Celebrity chef Ina Garten is the doyenne of home cooking. She has made a career out of creating mouthwatering recipes throughout over 50 years of marriage and 43 years of working in the food industry. There are many dishes that she will never, ever skimp on, such as a perfectly cooked roasted chicken or a luscious homemade dessert. But there are times when even the most creative culinary personality would like to take a shortcut in the kitchen.
Ina said in an interview with Bon Appetit that while it is always preferable to craft your own culinary creations, there are times when a store bought shortcut is just the ticket to create what feels like a hearty, homemade meal. She relies on this favorite store-bought sauce to spice up her spaghetti, create a luscious chicken parmigiana, and to spoon over homemade meatballs for a dinner to enjoy with her husband, Jeffrey.
What is Ina Garten's secret store bought ingredient?
Ina Garten relies on Rao’s homemade sauce, which is readily available on most supermarket shelves, to help her on those days when she is busy working or when she just wants to get a good meal on the table in no time flat.
“I think you can spend the entire day making good marinara sauce, or you can buy Rao’s Marinara sauce, which I think is just fantastic. It’s great for lasagna. It’s great for pasta. It’s great for putting together a really fast dinner,” she shared to Bon Appetit.
She reportedly uses it in her recipes for roasted eggplant parmigiana and vegetarian lasagna. The jarred sauce contains Italian plum tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion, basil, oregano, salt, and black pepper, simmered slowly and made in small batches. This is the method used by home cooks in the creation of their own sauce (via Rao’s).
Why is Rao's so legendary in the restaurant world?
Since 1896 Rao’s has served family-style portions of Italian-American classics beneath twinkling strings of Christmas lights in a nondescript restaurant on the corner of Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem, New York.
Rao became a legendary place to dine in New York city due to its notoriously strict reservation system. This was put in place by Frank Pellegrino, Sr. to preserve its community of regular diners (via Bon Appetit). Table assignments are still reportedly made via weekly, monthly, or annual increments, and only a rare outsider can snag one of the nine interior tables.
Owner Frank Pellegrino Jr., discussed the restaurant’s recipes in an interview with the aforementioned publication.
“Every dish is a family recipe that has been passed on from generation to generation, including the sauce that we sell in the markets. They all come from my Grandmother Paulina, Aunt Anna, and Uncle Vincent, and are recipes that were brought over from Italy,” he shared.
What are some other pantry staples Ina cannot live without?
Ina Garten always has store-bought vanilla extract in her pantry, although she does make her own, and revealed on an episode of her Food Network show that her batch, made with vodka and vanilla beans, is years old (via Today).
Ina also enjoys store-bought ketchup on a homemade burger. She said of the beloved condiment, “It’s very complicated to make yourself, and store-bought is just fine. I use Heinz.” The Food Network personality also uses store-bought roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, nut-milk, peanut butter, pesto, and frozen vegetables to craft some of her most memorable main dishes (via Today).
For desserts, the celebrity chef loves to create recipes from staples such as store-bought pound cake, ice cream, lemon curd, caramel sauce, chocolate syrup, and of course puff pastry and phyllo dough to enhance her recipes and save time.
“I always buy ready-made puff pastry and phyllo dough for sweet and savory tarts and appetizers. I mean, why would you make it?” said Ina (via Food Network). Adding, “Believe me if you had to make it yourself, you would never make palmiers.”
What are her favorite homemade ingredients?
Believe it or not, Ina Garten said that making her own fresh ricotta cheese is so easy, she will never go back to store-bought (via Food Network). She also swears by grated Parmesan because she likes the texture of freshly ground versus the type that is packaged for the store.
Ina revealed that making your own breadcrumbs is easy, economical and always better-tasting then store-bought. Just take leftover bread, pulse it in a food processor and store it in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. It can also be seasoned with salt, pepper, parsley and grated cheese for Italian style recipes.
She will also never buy canned soup or chicken broth. Ina said to Bon Appetit, “I always have soup in the freezer that’s hearty enough to be a meal, like Tuscan white bean, split pea, cauliflower, or Loaves & Fishes’ tortellini en brodo.” She has also demonstrated on numerous occasions her recipe for homemade chicken broth which she always has at the ready in her freezer.
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