Giada’s easy recipes for holiday entertaining

While it's often referred to the most wonderful time of the year, the winter holidays can often be very stressful! Throwing a party but want to avoid much of the hassle? Try these three recipes from TODAY contributor and star chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Sweet basil cheesecake
Servings:

Yields four servings

Ingredients

    • Butter for greasing the pan
    • 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of ricotta cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/3 cup, or 3 ounces, of goat cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
    • Pinch fine sea salt
    • 1/2 packed cup chopped fresh basil
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • Assorted crackers

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom and sides of a 4.5-inch diameter springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with a piece of heavy-duty foil. Place the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, and goat cheese in a food processor. Pulse until mixed. Add the sugar, egg, egg yolk and salt and blend until smooth. Add the basil and pulse until incorporated. Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan in an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking dish. Pour enough hot water in the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 50 minutes until the cheesecake is golden at the edges and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the cheesecake will become firm when chilled). Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for one hour. Remove the springform pan from the baking dish and remove the foil. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least three hours and up to two days. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature before serving, about 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the cheesecake with extra virgin olive oil and serve with assorted crackers.

Whole wheat pita chips with mascarpone and chive dipping sauce
Servings:

Yields four to six servings

Ingredients

    • 4 whole wheat pita breads, halved
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
    • 4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, finely chopped
    • 1 cup, or 8 ounces, of mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
    • 3/4 cup sour cream
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut each pita half into four wedges. Arrange the pita wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with the oil, then sprinkle with the oregano, salt and pepper. Bake for five to eight minutes until crisp and golden. In a medium bowl, combine the bacon, mascarpone cheese, sour cream, and chives. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl. Arrange the pita chips and dip on a platter and serve.

Garbanzo bean and olive tapenade
Servings:

Yields four to six servings

Ingredients

    • 1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 cup pitted black olives, such as Kalamata
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
    • 3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Belgian endive leaves, crudite

Preparation

Baking Directions:

In a food processor, combine the beans, olives, oil, parsley, lemon juice, honey, lemon zest, rosemary and salt. Blend until smooth. Spread the tapenade onto Belgian endive spears or serve as a dip with crudite.

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