The Two Essential Sauces Every Home Cook Should Master
Get these building-block sauces under your belt, and you’re on your way to kitchen mastery.
Sauces are the home chef’s best weapon against boring weeknight meals. Choose your base—creamy white or tangy red—and then make it your own with these easy variations. From two key sauces, you’ve suddenly got a world of options for elevating your dinner.
The Two Sauces You Need to Know
Béchamel, more commonly known as white sauce, is simply milk thickened with a butter and flour roux. The roux itself is traditionally made with equal quantities of butter and flour by weight; that’s about 1½ tbsp flour to 1 tbsp butter, which will thicken about 1 cup of milk—slightly more for a thinner sauce, or less if you’re after a thick sauce. French chef and cookbook author Auguste Escoffier, whose method is regarded as the authoritative version, calls for an “onion stuck with clove” to be simmered in the sauce for added flavour; you can skip this step, or add a bit of grated onion to the mix. See our classic béchamel recipe here.
Two ways to mix-up your white sauce
•Add grainy mustard or Dijon for creamy mustard sauce. (Hello, pork chops!)
•Add grated cheese (half Gruyére, half Parmigiano) for a mornay sauce.
Tomato sauce may be most associated with the cuisines of Italy and Spain, but in reality it’s one of the most versatile sauces around. And best of all it doesn’t require a specific technique, like a roux or emulsion, to produce. My favourite method is one of the simplest; it comes from iconic Italian food writer Marcella Hazan, who simmers good-quality canned tomatoes (which tend to be more consistent, don’t require peeling and are available year-round) with an onion and a chunk of butter. While Hazan removes the soft onion after simmering, I like to purée it right into the sauce. See our no-fail tomato sauce recipe here.
Three ways to update the classic tomato sauce
•Add a glug of heavy cream to make it a rosé.
•Add chopped guanciale (cured pork cheek) or pancetta and a handful of grated Pecorino and you haveall’amatriciana.
•Add olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, some chopped olives and a few capers to make Puttanesca.