The Surprising Ingredient Ina Garten Always Has in Her Fridge

"I might take hell for this."

Ina Garten
Photo: NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal / Getty Images

Over the past however many months of quarantine (six? twelve? three hundred?), I've spent a lot of time thinking about my fridge. Living alone, I look to my refrigerator for companionship. I organize it to pass the time, filling it with things that might liven up my stale weeknight cooking routine. On a few dark occasions, I've even talked to my eggs, apologizing for scrambling them yet again. So, in a recent conversation with my cooking idol Ina Garten, whose new, very timely Modern Comfort Food cookbook drops October 6, I asked her what ingredients she always keeps in her fridge.

Aside from milk for coffee, there's one item she always has in her refrigerator that most people (including me) keep in their pantry: vinegar. In fact, Garten keeps a broad assortment of vinegars on hand to punch up her cooking, and she's adamant about keeping them in her fridge.

"For anything I'm making, if it has like a little splash of vinegar, it just gives it an edge and wakes everything up," Garten said. She keeps a pretty wide range of vinegars on hand, including apple cider, red wine, balsamic, and champagne vinegars.

"And I keep them in the fridge," she said. "I know a lot of people keep them in the pantry. I might take hell for this, but I just find that they don't develop bacteria in the fridge."

As for her pantry, the absolutely non-negotiable items are pasta sauce and pasta.

"Because you have to make dinner every night, and you can't always go shopping," she said. "I like to keep shopping to a minimum, so if I have a lot of pasta sauces and pastas, I can always make dinner." (The tomato sauce brand she tends to stock up on? Rao's.)

Planned long before the pandemic, Garten's new comfort food cookbook features soul-soothing recipes that are perfect for these anxious times, including cheddar and chutney grilled cheese sandwiches, waffle iron hash browns, and Boston cream pie.

Because the recipes were simply dishes she wanted to eat on any given day, Garten says it was the easiest cookbook she's ever written.

"I'm not the kind of person that'll show you how to eat something you'd never thought of eating," she said. "I am kind of the person that always wants to make a better potato chip ... something you really love that I'm going to make so good you're never going to want it any other way."

Preorder Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook on Amazon here.

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