A few months ago, Ina Garten shared a photo of her reading a book on a rainy Saturday. She asked everyone to comment on what they were doing. I answered that I was organizing my cookbooks. In reality, I had been trying to write a blog post about Ina Garten’s cookbook collection for the past year. That was another attempt but every time I would sit down to write it, I would get frustrated and pencil it in for another time. About 30 minutes later, my daughter texts me with a screen shot, Ina Garten had responded to my response! I was so excited for this silly little nod from Ina herself, but it made me want to do this list even more.
My frustration was stemming from being overwhelmed with the content. Her amazing collection of 13 cookbooks have had such a big impact on my life. A lot of her recipes I had incorporated into catering menus and recipes that I had been in my weekly rotation when my family was young and still at home.
I was nervous that I could not her justice. When I pulled all of the cookbooks out and put them on my dining room table, I once again started to feel overwhelmed. As I open up each cookbook, a flood of memories entered my mind, but this time I had a plan. I was writing this blog post.
I FaceTimed my daughter, Marissa, for her help and insight. Marissa and her husband Joe, along with their yellow lab, Hank, live outside of Sioux Falls, SD. A mere 921 miles away from me. She has the whole collection, too! I thought it might be a cool idea for both of us to go through together, discuss memories and favorite recipes from each one, then rank them according to our love of the cookbooks.
After an hour and a half discussion, we each took pictures of how we rank them and shared with each other. I noticed that our choice for first and last were the same, but they were all different in the middle. While Marissa has loving memories of some of the older cookbooks that she learned to cook from, most of her favorites are Ina’s newer cookbooks.
Marissa loves to cook for her husband, family and friends. She has done a deep dive in these cookbooks for sure. Her affection for the older cookbooks, that happen to be my favorites, are more about nostalgia, and a baking recipe here or there.
Ina Garten is someone different to both of us. While I grew up with Julia Child and Martha Stewart as my outside inspiration and role models for cooking and entertaining, Ina is all of that for Marissa.
By the time Ina Garten hit the scene in the early 2000s, I was already on established caterer and comfortable home cook. What Ina gave me was the feeling that I had a friend sitting on my counter as I tried new things. I drove an hour away to meet Ina in 2006. She was doing a book signing for “Barefoot Contessa At Home”. I stood in line at the Williams Sonoma and was so excited to shake her hand and have her autograph my book. Many years later while in line at a gourmet grocery store, Guido’s, in the Berkshires I was sharing my love for her with the woman in line in front of me. The woman behind me let me know that she worked with Ina and she was just as lovely as she seemed. Just those two incidents have made me feel like Ina and I would truly be friends if we got to spend any time together. Am I wrong?
In 2012, I started a Supper Club with a dozen women called “Channeling Ina”. It was our nod to a woman who was an inspiration to all of us. We ranged in age from 25 to 45 with varying life experiences but it didn’t matter. We were all infatuated with Ina. She was a true inspiration and a friend in my kitchen. Well, friend via her cookbooks.
Marissa looks to the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks as a resource and for knowledge. While I taught my daughter the ins and outs of the kitchen, Ina challenged her and expanded her mind. When Marissa was a preteen, she started to show an interest in baking. Ina Garten is where we went for recipes to explore. She made so many batches of Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies that the page is barely legible from so much splatter. I even gave her my Kitchen Aid mixer when she moved to South Dakota, because she had used it so much on Inas recipes. The first cookbook I bought her at our local library sale was “Barefoot Contessa Parties”. She was a junior in college and for moving off campus into an apartment with friends. To me, it was a kitchen essential.
We are both infatuated with her as a human being. How she interacts with others is such an inspiration. Can you imagine if more people were like her how wonderful our world would be? We have watched her on Food Network forever. Both of us will just turn on her show to have her voice in the background as we prepare a meal.
As we go through each Cookbook, I will share how I rank it vs how Marissa rank it and comments from both of us. Yes we are a mother and daughter but we’re in very different phases in our lives.
She is a millennial, second grade teacher, who cooks most dinners for her and her husband at home. They enjoy entertaining friends and family, especially during football season.
I am Gen X, a 56 year old entrepreneur, who cooks for her husband and entertains a lot at home with dinners and cocktail parties by the pool.
The Barefoot Contessa website is a great resource. A fully downloadable cookbook index is available to print, but I usually use the site to search for a recipe. It is great if I can’t remember which cookbook a recipe is in so I can quickly grab it off of my shelf. It is also great to pull up all of the recipes when putting together a party. Pro tip – bookmark that website on your search engine.
I will be honest here, I am not an “everyone is a winner” type of person. We are both competitive by nature. Marissa is a former college athlete and a lacrosse coach and I am old-fashioned when it comes to competition so we believe there is one winner only. This is an exception we can live with. Every single one of these books are winners in their own way.
This list is going to start with the most recent publication and work its way back to the OG. The links for the cookbooks will bring you to Amazon. (They are affiliate links, so in the spirit of transparency, I do make a few cents if you purchase through the link).
