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Seasonal and simple: Giada shares easy-to-make summer dishes

Giada De Laurentiis, Al Roker and Tamron Hall cook on TODAY on July 14, 2014.

Giada De Laurentiis shows how you can take advantage of fresh ingredients with easy-to-make summertime dishes, including a kid-friendly "pirate" pasta and a Mediterranean salad with couscous and veggies.

Pirate pasta

Serves 4 to 6 

  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 8 oz. mushrooms (such as cremini, button or shiitake), sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1 (10-oz.) can or 2 (5-oz.) cans tuna in olive oil (such as Tonnino), drained
  • 1/2 cup (about 18) medium green olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite (about 8 to 10 minutes). Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Place the pasta and 1 cup of cheese in a large bowl, and toss until coasted. 


In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms begin to brown (about 5 to 6 minutes). 

Add the tuna, olives, tomato paste, capers, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Using a wooden spoon, break up the tuna into 1-in. pieces. Add the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the garlic and discard. 

Pour the tuna mixture over the pasta, and add the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and the basil. Toss until coated, using the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve. 


Little thimbles sciue sciue

Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) ditalini pasta (thimble-shaped pasta) or another small tube-shaped pasta, such as elbow macaroni or pennette
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 5 plum tomatoes (about 1 lb.) or any type of tomatoes in season (like heirloom cherry tomatoes), chopped 
  • 8 oz. cold, fresh mozzarella, drained and cut into 1/2-in. cubes
  • 8 large, fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped 

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often to prevent it from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite (about 8 minutes). Drain. 

Meanwhile, in a heavy large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the tomatoes and sauté just until heated through (about 2 minutes). Add the cooked pasta.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the cheese and basil, and toss to coat. Season the pasta with salt, to taste. Spoon the pasta into small serving bowls and serve immediately. 


Mediterranean salad

Serves 6

  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-lb. box of Israeli couscous (or any small pasta)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bing cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted 

In a medium saucepan, warm 3 tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the couscous and cook, stirring often, until toasted and lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Carefully add the stock and the juice of 1 lemon, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until the couscous is tender but still firm to the bite (about 8 to 10 minutes). Drain the couscous. 

In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the remaining olive oil, the remaining lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper and let cool.

Once the couscous has cooled to room temperature, add the fresh herbs, quartered cherries and almonds. Toss to combine, and serve.