The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution

Elevate Your Everyday Meals with 61 Freezer-Friendly Sauces


By Elisabeth Bailey

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From chimichurri to teriyaki, sauces make our mouths water — and our meals shine! Bland chicken breasts, plain pasta, or simple baked potatoes are transformed into memorable dishes with the addition of sauce.

The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution features 61 flavor-packed recipes for sauces that freeze beautifully and make home cooking easy. They run the gamut from traditional sausage ragu to Thai peanut, Gorgonzola chive butter, all-American barbecue, coconut lemon, Parmesan leek, cheesy cashew garlic, and Meyer lemon spinach. Every recipe is accompanied by a quick-reference chart showing the best base combinations of proteins and vegetables. The struggle to make imaginative, flavorful weeknight meals is over. With a few of these sauces stashed away in the freezer, a great meal can be topped off in minutes.



Discover the Magic of Make-Ahead Sauces

The Method

Freezing 101

Thawing and Reheating

Preparing a Base for Your Sauce

Veggies on the Side

Chapter 1: Across the Americas

Creamy Chipotle




Chorizo Garlic

Pumpkin Coconut Cream

All-Around Vegetable

Buffalo Sauce

Green Peppercorn

All-American Barbecue

Anaheim Pepper

Bacon Gravy

Chapter 2: Asian Inspired

Green Onion Ginger


Thai Peanut

Spicy Soy

Spicy Shiitake

Teriyaki Spinach

Pineapple Ginger

Hot Orange

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Coconut Lemon

Curried Spinach

Yellow Curry

Red Curry

Green Curry

Chapter 3: Mostly Mediterranean

Vodka Cream Sauce


Parmesan Leek


Eggplant Ragu

Balsamic Onion

Roasted Red Pepper

Herbed Dijonnaise

Lemon Egg

Mustard Greens Anchovy

Anchovy Dill

Sage Pancetta Mushroom

Meyer Lemon Spinach

Sausage Ragu


Chapter 4: Cheese and Wine Sauces

Cheddar Ale

Gorgonzola Chive Butter

Blue Cheese, Pear, and Hazelnut

Cheesy Cashew-Garlic

Pepper Havarti

Caramelized Onion Boursin

Peppery Red Wine

Basil–White Wine

Tarragon Pecan

Rosemary Port

Sherry Cremini

Chapter 5: Pestos and Salsas

Classic Pesto

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Spinach Pesto

Walnut-Parsley Pesto

Mint Pesto

Tomatillo Salsa Cruda

Corn and Chile Salsa

Mango Salsa

Tomatillo Avocado

More Flavor Enhancers

Café de Paris Butter

Better Chicken Butter

Cinnamon Butter

Herb Salt

Rosemary Lemon Salt

Spruce Bud Salt


Meal Planner

Metric Conversion Charts


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Share Your Experience!

Discover the Magic of Make-Ahead Sauces

Let me set the scene.

It's 5:00 (or 5:30 or 6:00) and you just got home from work. You are tired. You are hungry. Your kid/spouse/parent is hungry. And crabby. And has to go to an activity/do homework/do more work/get ready for tomorrow. Are you going to pull fresh vegetables and meat out of the fridge and create something healthy and inventive from scratch?

No. No, you are not. Not even if you have fresh meat and vegetables in the fridge and the time to cook them. Because you are tired.

I know because I'm tired, too. If somebody magically cooked all that gorgeous fresh food in my kitchen and put it in front of me, I'd eat it happily. If not . . . I'm going to eat whatever is easiest to make and easiest to please these other people demanding things at my table. Like a frozen lasagna or — yes, I'm going there — chicken nuggets and fries.

At least, that's what I used to do all the time. Now, more often than not, I've got a better solution. I've worked out a system in which someone does magically cook all that gorgeous fresh food and has it ready when I get home from work. That person is . . . Weekend Me!

On the weekend, when I have time to cook and the energy to feel like cooking, I make a big batch of something — usually a sauce. If I'm ambitious, I might even make a couple of big batches of sauce. Then I divide the sauce into meal-size batches and pop them in the freezer.