Go-To Dinners – Ranking: JeriLynne – 13 Marissa- 13
This is Ina’s most recent cookbook. It was released in October 2022. The inspiration came out of the pandemic to create satisfying and uncomplicated meals. She also shares how to make meals by assembling different items to create a variety of themed boards.
Marissa’s favorite recipe from Go-To Dinners are the Cacio e Pepe Scrambled Eggs.
JeriLynne enjoys the come back of a Cosmo, this one is watermelon. Also, the Roasted Rosemary Pork Tenderloin is perfect for a dinner party.
Modern Comfort Food – Ranking: JeriLynne-12 Marissa-7
This cookbook was released in October 2020. It was created to inspire cozy yet easy meals for your family or a party.
Marissa – This is the cookbook that mom gave her at her bridal shower. One of her husbands favorite dishes that she makes a few times a month is the Seared Salmon with Red Pepper Aioli. The Spinach Artichoke Dip and Kielbasa with Mustard Dip are both party regulars.
JeriLynne – I love Ina’s take on Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Capers and the Crispy Chicken with Lemon Orzo are definite winners.
Cook Like a Pro– Ranking: JeriLynne-11 Marissa-10
Ina is not a professionally trained chef and that is probably one thing I love about her. In 2018 she released this book sharing learned tips and tricks throughout this cookbook. Learning those things can elevate your kitchen game.
Marissa – The Fried Chicken Sandwich is a favorite on game day. I also made it for my friends when I had a yard sale. The Chicken Thighs with Mustard Sauce is a go to for a weeknight meal.
JeriLynne – Marissa gave this to me for my birthday in 2018. The Shrimp Louie is one of my dad’s favorite dishes that I have ever made. I use that recipe all of the time for parties. It is the perfect twist on a shrimp cocktail. The Charlie Bird Farro Salad has been at many luncheons and I tweak it according to the season.
Cooking for Jeffrey – Ranking: JeriLynne -7 Marissa-2
Everyone needs a Jeffrey in their lives. The loving relationship that the Gartens share are definite relationship goals. She loves to cook for her husband and he loves everything she makes, a match made in heaven. In 2016 when this cookbook was released, I was dying for an Ina fix! I was in a slump in my cooking life and was so excited when the book arrived. “Cooking for Jeffrey” is where she shares his favorite dishes and also has included some updates to some older recipes. The love between them is as palpable as the pages as you visually eat this up.
Marissa – The Filet with Mustard Sauce is a 10 out of 10. A great date night at home meals.
JeriLynne – My sons, Kyle and Colin, would come for dinner on Monday nights when they moved out of the house. Almost on a weekly basis one of them would text me and ask me to make the Rigatonis with Sausage Fennel. It is even better the next day. My favorite dinner party dish is the Plum Chutney with Cider Roasted Pork.
Make it Ahead – Ranking: JeriLynne- 10 Marissa-3
One thing I hear all of the time from my followers is they want recipes that you can make ahead that still shine when it is time to sit down and eat. In 2014, Ina answered that question with this lovely cookbook.
Marissa – When I hosted my first Thanksgiving, the Make Ahead Gravy was a game changer. I love all of her mashed potato recipes but her Parmesan Chive Mashed Potatoes from this cookbook are not to be missed. Her Slow Roasted Spiced Pork is a definite winner.
JeriLynne – I have made the French Pot Pie numerous times and brought it to friends when they are recovering from surgery or just had a baby. It is a beautiful dish. The Leek and Artichoke Bread Pudding is perfectly paired with a Prime Rib on Christmas day.
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof – Ranking: JeriLynne-8 Marissa-9
For me the 2012 release of “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” was very inspiring for creating a menu and table settings. She has some incredible recipes here that are great for entertaining.
Marissa – The 1770 Meatloaf recipe is one of Joe’s favorites. It is not that meatloaf that is heavy and not full of flavor. It is incredibly good with mashed potatoes as that gravy is off the charts. The BBQ sauce that is with the rib recipe is ready in my fridge all summer long.
JeriLynne – Another dinner party favorite are the Green Beans Gremolata. My friend Jenna made this recipe for one of our Supper Clubs that she hosted and it is now a staple for me. The Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding is wonderful addition for any winter dinner party.
Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? – Ranking: JeriLynne – 5 Marissa -12
In 2010, Ina shared with the world her tips for making cooking and entertaining easier. She shares how equipment can make the difference in the kitchen. She shares how to have fun in the kitchen while creating lovely dishes.
Marissa – The IceBox Cake is one of my favorite desserts. Every time I see Tate’s cookies, I want to make it. Her recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes is my go to. The recipe for Buttermilk Ranch dressing is what I make every time I want ranch dressing.
JeriLynne – For my son, Colins, high school graduation party he asked for the Roasted Artichoke Hearts. So, I made enough to feed 50 people and it worked like a charm. The Baked Fontina is something I love to make and have people stand around the hot cast iron pan while scooping out the melted cheese.
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics – Ranking: JeriLynne – 6 Marissa -11
“Back to Basics” is Ina’s book, published in 2008, that focuses on techniques and sharing how entertaining can be easy.
