Summary List Placement
Ina Garten has released dozens of pasta recipes.
I started cooking Garten’s recipes after I spent a day following her quarantine routine back in May 2020. I found that Garten’s dishes were easy and achievable for a new cook like me. At the height of the pandemic, it was often her pasta recipes that I turned to for dinners that were simple but comforting.
I’ve now made quite a few of Garten’s pasta dishes. Some are vegetarian and take almost no prep, while others are loaded with meat or cheese and are a little more complex.
Here’s how they all stack up.
In sixth place is Garten’s broccoli and bow ties pasta.
Garten’s broccoli and bow ties pasta was the first “Barefoot Contessa” pasta I ever made. It’s also the very first recipe that Garten shared with her Instagram followers after much of the US went into lockdown in 2020.
The Food Network star promised that her broccoli and bow ties pasta was “crazy easy,” and could be easily adapted with whatever was in your pantry.
The simple recipe includes garlic, lemon, butter, and Parmesan cheese, along with the pasta and broccoli (or, in my case, broccolini).
Garten’s broccoli and bow ties recipe has a light sauce that makes it perfect for spring.
The sauce is made with just lemon zest, butter, olive oil, and minced garlic, which all work together to give the dish a burst of flavor. The sharp Parmesan cheese also adds a nice hint of richness.
While I loved how bright and healthy this dish tasted, I would soon discover other “Barefoot Contessa” pastas that were far more memorable.
Taking the fifth spot is Garten’s simple three-ingredient lemon pasta.
Garten says her three-ingredient lemon pasta is “just about the fastest weeknight pasta meal you can make,” and she’s not wrong.
The recipe consists of just pasta, unsalted butter, and the juice and zest of two lemons.
Better yet? You’ll have dinner on the table in 10 minutes or less.
Garten’s lemon pasta has a lovely bright flavor, but it doesn’t stand out enough to be the main course for dinner.
There’s not much depth of flavor in Garten’s three-ingredient pasta. I whipped up her dish for a dinner party recently, and my friends agreed that it worked better as a side.
“The pasta had me mad at myself for every time I’ve bought a $20 pasta limon from a restaurant when it’s so simple to make,” my friend Tyler said. “But if we were just having the pasta on its own I would have been a little disappointed because it wasn’t anything too special.”
I would definitely serve Garten’s lemon pasta alongside her incredible “Outrageous” garlic bread, which goes well with just about everything — and would give this meal some more flavor and heft.
In fourth place is Garten’s comforting baked rigatoni with lamb ragù.
It’s also one of Garten’s more complex pasta dishes. The recipe is packed with a long list of ingredients — including two types of cheeses, red wine, and plenty of veggies — and takes almost two hours to make.
Garten’s baked rigatoni with lamb ragù comes packed with incredible flavor — but it’s a lot of work.
The rich sauce has that comforting, traditional Italian taste thanks to the carrots and other vegetables, and the rigatoni noodles are perfect for capturing a nice helping of ragù with every single bite.
I made this dish for a group of friends who definitely thought the pasta was worth the wait.
“The dish reminded me of a cross between bolognese and a baked ziti!” my friend Sara said. “Definitely a labor of love but, to someone not cooking, highly worth it!”
My sous chef Zach also loved the taste, although he didn’t agree that it was worth the extra effort in the kitchen.
“As Prue would say on ‘The Great British Bake-off,’ it was worth the calories — but I wouldn’t say it was worth the time,” he said. “While it was definitely fun cooking it, I think you could genuinely make a dish that was 90% as good with just focusing on the ragù and broiling the pasta, versus fully baking it.”
Next time I make this dish, I’ll be taking Garten’s tip to make the ragù a day in advance — which you can refrigerate before baking and serving.
Rounding out the top three is Garten’s favorite summer pasta.
Garten’s summer garden pasta is one of her simplest, and yet it has some of the richest flavors of any that I’ve tried.
While the “Barefoot Contessa” star’s dish only has five main ingredients — angel hair, Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and basil — it has one very important step. You need to soak the tomatoes, garlic, and basil in olive oil for four hours.
That extra prep resulted in some of the most incredible tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.
I could honestly eat Garten’s olive-oil tomatoes as a snack every day. And even though I usually love heavy red-sauce pastas, these tomatoes were able to carry the entire dish on just the strength of their intense and rich flavor.
You also can’t beat how pantry-friendly this dish is. I almost always have tomatoes and basil in my kitchen, making Garten’s summer garden pasta an incredibly easy dinner staple. This is one “Barefoot Contessa” dish I know I’ll be returning to time and time again.
My second favorite Garten pasta is her creamy (and dreamy) five-cheese penne.
I first made Garten’s five-cheese penne last year as temperatures started to dip in lockdown, and discovered that it’s a perfect winter dish.
Garten’s pasta includes Pecorino Romano, Italian fontina, Italian Gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella, and ricotta cheese, along with penne pasta, crushed tomatoes, basil, and heavy cream.
Garten’s five-cheese penne ended up being one of the best recipes I made.
First of all, the dish is beautiful. The penne turns into a beautiful golden color after baking it in the oven for 17 minutes, and there are inviting chunks of mozzarella poking out from the top.
I initially expected that five different cheeses — along with all that butter and cream — would be way too heavy. But Garten’s penne strikes the perfect balance of being rich and soothing without being overwhelming.
I can’t wait to make this dish the next time I need a really comforting meal again.
But when it comes to my favorite “Barefoot Contessa” pasta dish, Garten’s weeknight bolognese takes the top spot.
The weeknight bolognese is another recipe that Garten shared early on in the pandemic. She told her Instagram followers that the dish can be made with a variety of meats or veggies, making it especially pantry-friendly.
Plus, the rich and flavorful dish — which includes ground sirloin, orecchiette, and dry red wine — will only have you in the kitchen for 30 minutes.
Garten’s weeknight bolognese is a quick and delicious twist on a classic recipe, and it’s incredibly easy.
The weeknight bolognese has the comfort of Garten’s five-cheese penne and the richness of her baked rigatoni, but with far less work in the kitchen.
It’s a modern twist on a classic, and Garten’s little tweaks all work perfectly together. The orecchiette shells catch some of the sauce in every bite, and the freshly-grated Parmesan cheese melts beautifully into Garten’s warm sauce.
There’s so much flavor in Garten’s recipe, but it’s also far less heavy than some of her other pastas on this list. I’d happily make the weeknight bolognese on any night of any season. And that’s why it’s my number one “Barefoot Contessa” pasta dish.
Stay tuned for more “Barefoot Contessa” pasta dishes to come.