded cheddar cheese. The finished dish looks like something that any kid (and certainly many adults) would be happy to dive into. If you really want to feel like a kid again, serve yourself a bowl on a tray and sit in front of the television watching afternoon cartoons.

Make it personal

As Giada De Laurentiis shows, a homemade version of SpaghettiOs is pretty simple to prepare. Any tiny pasta shape will do, including silky grattini, stelline (little star shapes), farfalline (little butterfly shapes), or even fun alphabet-shaped pasta. To get as close as you can get to real SpaghettiOs, look for a pasta shape called anellini, which is a small, ring-shaped pasta cut. Your tomato sauce can be just like De Laurentiis' or use your own family favorite, perhaps enriched with heavy cream to make it silky or spiced with chili flakes, sweetened with sugar instead of carrots, or spiked with a little red wine for flavor.

Of course, if you love your SpaghettiOs with meatballs, imagine how delicious adding homemade ones would be. Be sure to roll them up small and brown them in some olive oil first, then you can finish cooking them in the tomato sauce. If you don't want to top yours with cheddar, parmesan would be just fine as would Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, a generous dollop of fresh ricotta cheese, or globs of stringy stracciatella di bufala. It's comfort food and childhood memories all wrapped up into one, but that doesn't mean you can't amp it up in your adult years.