Giada De Laurentiis will freely admit that she’s smiling a lot more these days, and one of the reasons is her boyfriend of 2½ years, Shane Farley.
“Shane’s a lot of fun. He’s very spontaneous and loves to laugh,” the Food Network star, 47, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “It’s one of my favorite things about our relationship.” And her guy is equally smitten. “Giada is one of the most positive people I have ever met,” says Farley, 45, a TV producer. “She’s warm and absolutely beautiful—what you see on the outside is there on the inside as well.”
The couple met in 2013 after Farley was hired to produce a talk show with De Laurentiis and her close friend Bobby Flay. The project never panned out, but a romance flourished after the chef and mom to Jade, 9, had a chance to “rest and reset,” as she puts it, following her split from fashion designer Todd Thompson in 2014.
“After I got divorced, I spent about a year and a half alone, not dating, just figuring things out. I had been with Jade’s dad for 25 years. I didn’t know what it meant to not be married,” she says. “Once I got settled, [Shane and I] reconnected and I felt like a kid again.”
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Juggling dating with being a working single mom means De Laurentiis has learned when to ask for help. “What’s helped me be successful is being okay with knowing I can’t do it all. I have a wonderful team of people around me that help me every day,” she says. “Getting along with my ex-husband really helps as well. We’re supportive of each other and, in turn, supportive of Jade.”
Farley and Jade have also formed their own relationship. “Jade has got two amazing parents, so I can be a part of her life without any pressure,” Farley says. “I really enjoy hanging out with her.”
- For more on Giada De Laurentiis, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
And when mother and daughter are together, De Laurentiis cherishes their time, especially in her primary domain: the kitchen. “I bought Jade a little purple ceramic knife and she just loves it. She’s like ‘What can I chop? What can I cut?’ It makes her excited about what she’s going to make, and then she’s more apt to actually try new things and eat her dinner,” says De Laurentiis, who spent a month in Rome with Jade to shoot her upcoming cookbook, Giada’s Italy.
Enjoying meals together, like the chef’s farro and white bean minestrone (recipe below) or her lasagna bolognese—is another chance to bond, with each other as well as with Farley.
“When we sit down to dinner, it is our time as a family to sit and chat,” De Laurentiis says. “I believe in no distractions, no television, no getting up, no phones, no nothing. It’s just us.”
Giada De Laurentiis’ Farro and White Bean Minestrone
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
½ large (6 oz.) yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium carrots (4 oz.), cut into 1/2-in. pieces (3/4 cup)
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-in. pieces (1/3 cup)
1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 cup uncooked pearled farro, rinsed and drained well
4 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 (4-in.) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
1 bay leaf
1 (15-oz.) can small white beans, such as cannellini, drained and rinsed
1 (14-oz.) can cherry tomatoes, drained
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add onion, carrots, celery, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
2. Stir in farro, combining it with vegetables and coating it in oil. Add broth, water, cheese rind, bay leaf, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high; reduce to medium-low, and simmer 12 minutes.
3. Stir in beans and tomatoes; continue to simmer an additional 15 minutes. Remove and discard cheese rind and bay leaf.
4. Remove from heat; stir in basil and lemon juice. Ladle soup into 6 serving bowls. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and drizzle with olive oil.
Active time: 55 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes