Heart & Soul Food

Pat and Gina Neely, darlings of the celebrity cooking world, share their secrets to irresistible . . . unforgettable . . . BARBECUE!
Feb 06, 2013



Arguably the cutest pair on TV since Popeye and Olive Oyl, Pat and Gina Neely are America's king and queen of soul food. They wooed us with their sweet talk and spicy dishes on the Food Network's Road Tasted with the Neelys and Down Home with the Neelys, and they charmed us silly with their mouthwatering new cookbook, also titled Down Home with the Neelys. Soak up their story about chasing dreams and finding joy, and take away a few favorite family recipes.


Making It Big
Pat, raised on heaps of love and extra helpings of Mama's cooking, got into the food business in high school working at his uncle's barbecue joint, where he discovered a passion for the grill. Soon after, he met Gina-and discovered passion there, too. Down the road, the two united in marriage and in business. With Pat's brother, Tony, they opened Neely's Bar-B-Que, now one of the hottest restaurants in Memphis.


In 2006, the producers of Road Tasted (hosted by food icon Paula Deen's sons, Jamie and Bobby) discovered Neely's. They were head over heels about Pat and Gina, their sweet romance, and their passionate cooking, and they invited the pair to host their own show. Two years later Down Home with the Neelys, an instant hit, was born.


Spices of Life
Both on air and off, the Neelys are all about enjoying food as a family. Daughters Spenser (20) and Shelbi (14) have been stirring and serving since they were tots and now help out at the family's restaurants (two in Memphis, one in Nashville) and make dinners on their own. Cooking, celebrating, and even cleaning up after meals is one of the Neelys' favorite ways to bond.


Barbecue is close to every Neely heart. "It's the base of any good beginning," Gina says. In Memphis, every home has a smoker in the yard, but these two take grilling to a whole new level by using barbecue sauce as a foundation to build upon. They're proud of their smoky signature salads, pizza, nachos, and even spaghetti (see recipes on the next page). "Barbecue has such range," Pat explains. "We explore all of its possibilities." Hardcore barbecuers are serious about seasoning, rubbing, and marinating times, but the Neelys encourage rookies not to be intimidated. Most recipes are fairly simple, and Gina's trick is to cut marinating time down or swap ingredients if one's missing. Tweaking a recipe to simplify also makes it your own.


For videos of Pat and Gina making tasty side dishes and desserts, click below.

Potato Salad

Mustard Greens

Pecan Pie

Potato Chips




Neely's Bar-B-Q Seasoning

1 1/2 cups paprika
3/4 cup sugar
3 3/4 Tbsp onion powder


1. Stir together all ingredients in a bowl.


Makes about 1 1/2 cups


Neely's Bar-B-Q Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 Tbsp Neely's Bar-B-Q Seasoning


1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
2. Reduce temperature to very low and simmer, uncovered, at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Cool.


Makes about 2 cups


Barbecued Beef Ribs

2 slabs beef spare ribs (about 8 lbs)
1 cup Neely's Bar-B-Q Seasoning (more as desired)
4 cups Neely's Bar-B-Q Sauce


1. Rinse rib slabs in cold water, pat dry with paper towels, and pull off the thin silver membrane. Season both sides with Neely's Seasoning, and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
2. Preheat grill to 225 degrees F. Place rib slabs meat-side down away from the flame, using indirect heat, and cook 2 hours.
3. Flip slabs and finish cooking for about 45 minutes.
4. For dry ribs, pull ribs off grill, sprinkle with additional Neely's Seasoning, slice into pieces, and serve.
5. For wet ribs, brush with a generous amount of Neely's Sauce 15 minutes before removing from grill. Then remove, slice, and serve with additional sauce.


Makes 4 to 6 servings


Barbecue Spaghetti

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups Neely's Bar-B-Q Sauce
2 lbs cooked spaghetti
2 lbs smoked pork, beef, or chicken, coarsely chopped
Hot sauce, as desired


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft (about 3 to 4 minutes).
2. Reduce heat to low, stir in barbecue sauce, and simmer about 5 minutes, until slightly reduced.
3. When ready to serve, add spaghetti, smoked meat, and hot sauce if desired, and toss well to combine.


Makes 8 to 10 servings


Get Yo' Man Chicken

2 Tbsp olive oil
6 chicken thighs, skinless
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 (14.5-oz) can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 Tbsp dried rosemary
1 Tbsp lemon-pepper
Hot buttered rice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, meat-side down first, and turning once, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate to reserve.
2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan. Add onion to the pan and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and wine and stir, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to high and reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the dried herbs and lemon pepper. Add the chicken thighs back to the pan. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 40 minutes.
3. Remove chicken from liquid and serve on hot buttered rice. Ladle the sauce on top and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Chocolate Brownie Crunch

Butter, for greasing pan
1 (21-oz) box brownie mix
3 large eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
10 chocolate caramel-covered wafers
Ganache, for brownie topping, recipe follows
Whipped topping, recipe follows
Fresh raspberries
Chocolate shavings

2 Tbsp light corn syrup
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed

Whipped Topping
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp cognac

1. Preheat oven at 350F. Prepare brownies as directed on the box for "cake-like" brownies, but add additional 3 eggs. Spread half the batter into an 8 x 8” prepared pan, top evenly with the pecans and chocolate caramel-covered wafers. Cover with remainder of batter.
2. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the brownies are almost cooked through. Remove brownies from oven. Cool completely. Remove brownies from pan, keeping square intact. Place on a baking sheet.
3. To make ganache, mix together syrup and chocolate in a bowl, then pour in warm cream and stir until melted. Then make the whipped topping by beating the heavy cream, sugar, and cognac in a mixer until light and fluffy.
4. Top brownies with ganache, whipped topping, raspberries, and chocolate shavings.

Makes 4 to 6 large brownies

BBQ Basics

Fire it up the Neely way with these simple tips: 


Start with seasonings. The Neelys’ favorite staples are Kosher salt, black pepper, hot sauce (Louisiana brand), and Creole mustard.


Buy fresh meat — not frozen. The latter loses juice, flavor, and can dry out when cooked.


Marinate. Let items like pork shoulder, ribs, or beef brisket sit overnight. Lighter foods like shrimp, chicken, or turkey can be cooked after an hour or two.


Experiment. Memphis sauces are sweet and tomato based. In the east they’re vinegary. Create your own mixture to suit your style.


Go low and slow. Using low temperatures and indirect heat on the grill prevents burning and keeps the meat moister.


Set the scene. Head out to the yard, turn on music, chill some beverages, and invite the neighbors. “Ask any Memphian,” Pat challenges. “He’ll tell you a cookout is an event complete with kids in the yard, poker at the table, and games in the pool.”

BARBECUE versus GRILLING — What’s the Difference?

BBQ is all about saucing and sometimes smoking meat before popping it onto the grill for slow cooking over low, indirect heat. Grilling is the cooking of food over high heat for a much shorter time.

Raising Kids
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8