Ina Garten's 18 Best Comfort Food Dishes

Ina Garten — the Barefoot Contessa to those who know and adore her — is the doyenne of modern American cooking. Her amazing combination of elegance and ease has bewitched even the most stalwart of us over the years, teaching the novices while also teasing the most uptight home chefs into a more carefree, liberated way of cooking. Having published more than a dozen cookbooks, Garten has covered nearly every question you could have about eating. 

Not only does she know her way around a kitchen, but Garten is also truly encouraging when it comes to making things easier. Sure, a fabulous, blow-out dinner party is a rite of passage, but what about all those weeknights in between? If you're looking for some quick and easy, yet still truly comforting, comfort meals from the queen of deliciousness, check out our list. From breakfast cakes to veggie-packed dinners to dessert, we've got you covered. 

Baked shrimp scampi

Looking for a homey yet elegant dish? Ina Garten has the answer. Her baked shrimp scampi is packed with flavor but will also satisfy any tablemate who's extra hungry. Her recipe for linguine with shrimp scampi has always been an enormous hit, but we're just going with the scampi alone so that you can serve it with anything you like, depending on the level of comfort (and carbs) that you're seeking.

Garten's seasoning tip for either version is to use loads of salt and pepper, and as much fresh garlic as you want. Some red chili flakes, a squeeze of lemon, and a touch of white wine round out the flavors, while a good deal of butter (twelve tablespoons!) gives it an undeniable richness. For a bit of fanciness, keep the tails on those shrimp and arrange them around the edge of your casserole dish, tails sticking up and pointing toward the center. Who says comfort food can't be chic?

Bangers and mash

A pile of fluffy mashed potatoes screams comfort food and the addition of a few scrummy sausages just ups the ante. There are probably as many ways to make this delicious British dish as there are types of sausage, but if you're new to the bangers and mash game we suggest you start with Ina. Not to take anything away from the Brits, obviously, but you might have better luck sourcing ingredients if you're trying this dish stateside.

In Garten's recipe, you're really just cooking a few premade sausages and accompanying them with some suberbly-flavored mashed potatoes. The addition of crème fraîche and 3 types of mustard (dijon, whole-grain, and powdered) will give you the creamy potatoes you crave that will also stand up to those meaty sausages. Serve with your favorite veggie for a truly tasty and easy dinner.

Black and white cookies

Sweets might not be the first thing you think of when you hear the words "comfort food" but just hang on ... is there anything more comforting than a warm cookie, straight out of the oven? Maybe even served with your drink of choice, whether that's a cold glass of milk or a steaming mug of tea. Comfort at its finest, we think. And Garten thinks so too. Her cookbooks are full of easy-to-make and even easier-to-eat treats that will bring you instantly to your happy place.

Her black and white cookies are one of her favorite treats, partially because the texture is more reminiscent of a little cake, rather than a cookie, thanks to a little bit of sour cream. So think of these sweet, double-glazed treats as a comforting snack, rather than just a boring old cookie. Make sure not to overbake them, in order to keep that cake-like texture intact.

Blueberry ricotta breakfast cake

Comfort breakfast? A bowl of steel-cut oats or a kale smoothie just won't cut it here. If you have a houseful of guests or even just your always-hungry kids, Garten's blueberry ricotta breakfast cake will appeal to anyone who likes something a little more akin to dessert first thing in the morning. And the sweetly bursting berries are only part of the appeal here. The secret to the moistness of this divine breakfast cake is a few creamy ingredients that keep the cake from becoming too dry.

Garten uses both ricotta and sour cream to help add loads of tenderness, while a pinch of lemon zest keeps things from getting too cloying. Both of those creamy ingredients will help the cake to stay delectable and moist for a few days after it's baked. And don't worry about having to serve this just for breakfast, either — even the Barefoot Contessa herself admits that it makes a pretty delicious dessert.

Boston cream pie

So not truly a pie, the name comes from the olden days when cakes and pies were baked in the same tins. Even though we have every possible baking implement we could ever wish for, these cream-filled, chocolate-topped cakes are still called Boston cream pies, even if you're ordering the doughnut version.

However, the recipe hasn't changed much in all that time, mostly because the test of time is what makes all those classics truly unforgettable. Garten's version ups the flavor factor by soaking the sponge cake with an orange juice and Grand Marnier combo plus a bit of the orange liqueur snuck into the pastry cream as well. And the various parts can be ahead of time, too. What's more comforting than that?

Brownie pudding

A more upscale version of everyday brownies, this brownie pudding still lands on our list of comfort foods because chocolate is always craveable and delicious. And don't even think about substituting oil for the butter in this recipe, the Countess has very firm opinions on that particular infraction. Add a scoopful of vanilla ice cream and you're all set. The difference with this particular recipe is that the filling is guaranteed to be gooey — these aren't your regular school bake sale brownies, darling.

