If you love rich sauces doused upon generous plates of pasta or velvety-rich soups filled with complementing ingredients best accompanied with warm crusty bread, then béchamel is your sauce.
It’s hard to imagine a sauce with mere three ingredients has the power to transform so many dishes. Here’s how to make béchamel and use it to creamy flavor to different dishes.
Béchamel is one of five mother sauces in classical cuisine. A mother sauce is an essential sauce made with everyday ingredients and serves as a base sauce for making additional secondary sauces.
Similar to velouté sauce, you start a béchamel with a blonde roux, which combines butter and flour. The addition of milk helps transform the roux into a thinner consistency, which eventually turns into a sauce once you’ve added all the milk.
The results deliver a gorgeously smooth sauce meant for macaroni noodles, French sandwiches, and casseroles of all sorts.
Aside from salt and pepper, all you need for a traditional béchamel is butter, flour, and milk.
Here’s how to make the sauce from scratch:
- 5 tablespoons of butter
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- 1-1/2 cups milk
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, then add flour and mix, using a whisk until the two ingredients combine into a roux. Continue mixing and cook the roux for a few minutes to cook out the floury taste.
- Slowly add milk, while continuously whisking, until you’ve added all 1 ½ cups. Continue to whisk to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated, and there are no lumps.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy as is, or add a few other choice ingredients and make it something exceptional.
For a neutral-colored sauce, feel free to use white pepper instead of black.
With a few select ingredients added into the mix, béchamel quickly transforms into unique creamy varieties, perfect for various dishes.
Here are a few examples:
- Make a gratin dish: One of my favorite ways to spruce up béchamel is by adding roasted garlic and parmesan cheese, then mixing it with cooked brussels sprouts or other veggies. From there, add a bit more cheese, panko bread crumbs, and herbs on top, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it bubbles and starts becoming golden brown.
- Mac and cheese: Homemade baked macaroni and cheese becomes something so much more when you add béchamel to your cheese, then mix it with the pasta. Cheddar, gruyere, gouda, parmesan, you name it, it belongs in a baked mac.
- Pot pie: Make a homemade chicken pot pie by mixing cooked veggies of your choice and cooked chicken (we always use rotisserie) with some béchamel. Feel free to swirl in a bouillon cube in the mix for extra chicken flavor, too.
- Soups: Another one of my absolute favorite ways to use béchamel as a base is by incorporating additional ingredients that turn it into a hearty chowder or soup of some sort. If that sounds like your style, then be sure to check out our favorite tools for whipping up delicious soups.
When it comes down to it, any dish you like but where you think “This could use a creamy kick of flavor” is a suitable candidate for a béchamel boost!