Versatile Sauces

Sauces can jazz up all different kinds of basic meals. These two options provide lots of flavor that can be used in many different ways. For more sauces, check out Cooking Light’s collection of six simple sauces that can be used for dressing up chicken or other proteins.

Romesco Sauce

romesco sauceThis all-purpose condiment, a riff on the classic Catalonian recipe, goes well with just about anything charred on the grill, from sweet spring onions and fat spears of asparagus to fish, shrimp, steak, and pork chops. Use this recipe as a baseline and change it up however you see fit. You can make it spicy or tangy, smooth or chunky.


4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 red bell peppers
1 red jalapeño or fresno chile
1 (1 1/2-in.-thick) slice crusty bread
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup Marcona almonds
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ripe medium tomato, cored


1) Preheat broiler to high.
2) Arrange garlic, bell peppers, chile, and bread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle vegetables with 1 tablespoon oil.
3) Broil, turning occasionally, until vegetables are nicely charred and softened and bread is toasted, about 8 minutes for peppers and garlic and 4 minutes for bread.
4) Transfer peppers and chile to a medium bowl; cover with the used foil and let steam.
5) Tear bread into small pieces. Peel garlic.
6) Finely chop bread, garlic, and almonds in a food processor.
7) Peel, stem, and seed peppers and chile.
8) Add remaining 1/4 cup oil, peppers and chile, vinegar, paprika, salt, and tomato to processor; process until almost smooth.
10) Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Source: Cooking Light, June 2017

Serves 12 (serving size: about 2 tbsp.)

Nutritional Information: Calories 96; Fat 7.9g; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 5g; Fiber 1g; Sodium 148mg; Sugars 1g.


Blanched Pesto

blanched pestoThis approach makes pesto that's less grassy and intense than raw basil versions, with rounded, balanced flavor. It's good to use a mellow, mild olive oil here so it doesn't detract from the fresh herbs. We also prefer Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in pesto because it’s milder than super-sharp sheep’s-milk pecorino romano. If you don't care for the hot taste of raw garlic, you can take the edge off the cloves by blanching them along with the basil. We use sunflower seed kernels here because they are far less expensive than the pine nuts traditionally used, and their flavor is similarly rich and sweet. If you have pine nuts already on hand, feel free to use them instead.


6 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seed kernels, toasted
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/2 cup)


1) Bring a large Dutch oven filled with water to a boil over high.
2) Fill a large bowl with ice water. Place basil leaves in a metal strainer.
3) Place strainer in pan, using tongs to quickly submerge all basil leaves; cook 5 seconds or just until leaves turn bright green.
4) Carefully remove strainer with leaves from pan; drain. Immediately plunge strainer with leaves in ice water bath.
5) Let stand 10 seconds. Remove basil; drain well.
6) Spread basil leaves on a clean, dry dish towel; gently blot dry with another towel.
7) Place basil, sunflower seeds, oil, salt, and garlic in a food processor; process until smooth.
8) Add cheese; process until blended.

Source: Cooking Light, June 2017

Serves 12 (serving size: about 1 tbsp.)

Nutritional Information: Calories 85; Fat 8g; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 2g; Fiber 0.0g; Sodium 126mg; Sugars 0g.