‘Barefoot Contessa’: Ina Garten Has a Time-Saving Hack For Two of Her Favorite Dishes

Ina Garten has been cooking simple meals for decades. The Barefoot Contessa star took her talents to Food Network back in 2003, but she’s been cooking her best recipes far longer than that. Way back in 1978, Garten opened up a specialty foods store, where she honed her cooking skill. And over the years, she’s developed plenty of tricks for keeping her dishes easy — including using the same quick hack for two of her favorite recipes.

Ina Garten smiling behind the counter
‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten says cooking is ‘so hard’ for her

When Garten was growing up, she didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. The Food Network star always had an interest in cooking, but her parents wanted her to focus on her studies. With that, Garten didn’t hone her cooking skill until much later in life. When she married Jeffrey in 1968, she was finally able to experiment in the kitchen.

Garten cooked challah as one of her first recipes, and she learned all of the cooking basics from Julia Child’s cookbooks. Still, even after cooking thousands of recipes over more than 50 years, Garten doesn’t think cooking is easy. She once revealed to PBS that cooking is “so hard” for her. However, she said that her lack of professional skill has been a blessing in disguise, since it helps her better relate to her audience of home cooks.

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Ina Garten has one time-saving trick for two of her favorite dishes

Garten has discovered plenty of hacks during her years in the kitchen. She’s figured out how to take simple ingredients and turn them into something incredibly flavorful without much additional work. And when it comes to saving time, she has a few tricks up her sleeve as well.

In an interview with Epicurious, Garten revealed that she uses one trick for saving time and effort with both her meatball recipe and her risotto recipe: Utilize the oven.

“Instead of frying them [turkey meatballs] in a sauté pan, where you’re standing over the hot stove, you roll them and put them on a sheet pan in the oven, and all you have to do is set a timer,” Garten said.

It turns out the same thing goes for risotto. “… Like risotto, where you’re standing there pouring in stock and stirring and wondering, ‘Am I putting in too much or too little?’ … Instead, you put everything in one big Le Creuset pot and you put it in the oven and set a timer.” Garten said that the purpose of these quicker, easier methods is not only to save time but also to eliminate stress in the kitchen.

Ina Garten’s creative process can take several years

Garten doesn’t cook recipes perfectly in one shot — at least, not often. It usually takes her quite a while to perfect a dish. Though some recipes can be made perfectly in only a few tries, there are others that take Garten as many as 10 or even 25 tries. And when it comes to her Boston Cream Pie, Garten spent years nailing the recipe. She finally included it in her most recent cookbook, “Modern Comfort Food,” which she released in 2020.