Need something to tie your meals together? Something warm, full of flavor? We recommend a great sauce for a variety of dishes. There are countless options out there. But before exploring the choices, start with these essential kitchen sauces, which will give your meals an extra oomph!
If you’re kind of tired of whipping up something fast and tasty for dinner, then go for a dish with a great sauce. Sauces are an essential tool of any cook. Once you’ve lightly mastered these, you have a crazy amount of options for meals.
Cooking meat and potatoes or roasting vegetables, making rice or pasta. Sometimes they can all seem a bit dry, like something important is lacking. I think that important something is the sauce! A tablespoon or two will make your dish feel realized, finished, complete. And it won’t hurt your taste buds either.
But what can you start with? Here are five great options for your sauce needs. Once you’ve mastered these, you can build upon all of them and make them your own, by adding and subtracting ingredients.
4 essential kitchen sauces we swear by
1. Marinara sauce
This is sort of the alpha and omega of pasta sauces, so yeah, on top of the list of the essential kitchen sauces we recommend. It goes great with spaghetti, and it has this incredible mix of layered flavors, that reveal themselves to you while eating. There are a lot of variations of this sauce out there. You can make it from scratch, and it doesn’t take a lot of time.
You can use it for pizza, calzones, and chicken parmigiana. But it’s also a culinary marvel that works in risottos, pasta, and ravioli. With so many uses, it’s entirely worth dedicating a cooking session for a large batch of marinara sauce. Which you can then keep on hand for dishes needing some flavor and connecting tissue for toppings.
You need tomatoes – fresh or canned –, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and some fresh herbs. Then, you’re on your way to amazing pasta!
2. Bechamel sauce
Another basic sauce, Bechamel has been called one of the “Mother sauces”, one from which a lot of other sauces are born. It’s also called white sauce, even though the difference between Bechamel and white sauce is a bit of seasoning. The sauce is made from flour, butter, and milk. It can have different consistencies, and it’s an amazing connecting tissue for your dishes. The standard Bechamel sauce is made from white sauce with half an onion (or a small onion) studded with cloves added in, along with a bay leaf and ground nutmeg.
You can add it to lasagna, gratins, scalloped potatoes and mac and cheese. Depending on changing the proportions, you can make thicker or thinner sauces, which have different uses in the kitchen. Thinner varieties are great in souffles, for instance.
3. Garlic sauce
If you’re not a vampire, and you also love garlic, then this is the sauce for you. Garlic sauce, also known as toum (the Arabic word for garlic), is similar to mayonnaise, but a touch lighter. You don’t need many ingredients to make it. The base sauce recipe is made from garlic, lemon juice, and oil. Or you can add an egg white too.
What does it go well with? What doesn’t it? I like to use it on top of burgers, have it as a fry dip, but the absolute best use for it is in wraps. You can experiment with it to your own liking. Add it to some grilled chicken breast to give it that kick of a flavor. Or replace mayo with it in different dishes. Your imagination is the limit.
4. Brown sauce or Espagnol
This is basically a brown gravy you can use to build a steak sauce or mushroom sauces. You can make it with butter or bacon fat, flour, and then add some veggies like onions, carrots, and celery. Then you mix in tomatoes and beef stock.
The best thing about the brown sauce is that you can make it from those pan drippings. When you make steak, there are plenty of brown bits left in the pan. Which shouldn’t go to waste. So start with those, add the fat, flour to thicken, some seasoning and some liquid to deglaze the pan (wine, vinegar, or sherry).
A lot of Brits have brown sauce in their pantries and they like to enjoy their eggs with it!
These are just the cream of the crop when it comes to essential kitchen sauces. There are plenty other sauces out there, from myriads of cuisines all around the world. There’s Sriracha, Mexican mole, Thai peanut sauce, curry, hummus, pesto, nut sauce. Some of them we’ve covered, some of them we’ll cover in the future.