Quick and Simple Teriyaki Sauce

My name is Rachael, and I’m a teriyaki addict.  It’s one of my absolute favorite flavors!  I’m not exaggerating when I say I have 4 different teriyaki sauce recipes.  And that doesn’t include the teriyaki glaze for our Asian-Glazed Brussels Sprouts.  One sauce is hibachi-style, one sauce is more for grilling, and the other two are for stirfries (which sauce I choose depends on the protein it’s paired with).  Today I’m sharing the recipe I make most frequently, my easiest sauce.

Teriyaki Stirfry

This sauce is a stirfry sauce that I like to use for weeknight meals.  I love stirfries because they’re quick, one-pan meals that are packed with veggies.  My favorite is teriyaki chicken (bet you didn’t see that coming…) with broccoli, carrots, and water chestnuts.  Sometimes I mix it up and go meatless by using tofu in place of chicken.  I used to use a more ingredient-intensive recipe until I found this simpler sauce which is now my go-to.  You just throw all the ingredients in a pot and heat – couldn’t be easier!

Quick and Simple Teriyaki Sauce

Prep Time: < 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 3-4


3/4 c. Water
1/4 c. Soy Sauce
6 tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. Corn Starch
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp. Sesame Oil


1.  Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk together.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Make sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over!

Thicken Sauce

That’s it!  Once it’s thickened it’s ready to use.  As I mentioned, my favorite use is a chicken or tofu stirfry with carrots, broccoli, and water chestnuts.  Obviously you can mix and match your favorite proteins and veggies to tailor the stirfry to your taste.  You can eat the stirfry by itself for a light meal or pair it with a side to make it more filling.  I recommend fried quinoa (see our Thai Tofu Stirfry recipe for a great fried quinoa), fried rice, or spring rolls.  I also use this sauce to make Food Network’s Sirloin with Teriyaki Broth which is quite tasty!

Teriyaki Stirfry

Leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 weeks (I always make extra!).  When you want to use it, reheat it in a sauce pan, mixing well.  You may need to thin it with some water – it tends to thicken in the fridge.


Spinach Ricotta Gnudi Two Ways

“What is gnudi?” you ask – besides a funny word.  It’s like gnocchi but cheese-based rather than potato-based.  You could think of it as cheese ravioli without the pasta or as a ricotta dumpling.  The only things you really need to know about gnudi is it’s delicious and anyone can make it!  This post will take you through step-by-step instructions to make your own homemade gnudi and give you two different sauce recipes to serve with your gnudi.

Gnudi Two Ways

These recipes come from Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian cooking.  Her cookbook Essentials of Italian Cooking is the only Italian cookbook you will ever need to own!  She covers everything from homemade pasta and sauces to risottos to vegetables to rustic Italian main dishes.  There are so many recipes in her book that it will keep you, and your tastebuds, busy for a LONG time.

Spinach Ricotta Gnudi Two Ways

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2


5 oz. (1/2 a package) frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed
1 tbsp. Butter
1/2 tbsp. finely-chopped Onion
3/8 c. (6 tbsp.) Whole-Milk Ricotta Cheese
1/3 c. Flour
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 c. freshly-grated Parmesan + extra for serving (I use Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Optional: 1 tbsp. chopped Prosciutto or Ham
Tomato Onion Sauce or Tomato Cream Sauce (see below)

1.  Put the butter and onion in a skillet and turn the heat onto medium.  Cook until the onion is lightly golden.  If you decide to incorporate the prosciutto, now is the time to add it to the skillet: once the onion is golden, add the prosciutto and stir until it’s evenly mixed in.

2.  Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Saute Spinach

3.  Transfer the contents of the skillet to a bowl and allow to cool (about 5 minutes).

4.  Add the ricotta and flour to the bowl and stir together.  Add the egg yolk and parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, if desired.

5.  Roll the mixture into small balls (about the size of a large marble).  You’ll probably need to flour your hands periodically to keep the gnudi from sticking.  This is the most time-consuming step of the prep work.  It usually takes me about 10 minutes to get all the gnudi rolled.

Note: I usually get about 30 gnudi from this recipe.

Roll Gnudi

6.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add 8-12 gnocchi to the pot at a time.  Once the water returns to a boil, cook for ~3 minutes.  If after 3 minutes the gnudi are not floating, cook another minute or so until they are all at the surface.

