Hearty Sauces as Temperatures Dip

These sauce-based dishes are perfect for cooler weather.
Chipotle chicken enchilada from Pineda Tacos.

Fall is a transitional season where refreshing lemonades and crisp salads are replaced with comforting, warmer and heavier fare. As the thermometer wavers around the freezing point and the snow covers the frozen ground, our cuisine undergoes a similar shift. The roast turkey feast is just around the corner, but it’s not yet season for a hearty stew. In the meantime, savory sauces can provide additional warmth to dishes, whether it’s literally in temperature or an extra notch of spice. These dishes with a sauce at their base will warm you up for the season.

Chipotle Chicken Enchilada
Pineda Tacos

Enchiladas are soft and soothing by definition: tortillas filled with cheese and chicken and blanketed in a heavy salsa, green or red. The chicken at Pineda is prepared in a sauce stewed with chipotle peppers and its flavors are deep and smoky with a spice that registers and gets the mouth watering without setting anything afire. With a fast-casual atmosphere, Pineda is always busy and works hard to keep most meals under $10. The chicken in chipotle sauce is also available with other menu items including burritos, chimichangas, tacos, and more. $9.31. 60 Nathan Lane N.; 763.545.1977

Chicken Florentine

Perhaps the most traditional way to enjoy a sauce is with pasta, where the noodles provide a filling base but the primary flavor is all sauce. Davanni’s florentine uses a creamy alfredo sauce with a hint of pepper, combined with chicken, buttered penne noodles, spinach and gorgonzola cheese for a velvety smooth meal that’s warm and comforting, creamy and fulfilling. The spinach and gorgonzola are softer and fresh, while the cream base is perfect for cooler weather. $8.99. 3015 Harbor Lane N.; 763.550.0003

Beef with Black Bean Sauce

Ming’s Garden

More mild at heart, beef with black bean sauce is a Chinese plate that’s well suited to the Midwestern palate. At Ming’s family-owned Plymouth restaurant, the dish is served with green and red peppers and onions, and the sliced beef is sautéed in a soy-based black bean sauce that’s complementary to the beef without overriding the natural flavors. With a little ginger, the sauce is earthy and soft, coating the beef without overpowering it. $11.95. 4190 Vinewood Lane N.; 763.559.3131

Malai Kofta
India Palace

Malai kofta is a staple vegetarian dish comprised of minced vegetables and cheese shaped into dumplings and served in a thick curry sauce. It’s creamy, but more delicate than rich. The flavors and spices are nuanced and subtly play off one another. This is perfectly complemented by the mild paneer cheese that transitions the creamy texture from the gravy and through the dumpling. The curry sauce features masala, cardamom, clove and tomato. Served with either naan bread or rice, it’s an easy-going dish. $11.95. 4190 Vinewood Lane N,; 763.383.1880

Rama Spinach Curry

Thai Table

All of Thai Table’s curries are soft and velvety, with coconut milk’s silky texture defining the delicate mix of spices within, served in bowls of steaming vegetables and chicken, seafood, or other protein. Rama Spinach Curry is one of the most unique options and a perfect segue into cooler temperatures. The creamy sauce is plentiful with crushed peanuts, making it thick and a little crunchy, served atop a bed of spinach leaves and bean sprouts that alternate the fresh flavors of summertime with the hearty and heavier winter to come. The savory red curry has a dominant peanut note accented by a spicy kick and boasts a leafy crisp texture at its bed. $9.99 + protein. 10100 6th Ave. N.; 763.591.6085

Shrimp Arrabbiata
Green Mill Restaurant & Bar

Returning to pasta, Green Mill’s shrimp arrabbiata brings zesty sausage and pepperoni to the experience. In a classic red marinara sauce, the texture of the sauce is smooth and comforting, but with a little warming spice component. Served with campanelle noodles, it’s a perfect pasta-sauce ratio that pairs well with a Cabernet Sauvignon to further warm from the outdoor chill. While the sauce is savory, the shrimp is mild and buttery, meeting in the middle as a comfort food. $15.99. 2705 Annapolis Lane; 763.553.9000

Balsamic Teriyaki
Sakana BBQ, Sushi & Asian Bistro

The trick of the fall menu is to balance heavy winter foods with lighter fare, in parallel to the unpredictable weather. Balsamic teriyaki is served with strips of grilled chicken breast, meant to be dipped in a side bowl of house made teriyaki sauce that’s sweet with a saucy soy and balsamic base. It’s creamy yet light enough that it sticks without coating the meat. The chicken is served with fresh and colorful vegetables such as broccoli and carrot brightening the dish. “The flavor is pretty strong; that’s why [the sauce] is on the side,” says server Sammiiee Moua. “You get to decide how strong or how much sauce you want.”