Love Your Mother (Sauces)

An orange-laced butter sauce can transform a plate of white fish into an elegant meal for two. A pungent chimichurri can make you scrape your plate.

We may appreciate them when we’re dining out, but many of us skip the sauce in our day-to-day cooking, opting instead for bottled sauces and condiments.

It’s time to roll them into our repertoire, not only to increase our serving options for roasted vegetables and grilled steaks, but to learn the age-old craft of dressing our meals.

Auguste Escoffier, the renowned French chef, designated five essential or “mother” sauces, those he considered indispensable for a variety of dishes, from pot pies to poached eggs.

To get a good start and elevate your everyday meals, learn to make them yourself:


This classic white sauce is made from a roux whisked with milk. It’s the base for classics such as Mornay, Soubise, or mustard sauce.


A variation on béchamel, this sauce uses white (chicken) stock instead of milk, thickened with a blond roux. It makes a lush, thick sauce perfect for pot pies but it’s usually a base for sauces that feature mushrooms, onions, fish, or herbs.


The most complicated of the sauces, espagnole is a base for a variety of sauces, especially demi-glace. Similar to velouté, it’s made with a roux and brown stock, meaning veal, beef, or a combination of the two. It also incorporates a mirepoix, tomato purée, and an herb sachet.


Most of us know hollandaise from Eggs Benedict, but we think the rich, lemony sauce is better used sparingly on bright greens or asparagus. It’s made by slowly whisking melted butter into egg yolks.

Sauce Tomat

We’re accustomed to tomato-based sauces in Italian cuisine, but they’re also a staple in French cooking, served over eggs, rice, or potatoes. This tangy sauce can be made with any number of flavorings, including pork belly, herbs, spices, and onions.

Master these basics, and you’ll soon be creating your own adaptations and making more memorable meals every day.

Until next time,

The Mastro team

Recipes linked in this post

Classic Smooth and Silky Béchamel (White Sauce) Recipe

Veloute smooths the way for many sauces


Classic Hollandaise Sauce

Julia Child's Provençale Tomato Sauce