Making your own pasta sauce recipe is an easy, healthy and cost-effective way to get dinner done. When you learn some basic procedures, it becomes simple to make a variety of sauces to suit almost any pasta. And since you are controlling the ingredients, you know exactly how this sauce ranks on the healthy scale. A great added bonus to going homemade is that making your own sauce will even save you money over buying the jarred variety. Really – there is no reason making homemade sauces shouldn’t become a part of your cooking toolkit – a skill you’ll be able to use almost every day. Let’s review the procedures of three of the most popular and common sauces you’ll encounter when making pasta.
Become a Master of the Marinara Sauce Recipe
Tomato Sauce is one of the five “Mother Sauces” in French culinary and the starting point for any marinara sauce recipe. There are two parts to this sauce that are made separately with their own procedure and then come together at the end: tomato concasse and a sauce “base”. The sauce base can be meat, vegetables, broth, seafood – whatever you will be using to make YOUR marinara sauce recipe. Tomato concasse sounds fancy, but it simply means a mixture of tomatoes coarsely chopped. But – there is a trick to getting this mixutre sans seeds and skins. Here’s my quick technique for blanching tomatoes, which is the first step in making tomato sauce:
- Core tomatoes on one end and score an “x” on the other side with a knife. This will be where the skin peels away during boiling.
- Place tomatoes in a pot of boiling water.
- When the skin at the “x” has peeled back, it is time to remove the tomato and shock it in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. This will vary by tomato due to size and ripeness.
- Peel and seed the tomatoes. Peeling should be very easy. If it’s not, the tomato didn’t stay in the boiling water long enough.
Depending how you’d like your marinara sauce recipe to end up, you can puree the tomato concasse or keep it chunky.
Now, onto the sauce base. For a simple marinara sauce recipe, you will probably keep this vegetarian, adding vegetables if you prefer a chunky sauce or vegetable broth if you prefer a smoother sauce:
- Saute chopped onions and garlic in a hot pan with a small amount of olive oil.
- Add your tomato concasse (or puree). This is also where you’d add any other vegetables, like mushrooms or peppers, to your tomato sauce.
- Add vegetable broth and reduce to almost dry.
- Add tomato paste to thicken and color – heat through.
- Add the seasonings of your choice. Basil and oregano are the common ones, but experiment to find what you like.
You’ve now got a great homemade pasta sauce recipe that you can make almost any night of the week. My guess is that this process would take you about 30-45 minutes to prepare. During this time, your pasta is cooking and your meal is ready in under an hour!
Make any White Sauce Recipe with One Procedure
When you think of a white sauce recipe, most often what you are imagining has its roots in the French mother sauce, bechamel. Bechamel forms the foundation for every white sauce recipe – including the favorite fetuccine Alfredo or even the classic macaroni and cheese. The key to making this velvety white sauce smooth is knowing how much milk to add. This is something that is best determined with your eyes – not a recipe!
You start by melting butter on the stove and then removing it from the heat. As you add some flour – a little at a time – you will be watching for the mixture to thicken up to the consistency of wall paper paste. When it does, you’ve got roux and it is time to return to the heat. Your goal here is to cook the proteins out of the flour. You will know this has happened when the majority of the roux has turned from yellow to white. During the process, you will smell a toasty smell as the proteins cook out. Now you can start adding milk. This is the most important step in making this sauce so take your time here. You will continue to add milk – a little at a time – until the sauce stops thickening. So here’s the process:
- Add some milk and stir.
- Stop stirring and observe.
- If sauce starts thickening back up over the heat, add more milk.
- Continue steps 1-3 until the sauce doesn’t thicken back up (in step 3).
I like a garlic flavor to my white sauce recipe so here’s a trick for adding garlic, but not adding the lumps of chopped garlic. I simmer whole garlic cloves in the sauce for a bit and then remove them before serving. This will infuse a nice garlic flavor into my white sauce recipe. Finally, if you are making an Alfredo (or macaroni and cheese), this is where you would add your favorite cheese(s), stirring over heat as they melt.
A Buttery Garlic Sauce Recipe in Less then 30 Minutes
I saved my favorite garlic sauce recipe for last for a couple of reasons. First, it is a great sauce because you can make it rather quickly, using ingredients you most likely have on hand. However, this homemade pasta sauce recipe can be a little bit trickier than the first two, which makes some shy away from it. But, don’t worry. With a few tips, you’ll be making this one like a pro tonight!
Again, we start with one of the French culinary mother sauces – this time: beurre blanc, a saute of shallot (with garlic) and any liquid mounted with cold butter. The trick to this sauce is to always keep the butter yellow. If your butter stays yellow, it means that the sauce has not broken. Here is my best tip for keeping the butter yellow in your garlic sauce recipe. This is one time, we don’t start with a hot pan (as we normally would in saute method). The cold pan and cold butter hit the heat together. To melt the butter, without burning it:
- Melt a little bit of butter.
- Remove from hit and swirl around to melt more butter
- Return to heat for a couple of seconds to get the butter hot again.
- Remove from heat and swirl around to melt more butter.
- Repeat steps 1-4 until all the butter is melted.
When the butter is melted, you add your shallot and garlic and saute, but you don’t want to brown anything here. Controlling the heat (so as not to separate the butter) is the most important secret for success when making this sauce. Keep the butter yellow – can’t stress that enough! Once the shallots and garlic have cooked to become translucent in color, add a cold liquid (usually white wine) and then cold butter, cut in consistent squares. If the pan starts to get too hot (as evidenced by white specs floating to the top of the butter), you will remove it from heat and add more cold butter to cool the sauce quickly. You can always heat it back up again when you cool it – but you can’t fix it once it has actually broken. When you are satisfied with the consistency and flavor of the garlic sauce recipe you’ve created, add salt and white pepper to taste and serve on your favorite pasta.
A great pasta sauce recipe starts where all sauces start – basic cooking methods and the “mother sauces” of French culinary. You don’t have to be a chef to apply these techniques and make everyday cooking at home easier, tastier and cheaper than eating out at your favorite restaurant.
Chef Todd Mohr is a classically trained chef, entrepreneur, cooking educator and founder of WebCookingClasses. You can experience his unique approach to no-recipe cooking with his FREE online cooking classes. The 7 minute class will change the way you think about cooking forever.