What to CookNorthern Italian

This Lazier-Than-Pesto Sauce Is Here to Zing Up Any Meal

12 Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!

For the twenty years I’ve been teaching people how to cook, most of my students have come to the cutting board with a misconception that they are somehow supposed to have some kitchen skills, like how to roast a chicken or the difference between a chop and a mince.

The idea that cooking is intuitive sets people up for disappointment. I don’t have jumping-out-of-an-airplane skills—I was never taught how to! That is not a thing my family did, and I don’t feel compelled to learn how to skydive. But if I practiced, had a good guide, and got over my fears, my guess is that it is a skill I could master. The same goes for cooking. That's why I opened Haven’s Kitchen, a cooking school and events space.

My Issue with Cooking Schools—And Why I Opened My Own
+
My Issue with Cooking Schools—And Why I Opened My Own

Most of the students at Haven's Kitchen do have a repertoire of dishes they know well and make often: pasta, eggs, the occasional grilled or roasted meat, and some sort of sautéed vegetable. They’re seeking tips and tricks to make their go-to meals tastier, more appealing, and more like what they eat when they dine out or order in.

That’s where sauces come in.

A good sauce balances out a meal; it adds color, flavor, and texture. Sauce is the difference between a few strips of steak and avocado on a tortilla and a steak taco. It’s the difference between a bowl of black rice topped with some other things and a rice bowl.

The Five Mother Sauces Every Cook Should Know

The Five Mother Sauces Every Cook Should Know by Sodium Girl

+
Know How to Make These 6 Chinese Sauces, Make *Any* Dish More Flavorful

Know How to Make These 6 Chinese Sauces, Make *Any* Dish ... by Madame Huang

+

It was important to me when I wrote my cookbook that sauces weren’t afterthoughts or side recipes. They needed a chapter of their own. We needed herby sauces, creamy sauces, briny and nutty and spicy sauces. We needed to include sauces that were best drizzled on meat or tossed with vegetables, that could be stirred into soups and curries. We needed bright orange sauces and deep green ones, too.

So I researched and taste tested, and what I learned on my sauce journey is that many sauces incorporate the same ingredient base: an herb, some sort of acid (usually citrus), and usually garlic. Herbs add a fresh, zippy, alive quality. Garlic adds sharpness. And zest brings brightness and acidity without changing consistency the way the juice would. From there, things get exciting with the addition of other ingredients you can customize, once you know the basics.

Three different gremolatas, used three different ways.
Three different gremolatas, used three different ways. Photo by Ty Mecham

Cue gremolata—the Milanese answer to Genovese pesto and Argentinian chimichurri: an herby, unblended sauce that cuts through heavier dishes and livens them up. Purist Gremolata is a golden ratio of garlic, lemon zest, and parsley, roughly minced together. But there are endless ways to play with that base to make a more drizzly sauce, or one that is nuttier, spicier, or more savory.

Your base will consist of garlic or a different allium (say, one scallion, one shallot, or half a white or yellow onion), the zest of a lemon or lime, a cup of chopped herbs (stick with cilantro or parsley), and enough oil to just cover the herb mixture. How much you add on top of that depends on the consistency you like. Use the three recipes below as guidelines, then keep experimenting with this new skill you just developed—no blender or special equipment needed.

Sesame & Cilantro Gremolata

Sesame & Cilantro Gremolata

Alison Cayne Alison Cayne
Go To Recipe
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated or minced
  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced
  • 2 dashes sesame oil
  • 2 dashes sea salt, to taste
Go to Recipe
Show More
Pumpkin Seed & Jalapeño Gremolata

Pumpkin Seed & Jalapeño Gremolata

Alison Cayne Alison Cayne
Go To Recipe
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 finely sliced scallion, divided
  • 1 jalapeño, finely minced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 dashes sea salt, to taste
Go to Recipe
Show More
Hazelnut Gremolata

Hazelnut Gremolata

Alison Cayne Alison Cayne
Go To Recipe
Makes about 1 cup
  • 1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more or less
  • 2 dashes sea salt, to taste
Go to Recipe
Show More

This Could Use a Drizzle of Gremolata

How would you like to experiment with gremolata? Let us know in the comments!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Sauce, Pesto