Mar 27, 2012 • By

A million-dollar recipe

The audience at “The Martha Stewart Show” at the Peabody Orlando Hotel, and watching at home, held their breath this morning as Christina Verrelli of Devon, Pa., was announced as the $1 million grand prize winner of the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

Verrelli’s winning recipe in the contest was Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream, in the “Sweet Treats” category.

After the show, Verrelli said the pumpkin was a bit of a tribute to her father.

I attended the news conference following Stewart’s show, where Verrelli walked into the room beaming from ear-to-ear. She told reporters she had tried several other fillings or dips before settling on pumpkin for her winning recipe.

“It turned out really well,” she said, as reporters laughed.

Her first attempt, out of three that she made at the contest yesterday, was the one she submitted to the judges.

“I wanted to get it to the judges before they were tired of tasting,” Verrelli said. (Here’s a video clip with one of the judges, talking about Verrelli’s winning recipe.)

Verrelli said she’s been cooking for many years and remembers reading cookbooks as a child. “It’s just always really interested me … I guess it’s paid off!”

Her recipe, along with the other 99 from this year’s Bake-Off, are available at BakeOff.com. You also can purchase the Pillsbury Classic Cookbook, featuring all 100 recipes, on newsstands until April 26.

It was great to experience my first Bake-Off over the past few days. And to see the happiness on the faces of all the category winners and finalists was a great way for it to come to an end here in Orlando.

Here’s a video highlight reel that captures the spirit of the contest.

Congrats to all the finalists and winners!