Rather, it's more scoopable than sliceable. The molten interior, reminiscent of chocolate lava cakes, and the crispy exterior, just like all the best brownies, combine to fantastic effect — add a scoop of ice cream and watch this beauty disappear. The recipe calls for a little bit of fruity booze but feel free to experiment with whatever flavors you're drawn to. Perhaps something coffee or vanilla flavored, or double down with a chocolate-flavored liqueur for maximum decadence.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

This recipe has been around for years and has its fair share of nay-sayers — those who've never experienced the magic of roasted garlic. If you're one of those who's never tasted the sweetness of roasted cloves, prepare to be enlightened. Yes, this recipe uses LOTS of garlic, too much you might think. But honestly, the magic that occurs in the oven will change your mind.

Garten knows that a whole roasted chicken is one of the fundamental recipes that all home cooks should know; it's easy to master and delivers loads of juicy flavor, in all sorts of recipes. As for the garlic? Yes, it's a dish for garlic lovers. Roasting the cloves makes them buttery, sweet, and perfect for spreading onto anything and everything. Because Garten keeps them whole in her recipe, the naysayers at your table can easily pick them out.

Company pot roast

Here it is, the recipe that you've been waiting for. Comfort food to end all comfort food, there's nothing more American than a big, beefy serving to satisfy those cravings for Mom's best dinner ever. But what if you're on your own, without Mom's help? Fear not, Ina Garten has your answer, as the queen of the most elegant comfort food. Perfection comes from her extra steps of flouring and searing the beef before roasting, which adds both flavor and richness to the dish.

Adding flour to your roast might seem like too many extra steps to bear but hear us out. Sure, you can just chuck that roast in the oven, covered with onion soup mix, and hope for the best. On the other hand, you can follow Contessa's instructions and come out with a winner every time. The flour will add density to the juices, making it easier to create a thick gravy, while searing the meat beforehand will only add flavorful caramelization to your finished pot roast.

Fettucine with white truffle butter and mushrooms

Granted, this is a more extravagant pick on the list but hear us out. Not every comfort food needs to be a massive bowl of mashed taters, slathered in butter. What if you're at the crossroads of sweatpants and Armani? If you could use a hug served with a European accent, look no further than Garten's uber-fancy pasta dish that combines pasta, mushrooms, and truffles. Yes, comfort food can occasionally cross the line into spectacular.

If you're a little hesitant to splash out on a pricey ingredient like truffles, we hear you. Garten has explained the difference between white and black truffles. The Contessa herself prefers white truffles because they have a more pronounced flavor. She also avoids truffle oil because you never know what you're getting; rather she prefers butter with visible chunks of truffle inside. Expensive? Sure. But it tastes amazing.

Parmesan chicken

Looking for something comfort-worthy but without a ton of mashed potatoes or pasta? Garten's crispy lemon Parmesan chicken is coated in a crunchy pile of breadcrumbs but, instead of being piled on top of pasta, she serves it with freshly dressed greens on top. This simple salad pairing is still a perfectly acceptable comfort food dinner, without all the carbs and heaviness. But if you crave a pile of al dente pasta on the side, knock yourself out.

The dressing that Garten adds to the salad also adds a touch of brightness to the crispy chicken. Made with just lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, it's also super easy to customize. A handful of pinenuts wouldn't go astray here, nor would a few shavings of firm cheese. Not only that, this dish is awfully easy to make, giving you a quick and satisfying meal with little effort.

Mac and cheese

Here it is — one of the best comfort foods ever. No matter what you're used to — Kraft, a knock-off, or something homemade — mac and cheese is one of the best foods out there. And leave it to Ina Garten to take it up a notch, combining loads of flavor with a pretty easy-to-make weeknight meal.

The addition of Gruyère, sharp Cheddar, a pinch of nutmeg, and a liberal topping of breadcrumbs will take you from KD to OMG. This particular recipe uses a lot of milk (a full quart) and quite a bit of fancy cheese (four cups of Gruyère, plus two cups of Cheddar), so it might not become a weekly dish. But when you're feeling like you could use some extra comfort, this ultra-rich, ultra-tasty mac and cheese might be just what the Contessa ordered.

Orzo with roasted vegetables

Here's a quick and easy dish for those looking for something lighter and brighter. A big bowl of orzo (the small and silky rice-shaped pasta) mixed with tons of roasted veggies, feta cheese, a zingy lemon vinaigrette, and pine nuts for an overload of flavor and texture. While Garten cites this recipe as her favorite side dish, we think that it makes a pretty great light summer meal, right out of the fridge.

If you want to amp up the protein quotient in your bowl, feel free to add a few chunks of roasted chicken or grilled beef. In the winter, Garten likes to serve this dish alongside a lovely, tender rack of lamb. When serving this in the summer, make sure to add a handful of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand — basil or thyme works exceptionally well, but anything green and herbaceous will do, adding freshness to every bite.