I call these sauces "flavor bombs." On a weekday night, I add any of them to a basic staple like a chicken breast, pasta, or baked potato — which I've cooked quickly and easily — and voilà! I've made a delicious, homemade meal with the same amount of energy and forethought I'd give a frozen pizza.

One of my favorite parts of this method is that you don't even need a chest freezer. Once you've built up a library of these sauces, you can easily mix and match with different staples to make a variety of meals on a moment's notice.

Please keep in mind that while terrific, this method isn't likely to be a 100 percent solution to your weekday dinner dilemma. It certainly hasn't prevented processed food from ever entering my kitchen! Don't aim for perfection. If you use this book to structure half your meals, that's a big success. If more, that's even better. Think of every home-cooked meal as a victory, and give yourself an extra pat on the back for successfully mixing and matching bases and sauces. You aren't just succeeding at cooking — you're laying a foundation for creating your own bases and sauces in the future.

Sound good? Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty.

The Method

My recipes basically consist of two parts, which you can mix and match: the bases, which are easy staples you make on a weekday night, and the sauces, which take more time and are made on weekends and frozen. Many of my sauces are rich with vegetables, and for those that aren't, it's a good idea to have some prepared vegetables to serve on the side. Those sides you can ­simply pull from the freezer and heat (see Veggies on the Side).

One of the advantages to making sauces on weekends and freezing them is that you have months, rather than days, to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Sauces that don't contain dairy will keep very well in the freezer for up to 6 months; those that do have dairy should be used within 1 month.

Freezing 101

After you've cooked your food, it's very important to cool it in the refrigerator before transferring it to containers for freezing. This prevents condensation, which will freeze into ice crystals and affect the taste of your food.

Bag It!

After your food is cool, I recommend that you freeze foods flat in freezer bags to maximize your freezer space. Unlike hard-sided plastic containers, bags waste no space while keeping air away from food. Good-quality freezer bags are also reusable — wash them out just like you would a hard-sided container, air-dry, and reuse. One quick caveat: If you happen to have a chest freezer with oodles of space for sauce or would prefer to use different containers, go for it! The recipes in this book can be frozen in any freezer-­safe container you wish to use.

When shopping for supplies, choose BPA-free, resealable plastic bags that are labeled "freezer bags." You'll want a selection of sizes — gallon, quart, and pint. Most sauces for most families will be frozen in gallon bags, while quart bags are best for some of the more compact sauces as well as meals for smaller families. Pint bags are usually best for single servings. I often make a big batch of sauce, then I fill a few gallon bags for family meals as well as pint bags for lunches. If you have a picky eater in your family, consider freezing single portions just for that person — you can easily heat up an individual portion of a mild tomato sauce, for instance, while everyone else has a more adventuresome option.

Freezer Bag Sizes




Max. Amount of Sauce



2 cups

112 cups



4 cups

3 cups



16 cups

12 cups

Because different bases require different amounts of sauce, you may wish to think through which bases you plan to serve and freeze the exact amounts of sauce you will need for each dinner. For instance, my family loves to eat All-Around Vegetable sauce over either baked potatoes or chicken. We usually eat a total of four baked potatoes for dinner and I need 1 cup of sauce per potato, so I label a gallon bag "All-Around Vegetable Sauce for Potatoes — 4 servings" and fill it with 4 cups of sauce. Since I usually cook 2 pounds of chicken at a time (one for dinner that night and one to heat up later in the week) and I need 112 cups of sauce per pound of chicken, I also label a quart bag for chicken and fill it with 3 cups of sauce.

Filling bags. It pays to be cautious when transferring sauce to a freezer bag! If you're holding a plastic bag with one hand and a ladle with the other, you're asking for a frustrating mess. Instead, I recommend following the method on the next page.

How to Fill Bags with Sauce

  1. 1. Place your plastic bag inside a wide-mouth jar. When in doubt, choose the larger bag.
  2. 2. Place a wide funnel on top of the bag.
  3. 3. Ladle your sauce into a measuring cup, then pour the sauce slowly through the wide funnel into the bag. Fill the bag no more than three-quarters full, both for ease of use and to allow room for liquids to expand as they freeze (see Freezer Bag Sizes).

