Sauce Vierge


I’ve mentioned how I plan my personal meals around condiments, and I’m not exaggerating! In fact, a condiment will inspire a whole meal for me. I guess it’s no different than a BBQ lover who sees BBQ sauce and immediately wants brisket, beans, and cole slaw.

Basic condiments like home-made aioli, mustards and ketchups are wonderful, but so are romesco, chimichurri, charmoula, persillade, harissa, chutney, and confit. So many condiments, so little time!

Recently I came across another sauce – Sauce Vierge – that is almost like a marriage of a fresh tomato salsa and persillade, loosely speaking.

I discovered the sauce on Food 52. Sauce Vierge translates to virgin sauce, and was created in 1976 by Michel Guérard, “one of the forces behind the lighter, fresher nouvelle cuisine that sprang up in reaction to cuisine classique, dripping with all its hefty mother sauces.”

I got excited when I read about the sauce, which includes tomato, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, because it’s a perfect sauce to make in the summer. And it’s summer!

Sauce Vierge

4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 freshly squeezed lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then roughly chop and place in a medium bowl.

Add the oil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and coriander.

Then add the fresh herbs. I used chives, basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary.

Cover the bowl, and leave to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the cloves of garlic, and serve warm or room temperature.

To use the sauce, I grilled tilapia, and served the sauce at room temperature.

I wanted the sauce ingredients to really stand out.

I served the tilapia with boiled potatoes, on which I drizzled some of the herby oil. You can tell I’m not scared of a plate of olive oil!

In reality, is Sauce Vierge a condiment or a sauce? Where does a condiment start and end, and a sauce or paste begin?

My answer is “who cares?!!”

verdict: I will continue to make this sauce/condiment during summer months when I can get my hands on ripe tomatoes. It is exquisite. Over fish it was a great pairing, but I can see this on scallops, chicken, lamb, bread…

Note: Instead of using the ingredients at room temperature, you can alternatively mix the ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer the sauce slowly over low heat for 30 minutes.

50 thoughts on “Sauce Vierge

  1. Sauce, dip, condiment…the naming convention is “simply delicious”. Heirloom tomatoes along with these fresh herbs super delicious on so many dishes, can’t wait to make it.. In Philippine cuisine, there is a very simple fish “dipping sauce” made out of tomatoes, garlic, onions soya sauce and fresh lime juice. Have you ever tried it? So good! Loving the August garden harvest!

    • I had some on boiled potatoes, then ate the second fish filet topped with the remainder the next day. I also cooked the sauce/condiment, just to see, and I think I like it with the tomatoes raw, although it was surprisingly similar, probably because it was more of a tomato confit process with the olive oil, and not actual cooking of the raw tomatoes like in a red sauce.

  2. I’ve had this in restaurants — it’s good! But never made it myself. I need to, quickly, before the summer tomatoes are gone. Thanks!

  3. I have never heard of this sauce…..but just reading through the ingredients, what’s not to love? Wow, and you’ve paired this deliciously with the tilapia and potatoes…definitely my kind of meal as I try to stick with a vegetarian and fish diet. Just beautiful!

  4. I must say, this sauce sounds awfully nice. I’ve never come across it, but I can tell just by reading the recipe it’s delicious. (Sounds a bit like a salmoriglio but with tomatoes.) Perfect for a simply cooked fillet of fish or chicken!

  5. This is one of my favorite sauces – we use it often when grilling fish, seafood or chicken… but, as you suggest, wwe use it oftehy we use it often when grilling not for pork, lamb, an beef!

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