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Video: Giada’s best make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes

  1. Closed captioning of: Giada’s best make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes

    >>> this morning, "cooking with giada de laurentiis ." the last time we saw giada we were on inner tubes in barbados for "where in the world" when things took an unexpected turn.

    >> someone was not very nice. look at that!

    >> i can't believe that! and then you got on the inner tube and we were supposed to go off into the sunset.

    >> yes, except you decided not to go.

    >> we don't need to go back over this. anyway, giada is back --

    >> i have bruises from that.

    >> let's talk about this. these are great recipes, you can make them a couple of days before thanksgiving and in some cases they get better.

    >> all of these get better the longer they sit.

    >> food for vegetarians.

    >> butternut squash lasagna. i cook it in water, salt and pepper for 20 minutes . put the lid on until it gets tender. you don't want to roast it because you want it to be smooth.

    >> when you roast it you get the dark spots.

    >> it changes the flavor. you put it in the food processor and add three amerete cookies. have you ever had these in.

    >> i have. are these for texture and taste in.

    >> a little bit of texture and taste. they're slightly sweet, made of sugar, egg whites and almond. most italian gourmet stores have them. if you can't find them a little bit of cinnamon and nuts and puree the whole thing together like this until it's nice and smooth.

    >> okay, fine. tell me about the sauce here.

    >> traditional italian cream sauce , butter, flour and milk. it's all about the stirring. it thickens like this.

    >> starts to stick to the whisk.

    >> correct. someone's done this before. y

    >> you put that in another blender.

    >> a bunch of basil and you can add the nutmeg.

    >> you make it ahead of mine, make this today, pop this in the freezer or the fringdge?

    >> no, bake it off and leave it in the fridge and reheat it. there we go. you puree this with all the base nil it. you're making a basil cream sauce .

    >> now it's layering time.

    >> and then you dump it back in here, you got to dump it back in here, and then you start layering.

    >> you're using no cook lasagna noodles?

    >> no boil lasagna noodles. you take these no boil lasagna sheets and put them on top of sauce. you need a lot of liquid and moisture to cook these guys. so then you take some of the puree and put it on each one of the lasagnas. keep going.

    >> we've done the layering and when it comes time to put it in the offen?

    >> 375 and that's what it looks like. 40 minutes, cover it with tin foil so traps the humidity and moisture, take the tin foil off for another 15, add more cheese and that's what it looks like.

    >> next a roasted root vegetable salad.

    >> pearled onen i don'ts, car the ros and par snip. put it in the oven 400 degrees for 20 minutes and flip them over another 20 minutes and this is what you get. what i do is i make, i prep everything but you don't assemble it until right before you eat it. arugula, sliced pears, walnuts and apple cider vinaigrette.

    >> couldn't be easier.

    >> when you're ready to eat, take everything together, it looks colorful and beautiful.

    >> describe this. red pepper cheesecake, appetizer.

    >> savory appetizer. put apricot jam.

    >> giada , thank you so much. happy thanksgiving.

TODAY recipes
updated 11/18/2011 4:28:05 PM ET 2011-11-18T21:28:05

Recipe: Butternut squash lasagna

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (1 1/2- to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 amaretti cookies, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet, then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree to taste with more salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Spread one third of the squash puree over 3 lasagna noodles. Arrange noodles, puree side up, atop the sauce (the noodles will expand as they bake). Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Active preparation time: 25 minutes

Inactive preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes


The no-boil lasagna noodles can be substituted with fresh spinach lasagna sheets. Look for fresh lasagna sheets in the refrigerated section of specialty markets.

Serving Size

Serves 8 to 10

Recipe: Roasted root vegetable salad

  • 18 red pearl onions, peeled
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/3-inch wide pieces
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch wide pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (5-ounce) bag baby arugula
  • 1 ripe pear, halved, cored, cut into thin wedges
  • Apple cider vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Apple cider vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For apple cider vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk first 4 ingredients until blended. Gradually whisk in the oil.

For the salad: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the onions, carrots, and parsnips. Add the oil, herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper; toss to coat evenly. Scatter the vegetables on large nonstick rimmed baking sheet; roast for 20 minutes. Turn the vegetables over and roast until tender and beginning to brown, for 15 to 20 minutes longer. Set the vegetables aside. In a salad bowl, combine the arugula, pear slices and roasted vegetables. Add the dressing and toss until coated. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts and serve.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Inactive Prep Time: 15 minutes

Serving Size

Serves 6; vinaigrette yields about 2/3 cup

Recipe: Red pepper cheesecake

  • 4 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 2 jarred roasted red bell peppers cut in thin strips and halved (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 pitas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the outside of  a 4 1/2-inch springform pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. Place the ricotta, cream cheese, and goat cheese in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the sugar, egg, and salt and pulse a few times until well mixed and thick and creamy. Stir in the red pepper strips with arubber spatula. Pour the cheese mixture into the springform pan.

Place the springform pan in a roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden at the edges and the center of thecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold.) Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To make the pita chips, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the pitas into 8 triangles each (like a pie). Drizzle the triangles with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until crisp and golden, about 12 to 15 minutes.

To serve, combine the jam and the water in a small bowl and stir until the jam is liquefied. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and place on a serving plate. Drizzle the jam mixture over the top of the cheesecake. Serve the pita chips alongside.

Serving Size

Serves 4 to 6

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