Ina Garten's Go-To Recommendation For A Special Meal Just For 2

For special occasions, Ina Garten's favorite dessert is a delectable apple tart paired with a glass of Sauternes (a French dessert wine). But what about the meal beforehand? As she told The New Yorker in a 2022 interview, Garten loves roast pork loins served with a potato, apple, and fennel puree. On the side, she would include some shaved brussels sprouts (not boiled, the thought of which makes her shudder).

What is it about this choice that makes it to the top of Garten's meal for two list? Because, she says, pork loins are "very small, and you can marinate them and roast them really simply ... [they'd] be a great holiday meal, and it's not like cooking a whole ham." According to the recipe for loin of pork with fennel she shared with the Food Network, you need three and a half pounds of loin for six people, so if you're only cooking for two, you'll only need a bit more than a pound of it. This version involves stuffing the loin with a puréed fennel bulb and roasting it for up to an hour, but you can make a loin even easier by skipping the stuffing. Whether you've got five and a half hours for a slow-cooked loin or just 30 minutes for an InstantPot take, Garten's not kidding that this is a reliably simple cut to get right. 

Easy and delicious sides are key

Garten's Barefoot Contessa site has that tasty dish for two of potato, apple, and fennel purée, so decadent that it uses a whole stick of butter. In addition to the three starring ingredients, the celebrity chef adds two pounds of celery root, good apple cider, and heavy cream. The apples she suggests are Golden Delicious, which are soft and sweet. Once all the necessary ingredients are chopped, the whole thing is cooked over the stove until it's pureed in a food processor. 

When it comes to the shaved Brussels sprouts, Garten loves roasting them for the texture. "I started roasting brussel sprouts instead of boiling them. They were so good because they're crispy and they're more like french fries. They're fantastic," she told The New Yorker. Much like with the pork loin, the chef loves cooking the veggies this way because it's easy — all you need is olive oil, salt, and pepper. So if you're looking for a special meal for two that is delicious but doable, you may want to start with Garten's pork and produce pairing.