Ina Garten has many passionate fans—the editors here at Simply Recipes included. Her cookbooks featuring simple, yet elevated recipes are beloved, as is her deep appreciation for a good cocktail. I myself rely on her ridiculously moist chocolate cake recipe for just about every birthday celebration and haven’t stopped making her spicy prosciutto-flecked turkey meatballs ever since I watched her rolling them on the Food Network over a dozen years ago.
Trent Pheifer, however, isn’t your average fan. He started his Instagram account @StoreBoughtIsFine back in 2015 and between then and March 2022, has cooked every single one of Ina Garten’s 1,272 recipes from her cookbooks and television show, Barefoot Contessa. Pheifer has no plans of slowing down anytime soon—he’s currently cooking his way through Ina’s latest book, Go-To Dinners.
“Picking my favorite 10 is fraught and constantly changing! There are too many great options,” says Pheifer. His top picks, however, are hard to argue with. The list features timeless comfort foods like spicy linguine fra diavolo and fried chicken sandwiches as well as crowd-pleasing sweet treats like coconut cake and chocolate Oreo ice cream. While Trent’s list of favorite recipes continues to evolve, here are his top 10 at this very moment, in no particular order.
Mashed potatoes are typically a humble, albeit ultra-cozy affair. Leave it to Ina to up the ante. “Ina is a master at taking a simple recipe and turning it into something special. Just when I thought I couldn’t love mashed potatoes more, she adds truffle butter for a creamy, dreamy rendition that’s requested by friends and family every Thanksgiving!” says Pheifer.
“The homemade arrabbiata sauce makes this one! It’s a dish that was so good the first time I made it, I turned around and made it immediately again. Something that rarely happened while cooking through nearly 1,300 recipes. Double the batch of panko breadcrumbs—you’ll want to put them on everything.” Store them in an airtight container at room temperature and they’ll stay nice and crunchy for a couple of days. Sprinkle them on salads, soups, and beyond.
If Oreo ice cream is your go-to, you’ll fall head over heels for this decadent, upgraded version. “Luscious milk chocolate ice cream enhanced with Cognac and vanilla with chunks of Oreo. How can you go wrong?” says Pheifer. If you’d rather not splurge on Cognac, any brandy will do. Just don’t skip it because it’s the key to making this ice cream ultra creamy. The alcohol ensures it doesn’t over-freeze and harden.
“Farro is by far my favorite grain and this is my favorite salad in all of Ina’s repertoire. This recipe is inspired by the version at the New York City Italian restaurant of the same name and is packed with good things like arugula, cherry tomatoes, radishes, and pistachios. I love bringing it to potlucks as it holds up relatively well and is a hearty, healthy vegetarian-friendly dish—something often lacking at potlucks,” shares Pheifer.
Any cake that comes together without having to turn the oven on is a winner in our book. “This is the ultimate low-effort, high-reward dessert. The delicious layers of frozen mocha cream sandwiched with store-bought chocolate chip cookies is a crowd-pleaser that I make at least once a year,” Pheifer says.
“Hands down the Ina recipe I make most often,” he proclaims. “It’s such a simple, yet delicious dish that even a cooking novice can pull off and feel like a chef! You’ll be licking the plate after finishing these tender chicken thighs with the crispiest skin that are slathered in a Dijon crème fraîche sauce.” Serve the chicken over rice, mashed potatoes, or just with crusty bread to ensure you catch every bit of the sauce.
“There is one ingredient for which I always say store-bought is not fine, and that’s ricotta!” says Pheifer. “Once you realize how easy it is to make and how much better it is than packaged versions, you’ll never go back.” Here, homemade ricotta is slathered on toast and topped with a sweet and savory combination of roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions.
This pillow-plush coconut cake is kissed with almond and vanilla and stacked with tangy cream cheese frosting. “There’s a reason this is one of Ina’s most popular recipes!” Pheifer exclaims. “I was never a big coconut cake fan but changed my opinion with one bite of the moist sponge and oh-so-creamy frosting. I like to make additional frosting and cut the layers in half for my ideal frosting-to-cake ratio.”
Leave it to Ina to make a fried chicken sandwich nothing short of showstopping. “Inspired by Shake Shack’s chicken sandwich, this will likely be my last meal on earth,” says Pheifer. “Delightfully crisp buttermilk fried chicken is topped with bibb lettuce, pickles, and creamy buttermilk herb mayo, then sandwiched inside a pillowy potato bun—sign me up!”
“If I had to pick just one of Ina’s recipes as my favorite, it’d be this,” Pheifer says. “I mean how can you go wrong with sausage and pasta in a cream sauce? For all those fearful of fennel, this is the dish that will change your mind.” The fennel is chopped and cooked until it’s super soft and lightly caramelized, lending sweetness to each forkful of pasta.