Boil Gnudi

7.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked gnudi to the skillet with your sauce.  Continue working in batches until all gnudi are cooked (mine are usually done in 3 batches).

Add Gnudi to Sauce

Once all the gnudi are cooked, toss with your sauce and serve topped with extra parmesan.  Make sure you eat these delicious morsels while they’re still hot!  To turn this dish into a meal, pair it with a vegetable side such as our Baked Brussels Sprouts **FIX**or Sauteed Chard with Prosciutto.

Tomato Onion Sauce

One sauce option for your gnudi is Tomato Onion Sauce.  It is the easiest sauce you will ever make!  You just put your three ingredients in a skillet together and simmer for 45 minutes – that’s it.  This sauce is great on both gnudi and gnocchi.  I imagine it would also make a tasty pasta sauce, but I’ve never tried it.

Prep Time: less than 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2


1 c canned San Marzano Tomatoes, cut up, with their juices
2 1/2 tbsp. Butter
1/2 Onion, peeled and cut in half

1.  Put the tomatoes, butter, and onion in a skillet.

Note: To get a smoother sauce, puree the tomatoes before adding them to the skillet.

2.  Cook at a low simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  By the end, the butter should be separating from the sauce.

Finished Sauce

3.  Discard the onion, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve over gnudi.

Gnudi in Tomato Onion Sauce

Tomato Cream Sauce

Tomato cream sauce is also great with gnudi – it’s actually Marcella Hazan’s recommended pairing.  It requires slightly more prep work than the Tomato Onion Sauce, but it’s still VERY easy.  It does taste a little better with the gnudi than the Tomato Onion Sauce, but it’s quite rich.  Since the gnudi is already somewhat heavy (it is made with cheese after all) I usually choose to pair it with the lighter Tomato Onion Sauce and save this sauce for special occasions or when I’m feeling indulgent.  It also makes a delicious sauce for pasta – particularly ravioli and tortellini.

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2


scant 3 tbsp. Butter (2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. to be exact)
1 1/2 tbsp. finely-chopped Onion
1 1/2 tbsp. finely-chopped Carrot
1 1/2 tbsp. finely-chopped Celery
1 1/4 c. canned San Marzano Tomatoes with their juices
1/4 c. Heavy Cream

1.  Put butter, onion, carrot, celery, and tomatoes in a skillet.

2.  Cook at a low simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Puree the sauce and return it to the skillet.

Puree Sauce

4.  Increase the heat to medium and stir in the cream.  Cook, stirring continuously, for an additional minute or two.

Add Cream

5.  Season with salt and pepper and serve over gnudi.

Gnudi with Tomato Cream Sauce

Avocado Spread

I’ve been on a bit of an avocado kick this year, working them into many of my dishes.  They’re good for you and have great flavor.  Originally I didn’t like the texture of avocado chunks in my food.  So I started mashing up my avocado and combining it with Greek yogurt, adding creaminess and protein.  While this mixture was an improvement over the avocado pieces, I knew I could make it better.  After experimenting with flavors and spices, this avocado spread was born.  You could think of it like a creamy guacamole with a nice smooth texture.

Avocado Spread

This spread is very quick and easy to make.  There’s almost no prep work.  You just throw everything together in a blender or food processor and give it a whirl.  I always keep a batch of this on-hand in my fridge.  I use it as a mayonnaise substitute on sandwiches and burgers and as a sour cream substitute in Mexican dishes.  It also makes a nice dip in place of guacamole.  This spread is very tasty, and you can feel good about getting some nutritious avocado and protein-packed Greek yogurt into your food!

Avocado Spread

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Serves: ~8


1 ripe Avocado, pitted and peeled (see our Tips for Cooking with Avocado)
1/2 c. Greek Yogurt
2 tsp. Lime Juice
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
1-2 tbsp. Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1-2 tsp. Chipotle Hot Sauce (optional)

1.  Combine the avocado, Greek yogurt, lime juice, garlic powder, cilantro, and hot sauce (if desired) in a blender or food processor.

Tip: Cilantro stems pack just as much flavor as their leaves.  While I avoid them in garnishes for texture’s sake, they’re great to include in sauces and marinades.  For this dish, I don’t take the time to pluck the cilantro leaves from the stems.  I just chop them all up together and throw them in the blender!

