It’s incredible just how much a delicious sauce can transform even the most simple of dishes. Forget about those lazy days when you’re happy to cut corners and resort to a jar. Trust us – when done right, the taste of a homemade sauce will be worth the effort every time. Especially considering that some of the most classic, versatile sauces are also very straightforward to make and require minimal ingredients. Here are five we think you should master:
Béchamel is is a white sauce made of milk and thickened with a white roux (a flour and butter mixture). It’s also one of the famous five French mother sauces. As experts at Pasta Evangelists note, béchamel is ‘known today for being one of the most iconic ingredients in the classic lasagne’, giving the dish the creamy consistency that makes it so comforting. It’s also a core component of the Greek moussaka, while you can also add cheese to the sauce to make mac and cheese or cauliflower cheese. As a mother sauce, béchamel is also the starting point for many other ‘daughter’ sauces such as mornay sauce and soubise sauce.
This is perhaps the simplest sauce to make as there’s no cooking involved – just blending! You can also use a pestle and mortar if you’re taking a more traditional approach, although this chef recommends chopping all the ingredients by hand as ‘you get definition between ingredients, and bright flavours pop in a way they don’t when they’ve been blended into one.’
Simply mix olive oil with basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan in a food processor and you’ll have a fresh, flavourful pesto alla genovese. It’s most commonly served with pasta as well as on bread, pizza, and salads. You can also reduce the basil, remove the pine nuts, and add tomatoes and almonds to create a pesto alla siciliana or pesto rosso (red pesto).
A delicious homemade gravy is the perfect way to top off a classic roast dinner, although there’s no need to stop there – one in 10 Brits eat claim to eat gravy with ‘everything’. Traditionally, gravy is made with the juices of meats that run naturally during cooking and vegetables, then mixed with flour and stock. So, it’s a simple sauce to whip up while your meat is resting. Vegetarians can remove the meat and stick with the vegetables, while mushroom and onion gravies are alternative options.
This classic tomato sauce is a simple but effective addition to a pizza or pasta, first appearing in Italian cookbooks in the 1890s. This is typically made with tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs (usually oregano and sometimes basil as well). It’s best to use fresh tomatoes if you can but keeping a few cans of chopped tomatoes in the cupboard means you should always be able to make this at short notice. To jazz up your marinara, you could also consider adding olives, capers, and salted anchovies.
It’s well worth learning how to make this light and fragrant Greek sauce. Not only can you serve it with meats like lamb and chicken as part of a Mediterranean main course, but it’s also a delicious dip you can snack on with pitta bread, olives, and other mezze dishes. All you’ll need is Greek yoghurt, cucumber, mint and garlic. An extra bonus is that tzatziki is considered to be a healthy sauce due to its low fat and calorie content, and the probiotics in the yoghurt.