Sealing bags. After you're done filling the bags, remove as much air as possible. If you are serious about freezing, you can always purchase a vacuum sealer, such as a FoodSaver. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, you can use one of two methods: For bags that contain meat or other foods that might pose a health hazard, submerge the bags in a bowl of water (see below). For all other foods, use a straw to suck out the air (see Straw Method for Sealing Bags).

Bowl-of-Water Method for Sealing Bags

  1. 1. Submerge the open bag in the water, keeping the open edge just above the surface. The pressure of the water will push out the air and mold the bag around the food.
  2. 2. Seal the bag quickly and remove from the water. Be sure to dry the outside of the bag thoroughly before freezing.

Straw Method for Sealing Bags

  1. 1. Insert the straw into the corner of a bag and seal the bag as much as possible.
  2. 2. Suck out the air through the straw until you see the bag collapse around the contents of the bag.
  3. 3. While still maintaining suction, pull out the straw and quickly seal the rest of the bag.

Freezer Storage Tips

If you give your freezer a good clean-out before you start cooking sauces, you should be able to store as many as 30 family meals' worth of sauces in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator. To get each bag perfectly flat and to prevent them from sticking to each other, lay sheets of cardboard between them.

Organize everything. After bags are completely frozen, store similar items together. Stand them vertically in labeled plastic shoe boxes or other small plastic containers. Make dairy its own category, since you'll need to use those sauces more quickly.

Date, label, and rotate! While the freezer will keep foods for long periods of time, they won't keep forever, even in tightly sealed bags. Whenever you add new food to the freezer, slot it into the back of the box so that the older food is to the front. Do a clean-out every 6 months. Is there anything in your freezer that you've looked at and thought, "Well, sometime — but not tonight" for 6 months or longer? Sometime is not going to happen. Time to toss it.

Sheets of cardboard prevent bags from sticking together. Now these bags are ready for vertical storage.

Thawing and Reheating

It's best to allow sauces to defrost in the fridge, but you can also go from freezer to stove. If you think of it, place the sauce in the fridge either the evening before or the morning of the day you'll be using it. When you're ready to make dinner, simply pour the sauce from the bag into a saucepan and warm over medium heat until it is hot throughout. If the sauce is still frozen, transfer it from the bag to a saucepan and warm over low heat, stirring gently but often, until the sauce is thawed. Then increase the heat to medium and finish heating.

What If . . .

The power goes out. Don't panic. Leave your freezer door closed. The food should stay safe for 24 hours, especially if the freezer is full! If your power is out for more than a full day, however, I'm afraid you'll lose the contents.

I didn't finish the sauce. Can I refreeze it? Yes, but make sure you heat the unused portion to a simmer, and then refreeze it to make sure you kill off any bacteria it may have picked up along the way.

It looks funny when I reheat it. Depending on the quality of your freezer and how often the door is opened, some sauces may change texture slightly after being frozen and reheated. Those that contain dairy products can be especially tricky. Expect that sauces containing yogurt or sour cream will change texture slightly — this does not mean they've gone bad! When in doubt, test it. As you are reheating your sauce, give it a few big whiffs. Does it smell okay? If so, wait until the sauce is at a simmer, and then sample it. Does it taste good? Great — you're fine. If it doesn't smell or taste right, dump it.

Preparing a Base for Your Sauce

In the following pages, I lay out my favorite preparation method for each base for a busy weekday night. If you are a less experienced cook or just want to do the simplest thing, you may want to follow the base recipes to a T, but you don't need to. The sauces are designed to work with a variety of preparation methods, so if you prefer whole roasted chicken to pan-fried chicken breasts, by all means roast your chicken. Or simply purchase one preroasted from the deli counter. Use mashed potatoes instead of baked if you wish, or pork chops instead of tenderloin . . . you get the picture.

After each sauce recipe, I give a list of the bases I recommend for that sauce, including my personal favorite base. Some bases will make for a heavier meal than others, and some sauces are heavier than others, so take that into account when selecting which recipes to try.


Pasta makes a quick and satisfying meal. Wait until the sauce is close to ready before starting your pasta, so you can immediately add the cooked pasta to a finished sauce and serve. Use enough water to allow the pasta to move about freely — cramming too much pasta into too small a pot is a common mistake.

