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Basic Cheese Sauce (Mornay Sauce)

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

This recipe is for a basic cheese sauce that uses a white sauce, called a bechamel, as the base. It can be used in many preparations, such as vegetable gratins, and is usually the sauce in baked macaroni and cheese, as in the similar and related recipes. It can be used in place of canned condensed cheese soup called for in many other recipes. The sauce can be made in any amount, starting with a little less liquid, adding more only if needed.


Melt the butter in a medium saucepan 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 brown.

Gradually add the milk, about 1/4 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 10 to 15 minutes. Add the cheese off the heat and stir just until melted. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

Notes: For a thinner sauce, add a little more milk or less cheese and, for a thicker sauce, more cheese. Add other flavorings as desired, such as herbs, spices, Dijon mustard, hot sauce or other condiments. I have said it before, but I always use unsalted butter, whether in baking, cooking or for spreading on toast. It has a fresher flavor and I can control the salt in the recipe. In this sauce, that is especially convenient since most cheese is high in sodium.