While its fancy Frenchy name may sound a little intimidating and induce a culinary knee-knocker, learning how to make this basic white sauce isn’t so scary once you master the technique. Named after its inventor, Louis XIV’s steward, Louis de Béchamel (at least that’s the word on the street), it is known as one of the four “mother” sauces in classic French cuisine because of its versatility. It’s used in dishes such as macaroni and cheese, lasagna and moussaka and serves as the base for soups and soufflés, too.
And, on this velvety springboard, you can make all sorts of magic with the addition of cheese, garlic, cream, herbs, spices and so on. Learning how to make a béchamel is easier than you might think and knowing how to whip up this quick and creamy sauce will change your kitchen life, I promise.
You begin with a roux (roo) – an equal mixture of fat and flour – and whisk in hot milk; cook the mixture until it’s nice and thick; season with some salt and pepper. It’s really that simple but here’s the secret: the key to making a lump-free gorgeous sauce? Two things – adding the milk to the roux slowly while whisking like crazy and stirring constantly as it cooks.
What you’ll need:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- dash of freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- kosher salt
- ground white pepper
In a small saucepan, combine the milk, bay leaves and nutmeg. Heat the milk to a simmer; discard bay leaves. In a separate pot, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add in the flour; whisk until smooth. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add in the hot milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.