Pasta, pesto, and peas

Another quick dish, Garten's pasta, pesto, and peas makes use of your summer ingredients. Bowties get an instant upgrade with a handful of fresh basil and bright green peas. Never made pesto before? This is your chance to give it a whirl and see what all the fuss is about — freshly made pesto is unlike any other condiment we've ever tried, full of bright basil and salty parmesan, it only amps up anything it's added to.

Fresh garden peas are the perfect accompaniment to pesto as they're just sweet enough to hold their own without fighting for dominance. And then, on top of all this deliciousness, Garten has a secret, creamy ingredient that she adds, to give this dish extra depth — mayonnaise! We all know that mayonnaise makes everything better, so why wouldn't it work here? Trust us, it really does. Creamy pasta, filled with fresh green veggies and herbs, along with Parmesan and garlic, sounds like dinner to us.

Roasted salmon tacos

Sure, we can admit that roasted salmon tacos might not seem like a comfort meal for some. But some of us definitely recall those pre-packaged Taco Tuesdays when our families got together and piled a few fragile corn tortillas full of shredded cheese, iceberg lettuce, and seasoned ground beef. Now that you're an adult, you might want to expand your homemade taco horizons.

We're not even going to push cilantro-heavy topping on you — even Ina Garten herself hates cilantro — but we are going to tell you that tacos can be a super quick and comforting food. A sweet mixture of roasted salmon, topped with a zippy coleslaw full of cabbage, dill, and cucumber makes for a filling, yet fresh, dinner. All nostalgia aside, these flavorful tacos aren't like the ones of your youth. Full of tangy flavor, they'll not only upgrade Tuesdays, but they'll also satisfy your current cravings.

Roasted vegetable lasagna

Lasagna is a dish that instantly gives you a warm, comfy feeling but, if you're the household cook, can fill you with dread. It's something that can take hours, but in the capable hands of the Barefoot Contessa will take considerably less time yet still yield the same incredible results. You'll have to grill some veggies but that's mostly hands-off, so don't fret.

As for the sauce, crack open one of your Nonna's jars or pick up a decent grocery-store marinara. You'll need a few other items, like ricotta and some flavorful goat cheese, but we promise the result is worth it. A gooey, veggie-stuffed pasta dish that will appeal to nearly all your guests, this is vegetarian comfort food at its finest. Even meat lovers will find something to enjoy in this decadent dish.

Saffron risotto with butternut squash

There aren't too many things to say about a comfort food like a big old pot of rice, especially when it's been upgraded with white wine, saffron, and chunks of sweet squash. Top all that deliciousness with shavings of Parmesan and there isn't much to complain about.

If this saffron risotto seems like a little too much work for something that's supposed to bring you comfort, we have a few tips from Garten herself. First, use a decent peeler on that squash (or just bust buy pre-peeled butternut, we won't judge) so you're not wasting loads of tasty flesh. Next, roast your squash cubes, rather than boiling them, for the best flavor. Finally, add your stock slowly. Risotto has a reputation for being finicky when it comes to stirring, but it's really for a good reason. Add liquid too quickly and the arborio grains won't cook as quickly on the interior as they do on the outside. And that will leave you with soupy rice with a hard, undercooked inside.

Skillet-roasted lemon chicken

Another skillet-roasted chicken recipe, this little beauty will only increase your skills in the kitchen as it satisfies your cravings for a lemony chicken flavor. If you've never spatchcocked poultry before, prepare to be amazed. Not only is it pretty easy (invest in some heavy-duty kitchen shears for the best outcome) but it also decreases cooking time while increasing flavor. Think of it this way — spatchcocking is like butterflying an entire chicken. By removing the spine, you can spread the entire bird out, cooking it faster and getting that all-important caramelization on both sides of your bird.

Once you've mastered the art of spatchcocking, rest your delicious bird on a bed of lemons and slather it with a thyme and fennel seed oil mixture. Then pop it into your oven, occasionally adding a splash of wine, while you make a Contessa-worthy side dish to go along with this incredible meal.

Turkey meatloaf

Our final dish is easily one of America's most loved comfort foods. Yes, meatloaf. Garten's version is lighter and maybe more flavor-packed than the meatloaf of your youth, so we urge you to give it a try. Not only is Garten's recipe a cinch to make, but it also has loads of flavor from an incredible special ingredient — a bag of pork rinds (yep, you read that right). So add that to your grocery list and get ready to enjoy absolutely exceptional comfort food.

Aside from the addition of crunchy delicious pork rinds, Garten's other piece of advice for presenting an impeccably comfortable dinner? Let that meatloaf rest, darling. Garten says that the biggest meatloaf mistake you can make is serving it as soon as it comes out of the oven. Pull it out, cover it with foil, and give it a good 10 minutes to rest. All those juices will redistribute, giving you a uniformly juicy interior.