Ingredients in Blender

Note: The hot sauce is not a mandatory ingredient but adds an extra dimension to the dish.  I use chipotle-flavored because chipotles and avocados complement each other well.  Whether or not I add the hot sauce depends on how I’m using the spread.  If I’m using it as a dip or sandwich spread, I often include it.  If I’m using it in a Mexican dish that already contains chipotles, I skip it.

2.  Puree the ingredients together in your blender or food processor until you have a nice smooth spread.  In my blender I use a low speed setting (2 out of 12) to keep the spread in contact with the blades.  High speeds tend to throw the ingredients up and against the sides of the pitcher preventing them from mixing well.

3.  Season with a little salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Avocado Spread

Tip: This avocado spread doesn’t brown as badly as guacamole, but it will lose some of its color over time.  If you’re serving the spread later and want to help it stay green, brush the top with a little water and press plastic wrap onto its surface.

Now you’ve got a creamy avocado spread that you can use as a dip in place of guacamole, as a spread for sandwiches or burgers, or as a sour cream substitute in tacos or burritos.  I recommend trying it with our Chicken Tinga or Chipotle Stout Braised Beef… enjoy!

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Mexican food makes a great weeknight dinner.  It’s delicious and can be made quickly.  That’s not to say all Mexican dishes are quick – if you’ve tried many of Rick Bayless’ recipes, you know that Mexican meals can be a real labor of love.  But a variety of Mexican meals can be made in a short amount of time without too much effort.  All you have to do is season your protein of choice, cook it up, and serve with your favorite toppings inside tortillas (check out our recipes for homemade corn **FIX**and flour tortillas) or taco shells for an easy taco night… or burrito, fajita, or enchilada night depending on how you like to wrap it all up.

Taco Seasoning

Ready-made seasoning mixes certainly help make taco night a breeze, but many store-bought spice packets have ingredients you may not be able to pronounce.  You can easily avoid these preservatives and other chemicals, plus control your salt intake, by making your own seasoning mix.  It’s super quick and easy.  Once you’ve got it made, keep it on hand for a quick-fix Mexican meal.

To come up with this recipe I combined different aspects of recipes I found online then put my own personal spin on the ingredients.  I love chipotles so I use chipotle chili powder in place of regular chile powder.  Then I add more smokiness by using a mix of smoked and sweet paprika.  Hope you enjoy!

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Prep Time: less than 5 minutes


2 tbsp. Chipotle Chili Powder
2 1/2 tsp. Cumin
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Ground Coriander
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. Onion Powder
3/4 tsp. Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp. Mexican Oregano
1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 tsp. Sweet Paprika


1.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Transfer to a spice jar to store.

Note: About 3 tbsp. of this seasoning is the equivalent of one spice packet.

Wasn’t that a snap?!  Now you’ll have your own homemade spice blend waiting in the pantry the next time you get a taco craving.  ¡Provecho!

Classic Pesto

Pesto is a type of sauce that originated in Italy, and is customarily made with fresh basil. Pesto alla Genovese, as it is called in Italy, is the name used to refer to this traditional version of the sauce that originated in Genoa. This sauce was traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, with the ingredients crushed in a circular motion. Pesto can be used with olive oil as a dipping sauce for bread (like at Macaroni Grille), a sauce for pasta, a spread for sandwiches, an alternative pizza sauce, on bruschetta, and on and on the list could go.

20130923-115042.jpgThere are only five ingredients: basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil. It’s important to use good quality basil, as that is the base and prominent flavor of the sauce. Avoid using brown or slimy leaves and choose the crispest and heartiest leaves. I’m very lucky to have an aunt who grows amazing basil! When Harper and I went to spend the day with her so I could learn how to can, she gave me a whole milk jug full of basil to take home. Oh happy day!


I have been using this recipe for years. I found it in a cookbook titled “Italy” that I picked up off a clearance rack at Barnes and Noble like 10 years ago. (In case you don’t already know this about me, I collect cookbooks.) I wanted it for it’s beautiful spine and cover (to look pretty on a shelf) but this book was a wealth of knowledge about authentic Italian food and cooking. It’s pages are covered in tomato juice and olive oil from all its use.

With a food processor, this recipe comes together in under 5 minutes. If you do it by hand, using the classic mortar and pestle, it takes just a little longer, depending on your brute strength. As far as storage goes, pesto needs to be stored with a layer of olive oil on top to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown. You can store it in an air tight container in the fridge for a week, or up to 6 months in the freezer. When I make pesto, I usually double the recipe. It stores well and I use it for a lot of different recipes.

