A good sauce can elevate any simple meal. Kept in the fridge or freezer, a sauce or two (or three!) paves the way to plenty of nourishing and delicious meals with even the sparsest of ingredients.
If all you have is a slightly sad-looking head of broccoli and maybe an egg or two, don't worry... there are sauces for that. Try roasting the florets with some olive oil and salt. Drizzle with some Lime-Tahini-Chive Sauce or toss with a dollop of Walnut Romesco. Save the stalks and slice thinly, sautéing with olive oil, garlic, and salt. Add an egg and scramble with some Garlicky Basil Tomato Pistou -- the possibilities are truly endless when there’s sauce around.
Tahini is a tried-and-true base for a quick sauce. The lime and chives add some aromatic depth to the nuttiness of the tahini, and the yogurt balances out the bitterness of the lime. The result is a bright, aromatic, creamy, nutty sauce that can be used as a salad dressing, dip for snacking, or drizzled on top of roasted vegetables or meat.
2/3 cup tahini
Zest of 1 lime and juice of 3 limes (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt
Salt, to taste
Mix the tahini, lime zest, juice, and chives together in a medium bowl, whisking with a fork until combined. The tahini will seize up a bit at first, but will become creamy and smooth again.
Add water and whisk until smooth and pale. It should be pourable but not watery-thin.
Season with salt, to taste.
Serve as a dressing for a crisp salad of little gems or romaine, drizzle onto roasted vegetables, or as a dip for snacking!
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Total time: 5 minutes
Pistou is pesto’s French cousin. Typically made with equal parts basil and cheese, garlic and olive oil. The addition of cherry tomatoes lends some sweet acidity, with brings out the flavor of the basil and garlic even more. It is preferable to make this in a mortar and pestle, if you have one, but a food processor will do just fine.
1 heaping cup basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Handful (5-7) sweet cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Parmegianno Reggiano, grated
1/3 cup fruity olive oil
a pinch of salt
With a mortar and pestle:
Pound the garlic and a small pinch of salt until you have a paste.
Add the basil leaves and smash until they start to break down, releasing their oils. Grind along the edge of the mortar until you have a textured paste (not completely smooth but with no large chunks of basil left).
Add the quartered tomatoes and the grated parmesan and grind a bit more so the tomatoes break down and the parmesan is blended in.
Slowly drizzle olive oil into the mixture and then grind until incorporated, and repeat, in batches, until all of the olive oil has been incorporated. The parmesan should lend it plenty of flavor, but add a little salt if necessary.
With a food processor:
Pulse the garlic and a pinch of salt a few times, scraping down the sides if necessary until you have a fine mince. Add the basil and pulse until you have a thick, rough paste.
Add the quartered tomatoes and the grated parmesan and pulse a couple more times. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Toss with orzo or small, ridgy pastas, like strozzapreti or trofie, with plenty of parmesan and pepper. Spread onto crusty, toasted bread as a snack. Glob onto a fried egg for breakfast or top onto a bowl of chicken soup or minestrone.
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze in an airtight container for up to 9 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, or in the microwave in a pinch.
Makes 1 cup
Total time: 10 minutes
Romesco is a sauce of Spanish origin, typically made with roasted tomatoes and/or peppers, hazelnuts, and almonds. This recipe calls for toasted walnuts, but you can just as easily sub with a different nut or combination of nuts. I’ve included instructions here for roasting fresh tomatoes and peppers, which, if you have the time, will fill your kitchen with delightfully sweet and smokey aromas and produce a slightly mellower, less acidic sauce. But if you are pressed you can just as easily opt for canned, roasted tomatoes and jarred, marinated peppers. If you do so, be sure to drain the tomatoes of excess liquid and rinse the peppers of their marinade.
3 (about 12 oz) medium Roma tomatoes, cored OR 12 oz canned, roasted Roma tomatoes, drained
1 red bell pepper OR 1 jarred, marinated red bell pepper, rinsed
3/4 cup walnuts
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
thick piece of stale bread, torn, about 1 cup (leftover from a baguette or other nice loaf)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Scatter the cored tomatoes onto the baking sheet and roast for about an hour, until the kitchen is filled with a jammy-sweet scent and they are shriveled all over and lightly charred in places. Remove from the oven and let cool. If using canned tomatoes, skip this step.
While the tomatoes roast, heat a burner on your stovetop over medium heat and sit the bell pepper directly on top of the burner. Using tongs, turn the pepper every couple minutes or so, until the skin is blackened all over (about 8-10 minutes). Take off the heat and transfer to a pot with a tight fitting lid. Allow to rest, covered, for at least 10 minutes. If using jarred pepper, skip this step.
Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and toss with a little bit of olive oil and salt. Roast in the oven for about 5-7 minutes, tossing a few times, until fragrant and just turning golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.
After the tomatoes have cooled, peel and discard the skin.
Run the scorched pepper under the faucet and remove the thin layer of charred skin. It should rub off very easily. Remove the stem and seeds.
Add the garlic to the food processor and pulse a few times to mince. Add the walnuts, bread, pepper flakes (if using) and paprika, pulsing until you have a uniform, breadcrumb-like mixture.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the roasted tomatoes, bell pepper, parsley, and a little salt and pepper. Process until smooth and, with the machine still running, slowly drizzle in the vinegar and then the oil. Continue processing until smooth and pale. Taste and adjust seasoning. You should have a thick, creamy sauce.