Marissa – The Brownie Pudding is a great chocolate loaded dessert. It also has great tips that I often reference.
JeriLynne- My favorite and most used recipe from “Back to Basics” is the Chicken Bouillabaisse. It works great for a crowd. I made it for 20 people for my neighborhood progressive party. Check out that blog post here.
Barefoot Contessa At Home – Ranking: JeriLynne -1 Marissa – 1
Ina shares her tried and true recipes here in both Marissa and JeriLynne’s number 1 book, “Barefoot Contessa At Home” from 2006. There is so much to say about this favorite but we will scale it back from this purpose.
Marissa – I have baked so many recipes from this cookbook that are now my go-to. The Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, the Peanut Butter Jelly Bars and the Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing have been made over and over again. When I was a teenager, I would make the Green Herb dip and bring it to my lacrosse tournaments all summer long. The Heirloom Tomato Salad and Blue Cheese Coleslaw are summer favorites for sure.
JeriLynne- I just made the Beatty’s Chocolate Cake for the 100th time for Easter. The Roasted Shrimp and Orzo Salad was a catering staple for bridal and baby showers. I have made the Lemon Fusilli with Arugula recipe too many times to count. If I can’t figure out what to make for dinner, this is the book that I grab first.
Barefoot in Paris – Ranking: JeriLynne -8 Marissa -9
While Julia Child had peaked my interest in France, this cookbook made French food a little more approachable. Published in 2004, It is a guide to Paris and all of the food from that beautiful city.
Marissa – Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Mike Drop.
JeriLynne – Her recipe for Creme Brulee is the easiest recipe ever. It makes is less complicated and is foolproof. The Potato Celery Root Puree is so good with seared scallops and the Steak Au Poivre is a classic dish that makes you feel a bit fancy.
Barefoot Contessa Family Style – Ranking: JeriLynne -2 Marissa -5
In 2002, Ina shared her favorite go-to recipes for families to love and she knocked it out of the park. There are so many recipes that I have used throughout the years to feed friends and family. They are sure to please time and time again.
Marissa – The lasagna recipe is the base that I use every time I make lasagna. I might substitute something here or there but this is the go to. The Chicken Wings are some of Joes favorite football munchies. She also does a great job with table setting ideas.
JeriLynne – The Potato Basil Frittata has been at almost every brunch I have hosted over the past 20 years. I even made it for Marissa’s bridal shower. The Shrimp Scampi is one of my husbands favorite pasta dishes. I agree with Marissa on the lasagna recipe. Great iconic recipe. The Sagaponack Corn Pudding is a family favorite for Thanksgiving.
Barefoot Contessa Parties! – Ranking: JeriLynne -3 Marissa -4
The Parties cookbook was released in the fall of 2001. I could not get enough of it. I remember sitting down and reading it cover to cover like a novel. Then reading it again and placing tabs on 90 percent of the recipes that I wanted to make. The way it is categorized by season then by party is the way my mind thinks so it is appreciated.
Marissa – This was my first cookbook that was my own. I brought it to my junior year of college. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies recipe was what I made every single weekend from middle school all the way through high school. My brothers and friends loved them. I now make them for my in-laws. The Spinach Gratin is one of my favorite dishes for holidays and the margaritas are a lot of fun for football parties. I love how each section has a vibe for a party.
JeriLynne – If you want something a little fancy but don’t want to buy a lot of caviar, the Caviar Dip is a party favorite. I have made the Spinach Gratin for every Thanksgiving I have hosted since 2001. If I am searching for a party theme or inspiration, this is my go-to book.
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook – Ranking: JeriLynne 4 Marissa 6
In 1999, I fell in love with Ina Garten. She wasn’t on TV yet but she had created this cookbook that was approachable, family friendly and inspiring. It is the OG. This is the cookbook that launched her career from not just a local favorite on Long Island but a national star. I wanted to be her. I wanted to open a specialty food shop myself. Thank you Ina. Thank you.
Marissa – I have made her Pan-Fried Onion Dip too many times to count. It is a classic. Her Cheddar Dill Scones was the first scone recipe I ever made. Her corn salad is a staple on my summer table.
JeriLynne – Brownies and Pecan Squares were staples for my kids and their friends. Learning how to bake on a larger scaled was new for me when this book first came out. I love the Lemon Chicken that can either be an appetizer or as a salad. The Provencal Potato Salad that is on the cover is a great dish to bring to a summer party. No mayo so it is a safe bet outside.
Barefoot Contessa at Home is the favorite and most used of them all! On the sentimental front, it is the OG, “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” that has my heart. I think this exercise was a great walk down memory lane for us to do together. We agree that we would love to cook every recipe in every book and share a la @storeboughtisfine, Trent Pheifer, on Instagram. That is over 1200 recipes, but I think we are up for the challenge.
Ina Garten is an inspiration and a true professional. I appreciate what she has done for the home cook. I value the opportunities that she created for my daughter and I to have together. My sons are appreciative of their sister testing all of her baked goods on them during their teen years. Ina is a part of our family and its history.
I am so happy that I finally did this review. Honestly, how easy was that?