SAUCES for meat, fish and vegetables to brighten up your Christmas

Because one of the books that I have written is called Sicilian Seafood Cooking and because my blog is called All Things Sicilian And More many of my readers assume that at Christmas I will be cooking Sicilian food.

And what is the norm in Italy  or Sicily for Christmas?

As many have stated before me, there is no point in restricting the menu to a few common dishes because the food in Italy is very regional and depending where you live is likely to determine what you eat on Christmas day. When I was celebrating Christmas in Trieste (in Northern Italy), Brodo (broth) was always the first course on Christmas day. When I celebrated it in  Sicily I had entirely different food – home made gnucchiteddi ( small pasta gniocchi) or Ravioli di ricotta  were the norm.


Sicily is relatively a small island, yet the food in Sicily is also very regional. All you need to do is look at the posts that I have written about Christmas food in Sicily to see that. For example when I celebrated Christmas in Ragusa, they always made and continue to make scacce,( baked dough with various fillings) and they make these during other festive occasions as well. Are Sicilians living in Australia likely to have scacce for Christmas? Not likely. They may be part of Christmas fare for those Sicilians coming from Ragusa and  the province of Ragusa,  but the menus from any Sicilian  living in Australia is going to be influenced by other offerings of either Sicilian or Italian origin and by Australian culture and the  Summer climate.


As I have already stated in my last post QUADRUCCI IN BRODO, Squares of home-made Pasta in Broth:

Time and time again I am asked what am I cooking for Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. The answer is that I do not know yet.  I can say is that on Christmas eve I like to eat fish as is traditionally observed in Italy and on Christmas day I usually cook something that I do not normally cook or have not cooked for a while, for example for first course I may cook Spaghetti/ Pasta with sea urchin (ricci) or bottarga or squid with black ink or crayfish or crab.

So for this Christmas fare post, I am going to provide links to some of my posts which highlight sauces and dressings. This is because, irrespective of whether you are presenting a seafood salad, baking a turkey, or using a BBQ for fish or meat you can always vary the sauce you present a- Let’s face it, sauces can make a lot of difference and if you wish, you can enliven any food with a new sauce.

Here are some sauces. that are suitable for Savoury food.


It was a sauce which dates pre-Renaissance time and went out of fashion because lemons became popular in cooking and superseded the use of green grape juice. The recipes suggested that the juice of the green grapes can be extracted by using a mouli or a juicer. It is very good for any hot meat. Verjuice can be used instead and white wine works as well.

Walnuts and almonds are blanched to remove as much skin as possible. My sources indicated that there may have been more walnuts used than almonds in these sauces.

Onions, garlic and parsley and a few breadcrumbs are pounded together with the nuts. Add a bit of sugar, some chopped parsley and sufficient grape juice to make the amalgamated ingredients soft – like a paste.

Heat these ingredients and add a little broth as the sauce will thickened because the bread crumbs.


Salsa verde can be used to jazz anything up – vegetables, roasts, cold meats, smoked fish, crayfish etc. I sometimes use it to stuff hard boiled eggs (remove the yolk, mix with salsa verde and return it to the egg). It is mainly parsley, anchovies, capers, green olives.


There may be times when an accompanying sauce for steamed, baked, grilled or fried fish will bring you greater compliments.

The sauce is called sarsa di chiappareddi in Sicilian and it is made with capers and anchovies.

For me it is most essential to use quality, extra virgin, olive oil. This is especially important for cold sauces, – when the cold sauce hits the hot food, the fragrance of the oil will be strongly evident.


Bagna Cauda, translated as “hot bath,” is a dip for any combination of firm vegetables- cooked or uncooked. I would not have it on roast potatoes and can enliven many vegetables.

It is a hot sauce mainly of garlic, anchovies and butter.


Such a simple Sicilian dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and oregano that will make an enormous difference to any grilled or BBQ food- whether fish meat or vegetable.


Excellent for any cold meat, fish, eggs, vegetable dishes.



Salsa Romesco is said to have originated from Tarragona, a town close to Barcelona in north-eastern Spain. It is an old Roman town so I can understand why you might think the sauce originated from Rome.

This sauce is usually associated as a condiment for shellfish and fish. It is also good with grilled and roasted vegetables (especially cold, left over ones that need dressing up the next day). Recently, I have been to two restaurants and this sauce was presented with cold asparagus. Garlic, red peppers, almonds and paprika are the main ingredients.

SALSA SARACINA (Saracen sauce)

Does a combination of green olives, pine nuts, sultanas and saffron appeal to you? It is a cold Sicilian sauce, especially suitable for fish but I use it for many other hot or cold food.


