Our readers often ask about good recipes to freeze. Do you have any recipes that you like to freeze in this book?
You know, I am actually not big on freezing. It really changes the texture and flavor of a dish. Try to make scalloped tomatoes and freeze it, for instance. And I find that I never pull it out again. Stuff goes in the freezer and never comes out. I suppose the Weeknight Bolognese can freeze, and soups freeze well, like beef barley soup. But I would much rather start with a very simple recipe and make it fresh than freeze something for later.
What's your go-to dish for entertaining that's not too expensive?
Weeknight Bolognese is great. It's just canned tomatoes, Parmesan, and pasta. You can use lean ground sirloin, and it can really serve a crowd.
I notice you use roasting as a method quite a lot in your recipes. Why is that?
Yes, when you are cooking on the stovetop you have to stir, have to watch — have to always watch it. Also, the heat of my stove might be different from yours. But roasting is an even temperature. I try to roast as much as possible; these recipes have more of a tendency to come out perfectly every time. It's not a matter of futzing all the time.
What do you cook when you're alone?
Oatmeal! I never cook for myself! I cook all day so last thing I want to do is cook.
When it comes to making dinner or throwing a party, what's one mistake home cooks make?
Doing too complicated a menu. You get yourself in trouble, but it could have been avoided from the start. I always say don't cook more than two or three things for a meal. After all, it's not about the food. It's about the friends.
Do you have any favorite kitchen tools that you think are unfamiliar or unusual to home cooks?
I have a stack of eight half sheet pans — I do everything in theses. Bake, make cookies, cakes, roast! I think these are something many cooks don't think to have.
Another thing I find a lot of people don't have that I use a lot is a juicer. There is really no substitute for fresh citrus juice. You get so much flavor from something that is so inexpensive.
But then, with a good sharp knife you can do an enormous number of things. And I use my KitchenAid mixer everything from cakes to mashed potatoes.
Thanks so much, Ina!
→ Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten
(Images: Quentin Bacon; Faith Durand)