Ina Garten Shares Her Favorite Budget-Friendly Recipe Ideas

Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten enjoys cooking for her husband Jeffrey as well as throwing impressive dinner parties, but not everything she whips up is elaborate or expensive. During a recent interview, she shared some of her favorite budget-friendly recipe ideas that are simple and inexpensive but still special.

Ina Garten and Seth Meyers on Late Night With Seth Meyers
Ina Garten and Seth Meyers | Lloyd Bishop/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Barefoot Contessa shares her favorite inexpensive meal ideas

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many people have been hit hard financially, so keeping meal costs down is a priority. During an interview on NPR’s 1A, Garten was asked, “Any suggestions for some budget-friendly holiday meals?”

“Certainly you can make mac and cheese and it’s just delicious if you make the real thing, not out of a box,” Garten answered. “You’ll be really surprised how incredibly special something like that can be.”

She continued, “Any kind of pasta is really very reasonably priced to make. Make canned tomatoes and all kinds of spices and you make like a pasta arrabbiata, something like that’s very reasonable.”

“My parmesan chicken, which I do with parmesan and bread crumbs and just saute it and serve it with a salad with lemon vinaigrette on the top. It’s a very inexpensive meal … and it’s just great,” she added.

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Ina Garten’s penne arrabbiata recipe is budget-friendly and full of flavor

Garten mentioned pasta arrabiata as one inexpensive option for a beautiful meal. It’s got a handful of ingredients that make a fresh-tasting and flavorful pasta dish with red sauce.


  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup whole peeled garlic cloves (24 cloves) 
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes 
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds, chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine, such as Chianti 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves, plus extra for serving 
  • 1 pound dry penne rigate
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving 

Peel the garlic by first blanching it in boiling water for 15 seconds “and then you’ll see the skins just slip right off,” she demonstrated on the Barefoot Contessa cooking show.

Warm the olive oil over medium-low heat in a pot, then add the garlic and cook it for 10 minutes, until tender and lightly browned.

Drain the tomatoes and add them to a food processor, pulsing until roughly chopped. Add the garlic after removing it from the oil with a slotted spoon and pulse it to chop. Add the tomato mixture to the oil, then add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, red wine, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in the basil leaves.

Boil the pasta according to the package’s directions, but remove it from the water when there are two minutes of cooking time left, adding to the sauce to continue cooking. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water to the sauce and simmer it for two to three minutes until the pasta is done. Garten explained how the pasta water actually thickens the sauce, though you would imagine it would “water it down.”

Serve the pasta with basil and parmesan cheese.