Bechamel Sauce (French White Sauce)
Makes about 3 cups
This recipe is for a basic bechamel or white sauce and can be used in many preparations such as lasagna, gratins, cheese sauce (see the recipe in the similar and related recipes links) and in place of canned condensed cream soups called for in many recipes. It can be altered by using broth or wine in place of some of the milk or by adding seasonings, sautéed mushrooms or other vegetables.
- 6 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of nutmeg (optional, see notes below)
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour, being sure to combine it with the butter very well to make a roux. Let cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Do not let it darken. Gradually add the milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, whisking or stirring vigorously to incorporate. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thickened and just starting to boil, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Notes: Nutmeg is a common seasoning in a basic white sauce. However, it should be omitted and other flavors added depending on the intended use for the sauce. The ratio of butter to flour is somewhat variable. Some recipes use equal amounts, others use less butter. Just do not change it too much.