Classic Pesto

Prep Time: 5 minutes (10 if you’re not using a food processor)

Cook Time: N/A

Yields: 3/4 cup


2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil (plus more for storing)

Step 1: Add the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese to the bowl of a food processor.


Step 2: Pulse until a paste forms, scraping down the sides as necessary.


Step 3: Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running to incorporate.



Step 4: Store pesto in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on the top for 1 week in the frig or 6 months in the freezer.


Fresh Pizza Sauce

There could not be a simpler homemade red pizza sauce out there… this sauce comes together in just 5 minutes with only 3 ingredients!  It’s not cooked so there’s an incredibly fresh taste.  Of course, that also means the flavor of the sauce depends largely on the quality of the tomatoes.  I HIGHLY recommend using canned San Marzanos – you just can’t beat ’em.  If you’ve grown your own Roma tomatoes (and know they are super tasty), you can peel and seed them and use them in this recipe.

Fresh Pizza Sauce

This recipe is from Jim Lahey’s My Pizza.  He uses this elegantly simple sauce on all of his pizzas with red sauce.  It really showcases the tomatoes making it the perfect sauce for tomato lovers!

Fresh Pizza Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Serves: 2


1/2 28 oz. can San Marzano Tomatoes (~6 tomatoes)
1/2 tbsp. high-quality (first cold-pressed) Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
pinch Fine Sea Salt

1.  Put the whole tomatoes in a small bowl and crush with your hands.  You really don’t need any of the juice from the tomato can.  You can also control the texture of the sauce.  If you don’t like giant chunks, keep crushing until the tomatoes have reached the right consistency for you.

2.  You don’t want the sauce too wet because if you’re using fresh mozzarella (and you should be, it’s so much better!), it’s going to release plenty of moisture as it cooks.  Put the tomato chunks in a strainer and drain until water is only dripping sporadically from the strainer.  Add the olive oil and salt.

3.  Stir the ingredients together and it’s ready to spread over your pizza crust (check out our No-Knead Pizza Dough recipe).

Fresh Pizza Sauce

See, wasn’t that easy?!  Now you’re ready to make a pizza with your favorite toppings.  Or try one of our pizza recipes, maybe a Margherita Pizza

Tomato Sauce for Pizza (and Pasta)

This simple tomato sauce is quick to throw together and uses ingredients that I keep on hand.  I love the minimal prep work, and it has great flavor.  Once you’ve tried this recipe, you’ll think twice before reaching for that next jar of sauce.

Tomato Sauce for Pizza

I found this recipe when searching for a good red sauce for pizza, but I’ve also had it in lasagna and it was great!  I often make this sauce on the weekend for pizza then use any sauce I have leftover for pasta later in the week.

Tomato Sauce for Pizza (and Pasta)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 2-3


14 oz. San Marzano Tomatoes (5-6 tomatoes with their juices), crushed
1 tsp. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 tsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. Ground Pepper
1/4 tsp. Dried Basil

1.  Ideally, on the morning you’re making this sauce, mix the sugar and salt into the tomatoes and store in the refrigerator.  If you forget to do this early (which I usually do), just do it as soon as you remember, even if it’s not until you’re gathering your ingredients.  The longer the tomatoes sit seasoned, the better the flavor.

2.  Put the olive oil and garlic in a skillet and heat over medium-low heat.  Adding the garlic and oil to the pan when it’s cool will infuse the olive oil with garlic flavor as it heats.  The garlic should begin to bubble (see below).

Warm Garlic

3.  Once the garlic is bubbling, add your crushed tomatoes, pepper, and basil then increase the heat to medium.  Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.

4.  Reduce sauce to desired consistency.  I usually use this for pizza, so I prefer a thicker sauce (which usually takes ~10-15 minutes).  If you’re using it for pasta, you probably want to cook it less time to keep the sauce a bit thinner.

Tomato Sauce

Now, serve the sauce with pasta or spoon it onto our Thick Crust Pizza Dough and top with your favorite toppings.  If you have extra sauce, store it in the refrigerator and use within a week.  I use this sauce to make Sausage and Ricotta Pizza… yum!!

Sausage and Ricotta Pizza