Last time I roasted a duck I made a special sauce for it and it tasted great –  green anchovies, parsley, the pale centre of a celery, garlic, stock and wine added to the roasting pan made an excellent gravy.


This is a recipe from Sam and Sam Clark’s Casa Moro, The Second Cookbook. I had this sauce at a friend’s house accompanying roast goat. It is made mainly with mint, cumin and garlic and red vinegar (or balsamic).

*There are many other posts for Christmas food.


PESCE IN BIANCO (Plain fish). MAIONESE (Mayonnaise)


Broth, boiled rice, boiled chicken, steamed white fish are considered to be mangiare in bianco – literally translated, food in white, in other words cooked plain, without colour and hence, without spices and is considered the perfect food for those of us who are feeling unwell.

I can remember my then my teenage son and I being violently ill after eating prawns in a restaurant in Puglia, in southern Italy. We were travelling from Trieste and making our way to Ragusa. In Australia, for this type of ailment the common procedure is to stop eating; he and I did just that.

When we arrived in Ragusa, my aunties, zia Mariannina and zia Niluzza were horrified that we had gone so long without food (six hours) and immediately wanted to feed us. Food seems to be considered the cure for everything by Sicilians. Salvo, my cousin’s son, had just graduated from medical school but was out when we arrived. We were looking forward to his return, thinking he too would agree with our decision to fast as a remedy, but this was not the case – when Salvo arrived, he immediately confirmed the aunties’ recommendation to begin the cure by eating in bianco.

Vindicated, the aunties stood around grinning. Salvo seemed very surprised that in Australia the cure for an upset stomach was to stop eating. Soon after, we were presented with riso in bianco (boiled rice with a little salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil). My son and I continued to eat an array of different foods cooked in bianco for a couple of days and the symptoms abated, either by the passage of time or by the diet.

The other prescribed remedy was cotognata (quince paste) and there was plenty of cotognata in their pantry – homemade, of course.

I bought this fillet of fish in the photo as ‘Rockling’ and I was told that it has come from Tasmania; if I can I prefer to buy local fish, but Tasmania is not far from Melbourne and this fish seems to be more plentiful in their waters.

Because of its mottled pink and orange skin I think that it is Pink Ling. Rock Ling and Pink Ling are closely related and apparently it is often sold in Melbourne under the name ‘Rockling’; the grey skinned variety is more sustainable than the pink variety.

As you can see the fish has thick, firm, white flesh and it is well suited to most cooking methods; I chose to cook it in bianco. Even if you are in perfect health you can enjoy fish in bianco because this method of cooking will enhance the delicate, fresh taste of both these fish. 

If your digestive system is not as good as it should be, Italians (this includes Sicilians) would only dribble a little extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon juice onto the fish, but for those of us who are healthy an excellent accompanying sauce is maionese – egg mayonnaise.

In this recipe the fish is poached just below boiling point and retains its delicate flavour and moisture. It can be eaten hot or cold.

The fish needs to be cooked in a pan with a lid and in a single layer to prevent the liquid from evaporating.


white fleshed fish,  estimate 1 portion per person (200-220g each)
onion, 1 cut in half
salt to taste
fresh parsley or a little celery (complete with leaves) for the poaching water.


Place the onion, parsley (or celery) and a little salt in a pan, which will accommodate the fish.
Position the fish on top of the vegetables; add a little salt and sufficient water to barely cover the fish.
Cover with a lid and cook on a very low temperature (just below boiling if possible) until the fish is cooked to your liking.
Remove the fish from the poaching liquid and coat with a drizzle your finest extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Save the stock for one other time and discard the vegetables.

MAIONESE (Mayonnaise)

Italians make mayonnaise with egg yolks, a little lemon juice and good quality extra virgin olive oil. My mother has never used a food processor to make mayonnaise; the mayonnaise will absorb about 1 cup of oil.
The way my mother makes mayonnaise:
Place 2 egg yolks (removed from the fridge – at room temperature) in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt.
Use a wooden spoon and always moving in the same clockwise direction, stir the yolks and while stirring drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil slowly into the yolks until creamy. Ensure that the previously added oil has been incorporated completely before adding additional oil. 
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice once all of the oil has been incorporated.

I use a food processor or an electric wand to make mayonnaise:

Mix 1 egg with a little salt in the blender food processor, or in a clean jar (if using the wand).
Slowly add 1–1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube while the blender or processor is running, Before adding additional oil, ensure that the oil, which has previously been added has been incorporated completely.
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice when the mayonnaise is creamy. If you are not making the traditional Italian version, it is common to add vinegar instead of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
As an alternative, the Spaniards like to add a little saffron (pre-softened in a little warm water). Add this after the mayonnaise is made.
Saffron Mayonnaise: