I am a huge Ina Garten fan. Huge. When my sister and I were growing up, her Food Network show, Barefoot Contessa, was one of those rare things we never argued over. We didn't do much "cooking" as teenagers, but I think we liked Garten herself. Through the show, you really get a glimpse of the hostess' lifestyle with all of the visits from friends and family — including her husband Jeffrey, who I feel like I know on the level of a best friend's dad because of his regular appearances. My mom must have noticed my obsession, because nearly every Christmas for the last 10 years, she has given both me and my sister Garten's latest cookbook.
What I love about the Barefoot Contessa is how soothing and practical her cooking advice is. Her theory is that the freshest, best ingredients you can find make for delicious meals. Makes sense. Also, she's sort of like a scientist, trying and trying the recipes for us until she figures out the perfect formula. She makes cooking seem approachable, and she makes entertaining seem like a cinch, even to those of us (like me!) who might not be super confident in the kitchen.
All of her cookbooks provide great recipes and advice, plus they warm the heart — which is why I've compiled 11 of her crowd-pleasing winter recipes that I have used on more than one occasion. These recipes come from all of her cookbooks, and I swear they will have you saying, "How easy is that?" just like the Barefoot Contessa herself.
1. Perfect Roast Chicken
Want to look like a culinary genius, but don't want to waste quality bonding time in the kitchen at a gathering? This perfect roast chicken recipe is your go-to. Garten's highest rated recipe for a reason, her roast chicken has that homey, mouthwatering smell that will have your dinner guests at hello. Plus, you can do the prep work before people arrive, so you can mingle. (The Barefoot Contessa would approve of that.)
2. Linguine with Shrimp Scampi
Oh, wow. Seriously, this slightly spicy, buttery, lemony dish is freaking awesome. It seems complicated, but watch the four-minute tutorial video... I swear, Garten will inspire you to make this pasta tonight. If you do all the chopping and measuring beforehand, it comes together in a flash. A good go-to for impressing a new boyfriend or girlfriend!
3. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Healthy, salty, and addictive, these roasted Brussels sprouts are the best vegetable I've tried. Like, ever. With only four ingredients and very little prep work, they are super easy to pop in the oven while something (or someone) else cooks. Be a rockstar with this side-dish — Garten has found the perfect formula so you can relax and know the results will be fantastic.
4. Roasted Salmon With Herbs
If you want to add some omega-3's to your diet, but don't necessarily love the taste of salmon on its own, this Barefoot Contessa at Home salmon dish is for you. The fresh herbs cut through the oiliness of the salmon, and it's certainly a dish you can feel good about. It brightens up even the dreariest of winter evenings. Also, you're in for a lovely, bright smell experience after chopping these fragrant herbs.
5. Mushroom Lasagna
Mmmm, comfort food. I love this Barefoot Contessa mushroom lasagna recipe because of the short ingredient list and lack of tomato sauce (I'm not a tomato person). Plus, if you're like me and you only have time to cook once or twice a week, this meal will last and last. The leftovers keep well, freeze well, and taste seriously amazing. I think the secret is the nutmeg, but I'm no Contessa.
6. Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
This smart, yummy salad is not exactly a winter recipe, but it's such a winner I had to include it. Roasting the tomatoes adds a ton of flavor, and how can you go wrong here? I mean, mozzarella cheese? Basil? This salad could easily stand on its own with the addition of some chicken or shrimp, but it also works well as a chic side-dish that doesn't take much assembly. And it's so, so good.
7. Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash
OK, this one takes maybe a teeny tiny bit more skill than the others, but I had to put the recipe on here because it is one of my all-time faves. Butternut squash is such an amazing winter veggie, and the addition of the saffron makes this dish feel sumptuous — like a luxurious blanket you can wrap yourself in after a tough winter day.
8. Herbed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney
Garten recently gave fans a peak at this fab and flavorful dinner recipe from her 2014 cookbook Make It Ahead on Today.com. If you are looking for something a little different, try this — it's sweet and savory, and it warms you to the core.
9. Roasted Asparagus
Asparagus seems so plain, so predictable. Not with the Barefoot Contessa, it isn't! This fantastic recipe kicks it up a notch. I swear, every time I make it, it is the thing on the table that people rave about — and there are only six ingredients. And it takes like, no time. Pair it with, well, anything. It's even a good brunch staple.
10. Green Beans with Shallots
Another great Barefoot Contessa classic veggie side that will satisfy even your pickiest dinner guest/family member/roommate, string beans and shallots is a recipe that is cheap, simple, and easy to memorize. The shallots add a nutty, salty flavor that is pure deliciousness. Make it once by the recipe and you'll have it down.
11. Tri Berry Crumbles
Glamour magazine divulged this scrumptious dessert recipe from Garten's new cookbook Make It Ahead. Berries are my fave in the winter, because the frozen ones taste just as amazing as the fresh ones. And this dessert has so many healthy ingredients, it's practically guiltless. (So I tell myself.) Do what the Barefoot Contessa says, and pair it with Haagen Dazs ice cream. You deserve it.
Image: Reprinted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Copyright © 1999 by Ina Garten. Photographs copyright © 1999 by Melanie Acevedo. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
Image: Reprinted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style. Copyright © 2002 by Ina Garten. Photographs copyright © 2002 by Maura McEvoy. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC
Image: Reprinted from Make it Ahead. Copyright © 2014 by Ina Garten. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC