Salt 101

Lost in the Sauce? A Guide to Unleashing Your Inner Saucier with the Mother Sauces

As with most things in life, learning too cook means mastering the basics. Once you do, then the world is your oyster and you can experiment and play to your heart's content. The most important basics? The five mother sauces. They are the backbone of countless dishes from mac and cheese to beef bourguignon, and are the heart and soul of flavor-filled cooking. To get you started, we've gathered the secret to mastering each.


Though unassuming at first, the bechamel, is the master of transfiguration. It is the sauce most common in your favorite comfort food recipes from chicken pot pie and mac and cheese to moussaka since it is the secret to true creaminess. Named after its creator, Louis XIV's steward, Marquis Louis de Bechamel, this sauce was initially intended to be a velvety accompaniment to dry fish. However, it quickly became the canvas for countless culinary masterpieces.

That said, despite its ubiquity and power, it's really not all that hard to master. Start by making a roux—basically, a buttery flour paste. Stir constantly until the flour begins to turn a light brown shade to make sure the raw flour flavor has cooked off and then mix in the milk, salt, and pepper to achieve your desired consistency. Feeling adventurous? Elevate this classic by adding nutmeg, bay leaves, onion, cloves, or a sprinkle of cheese.

Mac and Cheese


  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz macaroni pasta, cooked and drained


  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until warm, but not boiling.
  2. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour to create a roux, and cook for a few minutes until it turns golden brown.
  3. Gradually whisk the warm milk into the roux, ensuring there are no lumps. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
  4. Add salt, pepper, and shredded cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.
  5. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Serve hot and enjoy your creamy mac and cheese masterpiece.


Veloute, literally translating to "velvet," is the base for innumerable French dishes. Like bechamel, it starts with a roux, but instead of adding milk, add any clear broth to get a silky, flavor-filled result.

Chicken Veloute


  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked chicken breast, diced


  1. In a saucepan, heat the chicken broth until simmering.
  2. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to create a roux, and cook until it's pale and smooth.
  3. Gradually whisk the hot chicken broth into the roux, stirring continuously until the sauce thickens.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, then add the diced chicken.
  5. Serve this velvety sauce over chicken or other protein of your choice. Bon appétit!


In contrast to its lighter sister sauces, the Espagnole is a heavier, darker base. Think of it as the James Bond of sauces—rich, intense, and a little bit dangerous. It pairs perfectly with red meats, duck, and, of course, beef bourguignon.

To make it, you again, start with a classic roux, but rather than stopping when the flour turns a light brown, you just let it cook. Make sure to stir constantly to prevent burning, but once it reaches a smoky shade, add in a mirepoix—mix of diced onion, carrot, and celery—tomato puree, and beef stock, for true depth of flavor.

Beef Bourguignon


  • 2 lbs beef stew meat
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh thyme and bay leaves


  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Brown the beef in batches and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, add diced onions, sliced carrots, and chopped celery. Sauté until they start to soften.
  3. Add minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Pour in the red wine and simmer until it's reduced by half.
  5. Return the browned beef to the pot, then add beef broth, tomato puree, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaves.
  6. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened.
  7. Serve your Beef Bourguignon with a flourish and savor the richness of Espagnole sauce.


Hollandaise is best friend that elevates everyone they meet. Bland eggs? Boring asparagus? Add hollandaise and it's now gourmet.

To make it, whisk egg yolks into melted butter until it forms a rich, creamy emulsion. To level it up, consider adding spices, white wine vinegar, or a touch of lemon juice.

Classic Eggs Benedict

- 4 large eggs
- 2 English muffins, split and toasted
- 4 slices Canadian bacon or smoked salmon (optional)
- Chopped fresh chives or parsley for garnish

- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1. To make the Hollandaise sauce, whisk together the egg yolks and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl.
2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler) and whisk continuously until the mixture thickens.
3. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter while whisking vigorously until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
4. Season the sauce with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Keep it warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.

1. Poach the eggs to your desired level of doneness.
2. Place the toasted English muffins on a plate, add Canadian bacon or smoked salmon if desired, and top each half with a poached egg.
3. Drizzle the luscious Hollandaise sauce over the eggs, and garnish with chopped chives or parsley.
4. Serve your Eggs Benedict with a side of breakfast potatoes, and enjoy a taste of brunch perfection.


Last but certainly not least, we have the timeless tomato sauce, or "sugo al pomodoro" in Italian. Over pasta, mixed into polenta, or served with various meat dishes, the tomato sauce is the Emma Watson of sauces, you can't not love it.

The recipe is easy. Cook down tomatoes—fresh or canned—then add in your mirepoix and pork and stir until it thickens. To sneakily speed up the thickening process, you can add a little bit of roux, but that's not the true Italian grandmother way.

Now that you've been introduced to the Fab Five of sauces, the culinary world is your oyster. Master these sauces, and you'll unlock the keys to countless delectable creations. So, get saucy, experiment, and let your inner chef shine. Your taste buds will thank you, and your kitchen will transform into a stage fit for culinary greatness. Bon appétit!

Spaghetti Bolognese

- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil leaves for garnish
- Cooked spaghetti

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and sauté until translucent.
2. Add minced garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant.
3. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon.
4. Pour in the red wine and simmer until it's reduced by half.
5. Stir in crushed tomatoes and dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Simmer the sauce for 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
7. Serve the rich tomato sauce over cooked spaghetti, garnished with fresh basil leaves.