When I walk through the grocery store and take a look at the pasta aisle, it never ceases to amaze me the variety of sauces on display. I can't imagine spending $3 on jarred sauce when it is SO easy to make. I think if people realized just how simple it is, they would be making their own and saving more money.
To make any sauce there are basically four components that you can mix and match:
Oil Base-butter, oil or drippings from meat
Thickening Agent- flour if making a roux or cornstarch if you are thickening from a broth
- When making a roux, heat your oil base and then add a bit of flour to thicken, you will want to cook the flour a little bit to get rid of the "doughy" taste. Depending on the depth of the sauce you are making you may or may not want to brown the roux. Always stir constantly when making a roux, burned roux will need to be thrown out.
- When using cornstarch the rules change. While you add flour to hot oil, cornstarch ALWAYS needs to be added to cool or cold liquid. Never add to warm/hot liquid or it will not dissolve (it's backwards, I know) and you will get lumps in your sauce. I like to use a little pint jar, put a little bit of cold broth or water and add your cornstarch and shake it. You can add a bit at a time until you get the correct thickness for your sauce.
Seasoning Elements-This of course is defined by the type of sauce you are making and is only limited by your imagination. Some suggestions are Meat, Cheeses, Vegetables, and spices of all types. Even sweet flavors like cocoa and coconut can be found in sauces. Flavors like onion, garlic, salt and pepper can be found in almost all sauces and if you don't want chunks of certain flavors in your sauce but want the aroma and taste, you can infuse the essence by boiling the liquid you are using with the ingredients of the flavor that you like before you begin. Just discard the ingredient after the flavor has been infused into the liquid.
Here is an example of how these steps come together. This is how I make Alfredo Sauce:
- Melt half a stick of butter in large skillet
- Throw in diced onions.
- When onions are translucent and aromatic, throw in some flour to make roux. (hint: if you add too much flour and find your roux is a thick paste instead of a roux, just add a touch of oil. This is so simple, you can add more oil or more flour until you get the roux consistency just right)
- Add chicken broth, then season with salt, garlic powder and pepper. Taste with small spoon to see if flavors are right.
- Add cream or milk a bit at a time, to get the perfect consistency...the sauce will thicken as it cooks until it reaches a certain point. I just add a bit at a time until I get there.
- Last step, add a half cup or so of Parmesan Cheese.
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