This recipe is simpler than you think.

By Zoe Denenberg
August 26, 2019
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Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out in the kitchen, there are a few essential recipes that you should know how to make. Homemade pancakes, buttermilk biscuits, and chocolate chip cookies are a few of the staples that would top our list. Once you master these basics, there are endless ways to transform them.

Compared to generations past, when home cooks would make everything from scratch, far less of our food now is truly homemade. You can find boxed mixes for just about any dessert and refrigerated grocery aisles are stocked with premade cookie dough, packaged chicken salad, containers of pimiento cheese… the list goes on and on. There’s certainly a place for premade goods—they’re easy to transport and can dramatically shorten cooking times. But according to Ina Garten, there is one thing you should always make from scratch: vinaigrette.

Making homemade vinaigrette may sound intimidating, but it’s shockingly simple. Any basic vinaigrette requires a few staple elements—oil, vinegar, and seasoning. The standard ratio calls for one part vinegar to three parts oil. Then there are endless ways to dress it up.

You may think it’s easier to use store-bought dressing, and with certain elaborate dressings, that may be the case. But not with vinaigrette. “It’s faster to make it than to go to the store and buy a bottle of dressing. And it’s so much better,” Garten says on PBS News Hour.

WATCH: This is Ina Garten’s OTHER Go-To Dinner Recipe

Not only is vinaigrette easy to make, but it’s environmentally friendly. You can repurpose an empty glass bottle to store any leftover dressing, avoiding the plastic waste produced by store-bought dressing bottles.

Homemade vinaigrette can be as simple as olive oil mixed with balsamic, or it can be a bit more complicated. While a vinaigrette only requires oil and acid, adding an extra emulsifying agent will help you achieve a thicker, smooth texture. Garten’s trick to a creamy, silky vinaigrette? She adds Dijon mustard and a raw egg yolk.

Making your own vinaigrette is an easy way to seriously upgrade your salad and transform it into a main dish. If you’re looking to make your own vinaigrette but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Try a simple Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette, which can be used to top a bowl of leafy greens or tossed in a light, fresh pasta salad. You’ll never go back to the bottled stuff.

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