Imagine sitting on a bench in Rome as a cool autumn breeze dances across your face. Then imagine taking a deep breath and inhaling the smells of hearty stews and richly sauced pastas cooking away in a rustic kitchen.
Sounds pretty heavenly, right?
That's what it feels like in Italy this time of year, but you don't have to fly to Europe to taste the flavors of an Italian-style fall. Instead, take a page from Giada De Laurentiis and whip up a seasonal feast with some of her favorites. As a TODAY show regular, De Laurentiis has showcased plenty of meals that celebrate the best of the season with fresh produce and comforting spices.
Here are nine of De Laurentiis' best fall recipes that pay homage to the celebrity chef's home country.
Pasta is a versatile base for playing with any seasonal produce. In this recipe, the culinary expert sautés butternut squash and pairs it with Italian sausage for a slight spiciness that's balanced by bitter, wilted arugula. Every bite will be more delicious than the last.
Sweater weather calls for salad — bread salad, that is. This dish has all the flavors of a classic chicken cacciatore in a tender and juicy package. Plus, the side dish is made right alongside the chicken so it's truly an all-in-one meal. What could be better for a family dinner on an autumn evening?
Agrodolce translates to "sweet and sour" in Italian. This quick, weeknight fix is a favorite De Laurentiis' daughter Jade. The bone-in pork cooks in a rich sauce of garlic, balsamic vinegar, honey, cracked pepper and is topped with pomegranate seeds.
Comforting yet not overpowering, this nutty dish shines with earthy cremini mushrooms, leeks and sweet peas. As an added bonus, it's very hard to overcook and it reheats well as leftovers. Who's up for a second helping?
Fall is synonymous with football. And even though most Italians are following fútbol (aka soccer), De Laurentiis knows how to whip up one killer game day feast. Make baby back ribs with spicy plum sauce the star of the show during Sunday night football ... or any other day of the week. It will be a touchdown for sure.
Hosting an autumn brunch? Strata is a layered casserole similar to quiche or frittata, made with eggs, heavy cream, bread crumbs and mozzarella cheese. De Laurentiis' seasonal variation has crumbled breakfast sausage, spinach and honey crisp apples that become soft and even sweeter when baked.
It wouldn't feel like the seasons were changing without a beef stew slow cooking in the Crock-Pot on a cold, cozy night. This recipe has all the ingredients of the classic dish but instead of mirepoix (the carrot, onion and celery base of many stews), she uses kabocha squash, sun-dried tomatoes and Marsala wine. It won't disappoint.
This recipe involves a whole bottle of wine, 5 pounds of bone-in short ribs and just one pot. Accompanied by a side dish of cheesy polenta and the helping hands of Jade, this dinner had both Carson Daly and Hoda Kotb saying it was their "favorite meal ever" when De Laurentiis made it on TODAY.