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The Store-Bought Essentials Ina Garten Uses In Her Favorite Recipes

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Who doesn’t want to be a little more like Ina Garten, or the Barefoot Contessa as we all know her, while cooking up our favorite meals? The cheerful chef makes any recipe look easy — especially when she relies on one of her favorite mottos: “store-bought is fine.” 

Now that’s she’s back with another season of her Food Network series Cooking Like a Pro, Garten focused her first episode of proving just how fine those ready-made ingredients can be while cooking up three of her favorite recipes. But before getting started, she also clarified exactly what she means when she talks about grabbing food from the grocery store instead of slaving away to whip it up yourself: “I’m not talking about going to a grocery store, buying a really bad birthday cake, and claiming you made it yourself. What I’m saying is, you can use ingredients from the store — like pound cake or vanilla ice cream — that are just as good as homemade.” 

She backed that up moments later by using a store-bought pound cake as the base of her baked Alaska. “You could make your own pound cake, but why would you?” As always, she makes a good point! Garten finished that recipe off with a couple more store-bought items — vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet — before (literally) whipping a Swiss meringue out of sugar and egg whites to go on top. Even the raspberry sauce she used as garnish underneath was only made half-way from scratch with some help from raspberry jam and liquor. Garten described the fancy-looking finished product as “restaurant food at home, but with store-bought ingredients.”

Garten then moved onto her go-to eggplant parmesan recipe. For this, she relied on quality store-bought marinara sauce, Rao’s Marinara Sauce ($13 for 24 oz, Amazon), rather than going through the long process of stewing her own. In fact, the store-bought red sauce something she always keeps in her pantry. The only thing she advised against using from a store was the breadcrumbs she used top the cheese, veggies, herbs, and spices, because “store-bought breadcrumbs are dry.” Plus, they’re totally easy to make at home if you have a food processor and a few slices leftover from a loaf. 

When it was time to make dinner for herself and beloved husband Jeffrey, she grabbed a few condiments from the fridge to blend together for a yummy Brussels sprout slaw to add to a turkey sandwich. Along with whole grain mustard, dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar, she dolloped plenty of mayonnaise and advised, “Don’t make your own mayonnaise. Just buy really good mayonnaise!” We certainly don’t mind following that advice at all. 

For Garten’s last recipe, sweet red pepper hummus, the whole thing was made almost entirely with canned and jarred items like chickpeas, tahini, roasted peppers, and a few squirts of sriracha sauce. She also included a little lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, then topped it all off with toasted pine nuts. 

Don’t worry, it wasn’t just recipe-specific items she listed as things she regularly buys from the store to keep in her kitchen. Garten claimed she always has ready-made puff pastry, phyllo dough, preserves and sauces like chocolate syrup, lemon curd, and horseradish, frozen veggies like spinach and peas, and splurges on a jar of truffle butter to elevate savory recipes. 

All in all, it’s comforting to know that even someone of Garten’s pedigree truly isn’t above getting a little leg-up from store-bought ingredients for her delicious recipes. It really inspires us to keep our own pantries and fridges stocked with plenty of her favorite items so we can enjoy a homemade meal whenever we’d like — without wasting time on all the little details.  

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