Ina Garten Reveals Her Biggest Secret to Cooking an Easy Meal

Ina Garten has been hosting her Food Network show Barefoot Contessa for nearly 20 years. In that time, fans have learned a slew of cooking secrets from the culinary professional, who spends most of her time diving into recipes that her husband, Jeffrey, always loves. Garten has plenty of secrets, but her trick to keeping a meal simple doesn’t actually involve the kitchen.

Ina Garten
Ina Garten | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Ina Garten’s culinary career stems from her love for science

Garten was born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in Stamford, Connecticut, where she was always itching to help her mother in the kitchen. Garten had an interest in science, and her ability to learn easily made her not only a good student but also a curious cook. According to Good Housekeeping, Garten excelled in her science classes growing up, and she translated that knowledge into learning various recipes.

Despite her love for cooking, Garten’s mother wanted her to focus on her schoolwork and often dissuaded her from helping out with meals. Later on, after finding success with cooking, Garten revealed that she meticulously measures her recipe ingredients, which stems from her interest in scientific equations.

Ina Garten
Ina Garten | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

RELATED:‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Still Uses the Same Olive Oil Brand 20 Years Later — ‘I Use It for Everything’

Ina Garten has one big trick to keeping a recipe as simple as possible

Throughout her show, Garten has enlightened millions of viewers on easy ways to find success in the kitchen. When it comes to simple meals, Garten starts with her grocery list — and that’s her biggest trick. “I generally don’t use unusual ingredients that you’ll only use once,” Garten told Bon Appétit in 2018. “… There’s no point in having a recipe you can make in 30 minutes if you takes you two hours to shop for it.”

When it comes to easy meals, the ingredients list should be just as simple. Garten typically cooks using staples that can be found at any grocery store, as opposed to going to three different specialty stores. (Though she does like to support small, local business for items such as meat and seafood.)

RELATED: ‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Says We Should Throw Out This Kitchen Tool ‘Every So Often’

Here’s what Ina Garten keeps in her pantry  

Garten’s pantry is full of ingredients she believes everyone should have on hand. She cites mustard as one of her “favorite ingredients” and prefers both Dijon and whole grain. Garten also always has marinara sauce on hand (specifically, Rao’s), as well as Lindt chocolate. “I always use bittersweet chocolate,” Garten told Bon Appetit.

Olive oil, Texmati rice, and various “nutty” grains also line her pantry shelves, along with pasta. “I most often used De Cecco pasta, which I think is really good quality,” she said. Finally, Garten’s pantry isn’t complete without good quality maple syrup. “Maple is a great autumn flavor. It goes with pumpkin. It goes great in salads as part of a vinaigrette. It’s sweet, but it’s also smoky.”