Italian Bechamel Sauce (or White Sauce) is one of the easiest sauces to make. And super versatile, too!
White Sauce is originally an Italian Renaissance recipe which became popular by its French name: Béchamel Sauce.
When I first learned cooking White Sauce, I had a simple Italian recipe stating that you need equal amounts of flour and butter, like 50 g flour and 50 g butter and 500 ml milk added to it. It gave me a nice, thick sauce that worked as a base for other sauces. As time went by, I realized I often needed much thinner sauce for dishes like lasagna, and I upped the milk content to about 700 ml. Each dish requires different thickness of the sauce, so it is best to start with a thicker one and then thin it according to your needs.
Usually ground nutmeg and white pepper are used for flavoring Bechamel Sauce. Nutmeg is really a must, while white pepper can be substituted with finely ground black pepper. It will not change the taste much, but it will not look as pretty. If you’re planning to use the sauce in casserole-type dishes (like Butternut Squash Lasagna), it doesn’t matter anyway. If you plan to use it as a base for Alfredo Sauce, it is better to use white pepper.
Bechamel sauce is one of the easiest sauces to make. The only thing that could go wrong is creation of lumps. I’ve learned through experience that lumps are creating if you’re not mixing it vigorously enough in the beginning and if you’re using hot milk. On the other hand, if milk is cold, it will take a long time and constant stirring to cook it. Because of that I’m making my sauce by first combining roux (flour and butter mixture) with a little bit of cold milk and then I add hot milk to the mixture. That way I avoid both lumps and long stirring. Another tip to get lump-free sauce is to use mixer. I know that famous chefs are making it with a whisk, but home cooks who are not so experienced can get really good results with handheld mixer.
White Sauce can also be frozen. When ready to use, let it thaw first . When reheating, whisk it constantly so that it doesn’t separate. You can also whisk in a little bit of cold butter as you reheat to help keep the emulsion.
- 50 g flour 6 Tbsp + 1 tsp
- 50 g butter 3 1/2 Tbsp
- 500 ml milk* 2 cups + 2 Tbsp
- a pinch of ground nutmeg
- salt white pepper
Put 1 cup of milk to boil.
Melt butter in a saucepan on a low heat. Add flour. Mix the flour and butter together to form a smooth paste. Cook for about a minute or until flour is bubbly. The flour should remain white - do not let it brown. Remove from the heat.
Add remaining cold milk, whisking vigorously (or use handheld mixer), little by little until incorporated.
When the mixture is smooth, add hot milk. Return saucepan to medium-low heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until sauce is thick and it does not taste like flour any more. Season with nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Do not use too much salt if you plan to put some cheese in the sauce later.
*For thinner sauce add up to 3/4 cup milk more.