Italian Sensation Giada Valenti Returns to Pittsburgh

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photo_bioBy Nicky D Cooks

Italian-born singer and songwriter Giada Valenti will be performing in Pittsburgh on Sunday, April 7 at the Cabaret at Theatre Square.

She is returning to our city with her new show called, “From Venice With Love.”  In this show, Giada will be taking her audience on a romantic musical journey by performing quintessential love songs from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s accompanied by her own “All Men Band.”

Since Giada was coming to Pittsburgh, I wanted to know more about this amazing performer. I already know that she has an incredible voice—her rendition of Se from Cinema Paradiso is phenomenal.

You can see from her social media pages that she is a world traveler, loves her family and adores her fans. But there has to be more to her other than what you see on the internet; I was convinced of this.

Recently, I was able to connect with Giada and learned that, yes, she is more than just a performer. She is a very kind, humble individual who not only has the gift of song but she loves to eat. Giada is an adventurous gastronome who has a weakness for Nutella. My kind of foodie!

Giada was born in a town outside Venice, called Portogruaro and currently lives in New York City. Like many Italians, food plays a big part in her life.  She told me “in Italy we often say people eat to live, we in Italy, we live to eat…and it is so true!”

About her family, she tells me that “we can talk for days about food and recipes, the food needs to taste well or we don’t eat it.”

Giada does have a hectic travel schedule, so she tries to eat healthy while doing so. She loves her carbs, so pasta is a must for this Italian native. But how can a bonafide foodie be a world traveler and look this amazing?

She tells me that “being on stage I really need to stay in great health and shape, so I always try to eat healthy food.”

“I try to eat fresh (food), fruit and vegetable that are in season,” she adds. “I eat meat with moderation especially red meat—no more than once a week, and a lot of fish. Being Italian, bread and pasta are a must on the table. I eat them always for lunch, always whole wheat, so I can burn the carbs during the day, in small portion with delicious light sauces.”

She further tells me that she likes pasta with (fresh) vegetables because “it is very healthy, Pasta or Risotto con Pirelli (short pasta or risotto with peas) is another one of my favorites.”

I asked Giada if there are certain Venetian dishes that she misses most. She confessed that “polenta with Fegato alla Veneziana (polenta and liver Venetian style) … and the sweet cookies that we make for Carnival in Venice like Frittelle and Crostoli or Gubbana for Christmas” are the ones that she misses most.

However, Giada confesses that when she does go home her mom will make all her favorite dishes.

“I have so many she knows I love, and honestly nobody can make them as delicious as she does,” she says.

Giada has a sweet tooth and professes her love for Nutella.  She has loved this chocolate hazelnut spread since she was a child. In fact, she has it twice a week.

“My ultimate comfort food is Nutella!,” she says. “Nutella with bread and a cappuccino—my perfect way to start the day, and I even make pizza with Nutella for dessert. I just love it.”

Giada is a talented singer and songwriter, has sung around the world to sold-out audiences and has two best-selling CD. Yet, this talented artist still likes to cook her own meals when she is home. She says that she does not get to cook much because of her schedule, but it is something that she loves to do when she can. She especially loves to cook recipes from her Grandmother Maria.

I asked her if she could share something about her style of cooking, a piece of kitchen wisdom that she knows would be helpful to the rest of us. Being the generous person that she is, Giada was quick to share this tidbit of information: fresh herbs.

The way Giada cooks and the key to her cooking is by using fresh herbs. She says, “to give flavor to food we use a lot of fresh herbs, especially sage and rosemary and basil, this simple trick saves us from using a lot of salt.”

There is the cliché that love is the secret ingredient in many of the Italian women’s cooking, Giada is no exception. She cooks with love and she sings about it as well. “I love to sing and put my whole heart on it. I love to cook and when I do it I put my whole heart into it too. I love my life and I live it with love.”

Finally, I asked Giada to share a recipe for the blog and she was more than happy to.  She is sharing her recipe for Homemade Gnocchi and White Fish filet with Hazelnuts and Peppers. These dishes are simple, yet are favorable. The gnocchi can be used with a variety of sauces; the possibilities are endless and are limited only by your imagination and tastes. The fish is a simple pan-fried dish that will pair nicely with some hearty leafy greens as a salad. Both of the recipes that Giada provided are healthy, light and are perfect for the spring and warm weather cooking that is coming.

