Cooking With Steve: Sauces

Sauces are awesome.

Admittedly no one’s going to argue on that directly. We’ve all had great sauces, from powerful barbecue to mild bechamel. But I not only like a good sauce, I think they’re a key to healthy cooking.

Now we don’t often think of sauces and healthy. Usually we think of sauces as fatty or rich or spicy, and always excessive. Some store bought sauces may freak you out if you read the label. But actually there’s three ways sauces can be healthy – or at least cook healthy.

One, you can tweak a sauce to be at least neutral. Substituting ingredients (vegetable spread over butter), finding ones that compensate for removing others (in some black pepper makes up for removing salt), trying different forms (crushed tomatoes over sauce) can work wonders. Once you’ve made a sauce to be at least not UNHEALTHY you can enjoy it more.

Two, you can actually find sauces or make them healthy or to have some nutritional benefit. I’ve found some home made tomato sauces or those using crushed tomatoes are, despite all the past jokes about School lunches, basically a vegetable. A little work and luck and you can make a sauce that actually ads to the meal and is still healthy.

Third, and finally – sauces let you eat a wider variety of food. Even if the sauce is the worst part of the meal, if you don’t overdo it, it can work magic.

This is where sauces are awesome and why even a “neutral” sauce has benefits.

You can take a giant pile of food, dump the right sauce on it, and you have a delectable healthy meal. Even food you’re normally not fond of can suddenly become delectable with the right sauce, and an uninteresting food can be suddenly interesting. If you can manage to do that with an actual healthy sauce, then more’s the win.

That’s one of the reasons I quest to develop my own lower sodium, lower fat Japanese Curry. If I can get it just right then I’ll have a decent sauce that is neutral to mildly good for you that I can put on ANYTHING and have an instant, delicious meal.

It’s one of the reasons cooks amateur and professional try to get the perfect pasta sauces – a neutral-tasting plate of pasta becomes a wonder with the right sauce.

So when you’re learning to cook, work on your sauces. Make them delicious, make them healthy, or at least make them so you don’t need too much of them. It’s a key to turning food that’s good for you into a delicious meal.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at