Barefoot Contessa: 3 of Ina Garten’s Best Lunch Recipes for a Crowd

Having friends over for lunch? These Ina Garten recipes are great for serving a crowd. Best of all, they don’t require spending hours in the kitchen because they’re simple Barefoot Contessa dishes.

1. Winter Minestrone

Ina Garten toasts with a glass of wine while she dines with Willie Geist on October 10, 2018
Ina Garten | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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First up is Garten’s Winter Minestrone. Originally featured in Garten’s 2012 cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, it’s a one-pot recipe.

Easily double or triple the recipe depending on the number of guests and let everyone serve themselves for a how-easy-is-that? moment. The most time-consuming part is chopping up all the ingredients. Use a food processor to speed up the process or chop everything up in advance. 

Ingredients for the Barefoot Contessa’s Winter Minestrone: 

  • Good olive oil
  • Pancetta
  • Yellow onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Butternut squash
  • Minced garlic
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chicken stock
  • Bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cannellini beans
  • Small pasta
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Good dry white wine
  • Store-bought pesto
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Here’s how Garten makes her Winter Minestrone soup, according to the Food Network. She heats good olive oil — Garten recommends Olio Santo olive oil — in a big pot on the stove. Then she adds the pancetta and later the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme. After a few minutes in goes the tomatoes, chicken stock, salt, and pepper.

Garten brings everything to a boil before letting it simmer for 30 minutes. The bay leaf gets removed and the beans get added to the pot. Right before serving add the spinach leaves, wine, and pesto. Sprinkle with cheese and serve. 

2. Greek Salad

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This Barefoot Contessa lunch recipe is about as simple as it gets. Make it an hour before lunch or even the day before. Just be sure to add the dressing when it’s time to eat. Plus it’s easy to adjust depending on the number of people. Simply double or triple the recipe so there’s enough for a crowd. 

Ingredients for the Barefoot Contessa’s Greek Salad: 

  • Hothouse cucumber
  • Red bell pepper
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Feta cheese
  • Calamata olives
  • Garlic
  • Dried oregano
  • Dijon mustard
  • Good red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Good olive oil

The Barefoot Contessa starts by chopping the vegetables and the cheese. She tosses everything together in a big bowl. Then she makes the vinaigrette, something Garten thinks everyone should know how to do. Lastly, she tosses the veggies and cheese together with the vinaigrette.

3. Zucchini Gratin 

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This is an OG Barefoot Contessa dish. It first appeared in Garten’s debut cookbook, 1999’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. It’s one of multiple Barefoot Contessa Cookbook recipes that are still popular with Garten’s fans years later.

Ingredients for the Barefoot Contessa’s Zucchini Gratin: 

  • Butter
  • Yellow onions
  • Zucchini
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground nutmeg
  • All-purpose flour
  • Milk
  • Fresh bread crumbs
  • Gruyere cheese

A one-dish meal, Zucchini Gratin can easily feed a crowd. Here’s how Garten makes it. She starts by cooking the onions. After about 20 minutes she adds the zucchini. About 10 minutes later, once the zucchini is cooked, Garten adds the seasonings and flour. Then she slowly adds the milk making the mixture a sauce. 

The Barefoot Contessa pours the sauce in a baking dish. Then she sprinkles the cheese and breadcrumbs on top. After 20 minutes in the oven the Zucchini Gratin is ready to serve.