A big thank you to Giada for sharing these recipes, Grazie Giada!

I hope that you enjoy it.

Mangia Bene,


Please be sure to check out Giada Valenti in Pittsburgh

From Venice With Love, featuring Giada Valenti

Sunday, April 7 at 7:30PM

Cabaret at Theatre Square

655 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

For more info, videos and music samples please visit Giada’s websites here below:

Gorgonzola gnocchi from Il Baretto.Gnocchi Recipe

Gnocchi (pronounced NYO-kee) is for sure one of my favorite dishes. They are dumplings made of potatoes and flour. I’ve learned to make them when I was a child with my mom and grandma. They are easy to make, healthy and delicious. You can serve gnocchi with any of your favorite pasta sauces, or even with a simple sauce of melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese. One of my favorite sauces for gnocchi is also the traditional “ragu di carne,” tomato sauce with meat!

The key to making good gnocchi is to use dry, mealy potatoes like Russets. And we want to keep the potatoes as dry as possible, which is why it’s better to steam them rather than boiling them. (See note below)


  • 2 pounds whole Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (one mid-size potato per person)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra flour for dusting) (two little spoons per potato)
  • 2 eggs (one every two mid-size potatoes). For a lighter version of Gnocchi, and still super delicious, you can skip the eggs!!
  • Sea salt for the cooking water.

1.     Steam the potatoes in a large soup pot with a steamer insert, or steam basket, for 30 to 40 minutes or until they can be pierced with a knife.

2.     Pass the cooked potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer. We do it this way rather than mashing them by hand because it’s really important to achieve a smooth, uniform texture. And whatever you do, don’t put the potatoes in a food processor, as this will make them too gummy. They can also be smashed with a fork… Like they did in the old days!!

3.     Turn out the cooked potato mixture onto a lightly floured surface, and add about half of the flour. Knead until you have a sticky mass and keep adding flour a little at a time until the dough is smooth. You won’t necessarily use the whole amount of flour. Add the eggs too.

4.     Cut the dough into smaller sections, and roll each piece into a long cylinder about ½ inch in diameter. Then cut each cylinder into individual pieces about ¾ inch in length.

5.     Fill a large pot with water and generously salt the water with a good handful of sea salt. The water should taste like seawater. Bring the water to a boil.

6.     Meanwhile, shape the gnocchi by pressing each piece between your thumb and the tines of a fork, using a slight rolling motion. One side of the gnocchi should have the imprint of the fork and the other side a small indentation from your thumb.

7.     When the water comes to a boil, drop the gnocchi into the water. In about two minutes, the gnocchi will float to the surface of the water. Let them cook about fifteen seconds more and then skim them out with a slotted spoon.

8.     Drain the gnocchi well and serve immediately topped with a basic tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese, or with any of your favorite pasta sauces.

  • This recipe makes 4-6 portions of gnocchi.

Note: You can boil the potatoes for gnocchi, like if for some reason you don’t have a steamer basket or colander. But if you do, boil them whole, and leave the peels on so that they don’t absorb a lot of water. Too much water will make the gnocchi gummy rather than fluffy. Once the potatoes are cooked, let them cool just long enough so that you can handle them, and then peel and proceed with Step 2 above.

Fish with peppersWhite Fish filet with hazelnuts and peppers

This is a very delicious and light recipe my mom shared with me a while ago and I just loved it!!! Easy to make, healthy and light!!

  • 1 fillet of white fish (fresh or frozen) in Italy we use St. Pierre filet
  • fine chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 yellow peppers
  • bread
  • parsley
  • white wine
  • oil
  • salt
    • Let the fish filet soak in water and a little bit of milk in the fridge for a few hours. If you use frozen fish filet, thaw the white fish in the fridge to soak in a bit of water and a drop of milk the night before.
    • Cut the peppers into thin strips and brown them in a pan with a little olive oil.
    • Bread fish fillet in the chopped hazelnuts and put it to cook in another pan oiled with olive oil and add a handful of extra fine chopped hazelnuts
    • Add to the pan with the fish, 2-3 slices of bread to brown.
    • Turn the fish over the side before the chopped hazelnuts burn and finish cooking.
    • Add a handful of parsley to the peppers and add some white wine. Cook till the wine is evaporated.
    • Cover the fish with the sautéed peppers and the toasted bread and serve.

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