Bechamel Sauce is one of the five “mother sauces” of french cuisine and a basic building block for other sauces. It is also a critical standalone element of many dishes including a unique lasagna bolognese.
Origin and Name
The simple white sauce of butter, flour and milk called bechamel came from Italy. It was later introduced to France in the early 1500’s and eventually took the name of the Marquis Louis de Bechamel, the chief steward of King Louis XIV.
Link to Southern Cooking
We from the south have our own version of bechamel and it’s called milk gravy. It’s made with the same ratio of fat to flour, but substitutes rendered sausage or bacon fat for the butter. Like bechamel, milk is added but then reduced further to achieve a thicker consistency.
Remember that this is nothing more than butter, flour, milk and seasoning. Salt and pepper are traditional, and the simplicity is its secret. Some recipes add wine and some heavy cream, still others add stock or cheeses. Bechamel is called a mother sauce because it easily morphs into many others.
- 6 TBL unsalted butter
- 6 TBL AP flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 big pinch nutmeg
- Salt and ground white pepper to taste
- Melt the butter in a heavy bottom sauce pot over medium heat
- Whisk or stir in the flour to make a roux and cook for 2-4 minutes until the foam begins to subside, without burning or adding color to the mix
- Stir in the milk and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to warm
- It’s ready when it coats the back of a spoon
- Stir in the nutmeg, then the salt and pepper to taste
- Put a few dots of butter on top to prevent a film from forming until ready to use
And just one more thing…
If you are recreating a recipe that calls for bechamel, don’t muck it up with additional stuff. If you are breaking new ground with a recipe of your own, bechamel is the perfect sauce to experiment with!