When I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed, there's a little trick I sometimes use that makes me relax in a near instant: turn on an episode of "Barefoot Contessa" starring Ina Garten, a cookbook author, lover of all things Paris, and of course, the Hamptons' very best host.
I'm not sure if it's the easy listening vibes of the show's opening theme song or Ina's serene, sprawling estate (that kitchen! those gardens!), but it's hard not to feel ultra-calm as you watch her effortlessly cook through a handful of recipes — whether she's setting up a laid-back lunch for company or preparing a special meal for none other than Jeffrey himself. (How easy was that, right?)
Speaking of recipes, Ina's are some of the best and most foolproof you'll find on the internet (or in one of her many cookbooks). I turn to them often, for weeknight meals, big dinner parties with friends (those were the days) — you get the idea — and truthfully, not one has let me down. And when I don't want to turn on the oven for dessert, I stock up on her baked goods through Goldbelly. How easy . . . you get the idea.
There are literally hundreds of Ina Garten recipes to choose from, but if you ask me, these are some of her very best.
Ina Garten's best recipes
This one-pan roast chicken has everything we love about a classic Ina recipe: a no-fuss ingredients list, bright and clean flavors (fresh thyme, lemon, garlic), and of course, a clever trick (letting the lemon slices roast with the chicken till they're caramelized and ready to sop up with bread).
Meet what's practically guaranteed to be the best broccoli of your life. It all comes down to the ingredients the broccoli gets tossed and coated with before it hits the oven — a flavor-filled combination of lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, hunks of shredded Parmesan, garlic, and a healthy drizzle of good-quality olive oil.
Ina's super-simple capellini also happens to be one of food writer Alyse Whitney's all-time favorites, too. Calling for just lemon zest, lemon juice, and two sticks of butter (plus salt and pepper), it "remains one of my favorite weeknight comfort recipes as a fellow angel hair enthusiast," she writes.
If this irresistibly moist, meringue buttercream-frosted devil's food cake is good enough for Jeffrey — it does come from the cookbook Ina dedicated to him, after all — then it's 100% good enough for us.
This Genius-approved pasta is Ina's version of a longtime favorite (we're talking over 20 years) from Nick and Toni's restaurant in East Hampton, New York. The creamy vodka sauce gets its rich, highly concentrated flavor from an important technique: roasting the sauce in the oven for about an hour and a half.
Consider this the brownie recipe to end all brownie recipes. Complete with a mix of semisweet and bitter chocolate (over two pounds in total), a few tablespoons of instant coffee to give the flavors extra depth, and chopped walnuts for textural crunch, it checks just about every box we can think of. And should you want to take the store-bought route, you can grab a tray of these brownies along with our other faves from Ina herself via Goldbelly. How easy is that? (Okay, we'll stop.)
I consider myself a macaroni and cheese connoisseur. I've sampled many a recipe over the years, but I always come back to Ina's. There's just something about the crumbly bread crumb topping, lush cheese sauce with Gruyère and extra-sharp cheddar, oh, and the addition of sliced tomatoes — that totally makes it.
Cauliflower toasts might not seem all that appealing on first glance, but as Ina points out in Cook Like a Pro, it's "a highly under-appreciated vegetable." To bring out its flavor, simply roast it. Mixing it with grated Gruyère, creamy mascarpone, and thinly sliced prosciutto doesn't hurt either.
Ina's chicken piccata is a weeknight regular in my house. The chicken itself is juicy and golden-crisp, but my favorite thing about the dish is the pan sauce — a reduction of white wine, butter, and lemon juice (that's also great over spaghetti).
As it turns out, four ingredients are all you need for superlative roasted Brussels sprouts. A quick toss with olive, salt, and pepper and 30 or 40 minutes in the oven, and — voila — a crispy green side dish you can serve with anything from grilled meats to Ina's perfect roast chicken.
Another day, another Ina chicken recipe here to save dinnertime. This one comes together in a flash and is a complete meal, to boot, with crispy, juicy herbed chicken breast perched atop a bed of zingy lemon-infused orzo pilaf. Briny feta and buzzy dill buoy the buttery, rich flavors and perk up the whole dish.
For a show stopping dinner-party main (or a freezer-friendly meal that could feed me for literal months), try out this spice-rubbed, slow-roasted pork. It hangs out in the oven for about six hours, meaning it's largely hands-off; it also won't dare to dry out if you forget about it for a little while, as I am certainly wont to do.
Trust Ina to make vegetables exciting again — this time in the form of crunchy broccoli and vegetal kale, swathed in a creamy Caesar dressing. Top it all with a couple of jammy eggs (they're a must) and a handful of crispy, oily croutons (also essential), and there's a salad that will remain on my forever menu.
A lil' sweet, a lil' spicy, and more than a lil' simple, this very virtuous-looking salmon dinner is also packed full of flavor, Ina-style. Steam some basmati rice using the Contessa's no-fail technique and you're solid.
I've been dreaming about this vanilla brioche bread pudding ever since I watched Ina make it on an episode of Cook Like a Pro (aptly titled "Best in Class") on Food Network. But with a yield of 9 to 10 servings, I might wait till I'm able to entertain again to make it (a more likely scenario: I'll halve the recipe for myself).
And because no Ina Garten recipe list can end without something as simple and satisfying as a grilled cheese, I had to include one here. Be sure to use your favorite, boldly flavored cheddar (Cabot clothbound, anyone?) and a high-quality chutney with a lot of verve (I'm partial to Brooklyn Delhi's Sweet Mango Chutney) for the best results. How easy was that, right?
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