Say “bonjour to Béchamel Sauce!
This classic French white sauce is an essential ingredient in everything from Italian Bolognese-style lasagna to the classic French sandwich the Croque Monsieur, and even most classic mac and cheese recipes.
What Is Béchamel Sauce?
Béchamel is one of the most classic French sauces out there. It’s known as a “Mother Sauce” because it’s used as the basis for a handful of other classic sauces like Mornay.
How Is Béchamel Sauce Made?
The sauce is made by cooking a roux (a mixture of melted fat (usually butter) and flour) and then whisking in milk and simmering it until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
The amounts of fat and flour are traditionally equal to each other and then the amount of milk added determines how thick the final sauce is.
Here we finish it with freshly grated nutmeg as that’s the classic way to make it for Lasagne alla Bolognese but you can steep the milk with a variety of flavors (see below for ideas).
About This Version Of Béchamel
You may be surprised to see that this traditional Italian recipe calls for a classic French sauce but it’s just proof of how much influence French cuisine has had on northern Italian food in the last few hundred years.
Though it’s not as béchamel sauce in France and in the United States, it’s called besciamella (pronounced “besh-ah-mell-ah”) in Italy.
This sauce is slightly thicker than other béchamel sauces (like the one you’d use to make classic mac and cheese) because it acts sort of like culinary glue that holds the lasagna together.
Variations On This Recipe
Here are twists on this classic recipe:
Make It Thinner
If you wanted to make this thinner to use for mac and cheese or a standalone sauce, simply add 1 to 2 cups more milk.
Make It Flavored
Also, if you want more flavor in the sauce, you can infuse the milk with some herbs or spices.
To do so, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat then add in whatever you’d like (say parsley, thyme, bay leaf, rosemary, black peppercorns, shallots, or garlic cloves) and let the milk sit aside until it’s the flavor you’d like.
Make It Dairy Free
Also, this can be made dairy free by using and unflavored alternative milk like soy milk.
Make It Gluten Free
Or, make a gluten free version by following this gluten free bechamel recipe from our friends over at Gluten Free Foodie!
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Go stock up on all your cooking essentials then head into the kitchen, make this, and share it with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social!
Easy Béchamel Sauce Recipe
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour or "00" flour (use gluten free flour as desired)
- 3 cups whole milk or soy milk to make it dairy free
- kosher salt
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Make The Roux: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Fill a fine mesh sieve with the measured flour. While whisking constantly, sprinkle the flour into the butter. Let the mixture cook until the raw flour taste is gone but don’t let it brown.
- Add The Milk: While continuing to whisk, pour the milk in a steady stream into the roux. Let the mixture cook, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until it coats the back of a spoon and when you draw your finger across the back of the spoon, it leaves a trail, about 10 minutes.
- Season The Béchamel: Add a generous pinch of salt and grate some nutmeg into the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.