Classic Sauces

Many times, when I try to think of what to cook for dinner, I start by thinking of what sauces I might like to base my dinner around. I have spent a good amount of time seeking out recipes for good sauces. Anything from Asian sauces to the Classics, sauces make our meals breathtaking.

Here, I offer you a small selection of Classic Sauces to add to your recipe book.

1. Classic Alfredo Sauce – Williams/Sonoma Kitchens

2. Classic Bearnaise Sauce – Mario Battali

3. Four Seasons’ Brown Sauce – Four Seasons Restaurant, NYC

First up, Alfredo Sauce. This recipe has been adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series. It is a foolproof and delicious recipe.

Begin with the best ingredients you can find. In this case, get heavy cream that is not ultrapasteurized. You’ll want it to have some body. And the butter. Get Plugra or KerryGold butter, unsalted. These two butters are nice and creamy and have a flavor reminiscent of fine European butters. Next, get fresh off the wheel wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Finish it off with freshly grated nutmeg. Finally, if you can, use a good sea salt or kosher salt and freshly cracked or ground black pepper.

It’s a simple recipe, really, but it tastes like you slaved over the stove for hours.


1 ½ cups heavy cream

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (can substitute shredded parmesan)

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated nutmeg to taste


In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the cream and butter to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1 minute. Add 6 Tbs. of the cheese and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper and a generous pinch of nutmeg. (Be judicious with the salt. Parmigiano-Reggiano is salty, so too much added salt will throw this creamy, sweet sauce out of balance.)

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the freshness of the pasta. Drain the pasta well.

Put the pasta in a warmed large, shallow bowl. Pour on the sauce, sprinkle with 6 Tbs. of the cheese and toss well. Serve immediately. Pass the remaining cheese at the table. Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course.

2. Classic Bearnaise Sauce

This recipe comes from Mario Battali. This classic sauce is best known for adorning fine cuts of steak, but really, it can be used over almost anything. Use it over poultry or fish or vegetables to add a savory kick to any dish. It can also be used in place of hollandaise and can go so far as being used in sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.


¼ cup white wine vinegar

1 small shallot, peeled and minced

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1 T. + 1 t. chopped tarragon leaves

2 egg yolks

12 T. unsalted butter, melted

kosher salt, to taste

splash of lemon juice


Put the vinegar, shallots, black pepper and 1 tablespoon of tarragon leaves into a small saucepan, and set over a medium flame. Bring just to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer until there are only a few tablespoons of liquid left, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

Fill a small saucepan with an inch or two of water, and set over medium-high heat to boil.

Put the cooled shallot-and-tarragon mixture into a metal mixing bowl along with a tablespoon of water and the egg yolks, then whisk to combine.

Turn the heat under the saucepan of water down to its lowest setting, and put the bowl on top of the pan, making sure that it does not touch the water directly. Continue to whisk the yolks until they thicken, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. You should just about double the volume of the yolks.

Slowly beat in the butter, a tablespoon or two at a time, whisking slowly to combine and emulsify. Remove the bowl from the pan occasionally, so as not to overcook the eggs, and taste the sauce. Season with salt. If the flavor is not sharp enough, add a splash of lemon juice. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a splash of hot water. Add the remaining teaspoon of tarragon leaves, and serve.

3. Four Seasons’ Brown Sauce (Sauce Espagnole)

This sauce is a bit of work, but it goes everywhere. It also freezes well, so you can make a large batch and freeze it in individual bags so that you can have it handy anytime.


2 T. pork fatback or bacon

½ cup sliced carrots

¼ cup chopped onions

1 t. thyme

1 bay leaf

1 T. salt

1 t. pepper

1 ½ cups flour

1/3 cup butter

1 ½ quarts beef stock (or any stock you prefer)

1 pound fresh tomato, peeled and chopped

1 cup white wine


Brown carrots and onions slowly with the fatback and add the seasonings.

Mix flour and butter to form a rouix and add, mixing well.

Add a quart of stock and simmer very slowly for three hours.


Let stand overnight.

Add remaining stock, tomatoes and wine and simmer slowly for 2 hours, skimming fat and scum.

Strain again.

Use it right away or let it cool and place in the fridge for up to seven days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


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