  1. 1. Bring a large pot of cold water to a rapid boil. Add a generous pinch of salt (as if you were seasoning a pot of soup) before adding the pasta. Do not add oil or butter to the water because it will interfere with the sauce's ability to stick to the pasta.
  2. 2. Immediately after adding the pasta to the boiling water, give it a stir. Continue to stir often as it cooks. Use the time on the package as a guide; start checking the pasta for doneness 1 or 2 minutes before the prescribed cooking time. The pasta is done when it is tender but slightly firm.
  3. 3. Remove the pasta from the heat and drain it in a colander. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid to thin the sauce, if desired.
  4. 4. Immediately after draining the pasta, add the pasta to the sauce, rather than the other way around. This discourages pieces of pasta from sticking together. If you will be using the pasta for a cold pasta salad, rinse it under cold water just after draining to arrest the cooking process.

The Right Shape

Shaped or tubed pastas (like penne, macaroni, or rigatoni) are good with chunky sauces or sauces with heavy cheeses, like Sausage Ragu or Cheddar Ale. Long, thin pastas (like spaghetti, fettucine, and linguine) were designed to hold oily and creamy sauces in pleasing proportions. They are the best choice for sauces such as Vodka Cream Sauce or Gorgonzola Chive Butter.

Don't cook different sizes of pasta in the same pot, as they won't cook evenly.

Baked Potatoes

A baked potato is one of my favorite bases. It takes a bit more time to cook than other bases, but the cooking requires little effort on your part.

Different kinds of potatoes have different textures, depending on the density of their flesh. I recommend sticking to russets — they have a fluffy texture that's a perfect vehicle for many of the sauces in this book, and they bake beautifully. One large russet per person is an easy foundation for a meal.

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. 2. Scrub the potatoes clean under running water and dry with a dishcloth or paper towel. If you plan to eat the skins, rub each potato with 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. 3. Stab each potato in three or four places with a fork. This allows steam to escape and minimizes the possibility that a potato will explode in your oven or in your face (it happens!).
  4. 4. Place the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, or until soft inside. Split, sauce, and serve.

If you don't have an hour to cook your potatoes in the oven, you can pop them in a slow cooker first thing in the morning. A dd a cup of water or broth and cook on low for 10 hours (no rack required). Or you can microwave them on high for 4 to 5 minutes per side, turning them halfway through the cooking time.

Be sure to stab the potatoes several times before cooking.



  • “A useful resource on preparing sauces to enhance otherwise routine dinners. This well-organized guide should be helpful to home cooks looking for time-saving ideas.” — Library Journal

    “Finally, an easy, approachable answer to solving the age-old “what’s for dinner?” dilemma. No need to spend precious weekend hours prepping meals. Elisabeth offers creative, adaptable recipes to dress up a myriad of vegetables and proteins, making home cooking attainable even on busy weekdays.” — Jennifer Perillo, In Jennie’s Kitchen

    “Brilliant! Elisabeth’s system of pre-made sauces to jazz up a simple last-minute family meal is a weeknight game-changer!” — Wendy McCallum, RHN and author of No More Junk Food and The Real Food Solution
  • “A useful resource on preparing sauces to enhance otherwise routine dinners. This well-organized guide should be helpful to home cooks looking for time-saving ideas.” — Library Journal

    “Finally, an easy, approachable answer to solving the age-old “what’s for dinner?” dilemma. No need to spend precious weekend hours prepping meals. Elisabeth offers creative, adaptable recipes to dress up a myriad of vegetables and proteins, making home cooking attainable even on busy weekdays.” — Jennifer Perillo, In Jennie’s Kitchen

    “Brilliant! Elisabeth’s system of pre-made sauces to jazz up a simple last-minute family meal is a weeknight game-changer!” — Wendy McCallum, RHN and author of No More Junk Food and The Real Food Solution

On Sale
Oct 14, 2018
Page Count
200 pages

Elisabeth Bailey

Elisabeth Bailey

About the Author

Elisabeth Bailey is the author of The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution, as well as two regional cookbooks, A Taste of the Maritimes and Maritime Fresh. She has worked as a chef and caterer and currently teaches classes on gardening, cooking, and preserving in and around Nova Scotia, Canada, where she lives.

Learn more about this author