I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone need to chop a sauce? Sauce is the antithesis of all things that actually require chopping, right? But making solid food in it’s natural state turn into sauce, requires a lot of chopping.
Chopped sauces get their texture from the actual physical mass of their collective ingredients. So, for a chopped sauce to have any body at all, the ingredients included have to have body. Tomato sauce, for example, takes a solid vegetable and essentially breaks it down with blades or blunt objects (and the help of heat) into a relatively smooth material suitable for coating noodles.
The primary requirement for making a chopped sauce is brute force. We aren’t working at the molecular level with these, creating any new chemical bonds or manipulating proteins in starch to thicken an already smooth liquid. If we want our ingredients to become sauce we have to make them. Probably with blades.
The method of making chopped sauces is so straightforward I hesitate to call it a technique. It’s more of a category. But thinking of tomato sauce and pesto sauce in the same column can inspire some playful deconstruction. Take my romesco sauce above – romesco is usually made in a blender or food processor, but I decided to go rustic and just use my knife. Similarly, tomato sauce can be made with a food processor, hand blender, a potato masher, or Italian grandma style, with tomatoes crushed in hand.
And if you can make a cooked tomato sauce with hand-crushed tomatoes, why not a fresh tomato sauce that’s finely diced with a nice, sharp knife? Or a chimichurri that’s perfectly pureed and pourable?
Chopped sauces are really flexible and really difficult to screw up. The only real requirement is that the ingredients each bring a lot of flavor and texture to the table. We don’t typically get to do a lot of reduction with chopped sauces, to the ingredients themselves need to be able to stand up, and you need to season them well. That’s literally it.
Up next, my favorite basic tomato-basil sauce and rustic romesco potato salad. Sharpen your knives and dust off your immersion blenders, we’re chopping sauce!