6 Sauces Every Home Cook Should Know

A few weeks ago, I saw my friend and fellow dietitian, Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, post about a radio media tour that she was doing that day for her client, CanolaInfo, to discuss six sauces that every home cook needed to commit to memory. Immediately, I knew that those sauces needed to be part of my Recipes You Know By Heart series since they fit perfectly into the theme so I asked Sarah-Jane if she would share them with you. From a flavorful vinaigrette to an all-purpose tomato sauce to a mushroom gravy, these six sauces are sure to become dinnertime staples.

Sarah-Jane Bedwell

From Sarah-Jane…

What would a salad be without vinaigrette? Or mac and cheese without béchamel? Sauces are elemental to good cooking and good food! Knowing how to prepare basic, simple sauces is a valuable culinary skill. Homemade sauces will taste better, cost less and be better for you, especially when made with high-quality ingredients like fresh herbs and canola oil.

I’ve worked with CanolaInfo to showcase these “Six Sauces for Success,” which are go-to classics every home cook should have in his or her back pocket. The good news is that they are easy to prepare, a delicious way to add flavor to basic dishes, and they are all made with wholesome ingredients! Each of these flavorful recipes is made with healthy canola oil, which is ideal for almost any kind of recipe. Canola oil’s neutral flavor, light texture and high heat tolerance work well with many dishes. It also contains the least saturated fat and most plant-based omega-3 fat of all common cooking oils.

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The Six Sauces:

Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette
Image courtesy of CanolaInfo

  • Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette: Cooking 101 starts with a vinaigrette, the simple combination of oil and vinegar. Other ingredients (lemon juice, herbs, mustard, etc.) make vinaigrette variations endless. Canola oil is excellent for vinaigrettes because of its neutral taste and light texture as shown in this recipe. Moreover, canola oil-based dressings remain free-flowing in the refrigerator due to the oil’s low saturated fat content.
  • Classic Pesto: A dollop of this basil purée delivers a shot of fresh flavor to far more than pasta. Think soup, grilled fish or a platter of roasted vegetables for starters. CanolaInfo’s recipe for pesto takes advantage of canola oil’s mildness to let the basil and garlic flavors shine.
  • Honolulu Barbecue Marinade: Marinades are every griller’s best friend, boosting taste and texture before cooking even starts. Canola oil is a good choice for marinades because its high heat tolerance (smoke point of 468 °F) can take the heat on the grill.

Manicotti with All-Purpose Tomato Sauce
Image courtesy of CanolaInfo

  • All-Purpose Tomato Sauce: Simple, fresh and healthy, tomato sauce goes with just about everything. Canola oil, which contains half the saturated fat of olive oil, keeps it heart-healthy. Once you make your own, you’ll never go back to a jar.
  • Creamy Mac and Cheese: This recipe centers on a white sauce called béchamel, one of the five classic French “mother sauces” that’s migrated to other cuisines. Using canola oil instead of butter to make the roux (fat and flour cooked together) significantly reduces the sauce’s saturated fat content.
  • Porcini Mushroom Gravy: Like béchamel, gravy is a sauce is thickened by a roux, but one that’s been cooked until brown and nutty in aroma. It tastes rich, but can still be heart-smart and light if made with canola oil and chicken broth such as in this recipe.

Think beyond the basics when it comes to using these sauces to add flavor to your meals. For example, try using the vinaigrette to add life to a stand-by lunchtime sandwich, add the pesto to a baked potato as a perfect healthy substitute for sour cream. Enjoy the barbecue marinade on fish and veggies as well as meats, try using the tomato sauce in your meatloaf recipe, make basic chicken delicious with a topping of béchamel sauce, and use leftover gravy as an easy stew-starter—just thin with a little more broth.

What are your favorite homemade sauces and most creative ways to use them?