My Recipe Box

Basic Cream Sauce (Besciamella)


Yields about 1-1/2 cups.

  • To learn more, read:
    Lasagne: the Real Deal
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 82

This Italian version of bechamel sauce is a building block for Spinach & Ricotta Lasagne and Beef & Pork Ragù Lasagne. Double this recipe, using a 3-qt. saucepan, to make enough sauce for the ragù lasagne.

  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups whole milk, heated
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Small pinch freshly grated nutmeg

In a 2-qt. saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the mixture brown. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and bring just to a simmer, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened to a creamy, gravy-like consistency and no longer tastes of raw flour, 6 to 8 minutes for a single batch, 10 to 12 minutes for a double batch. Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. If not using right away, transfer to a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to keep a skin from forming. Plan to use the sauce within 30 minutes because it thickens if it’s left to sit for too long. If that should happen, add a little warm milk and whisk well to thin it.

Photo: Scott Philips

Easy and tasty. Don't forget to warm the milk to avoid lumps. I made it with some coarsely chopped garlic in from the beginning and then strained it out when the sauce was finished.

Great -- I'm especially pleased that I didn't need any heavy cream.

This recipe turned out perfect. I used half & half, and added minced garlic to the butter. I finished it off with shredded parm and Santiago cheeses. This is a keeper for my recipe board.

Turns out perfect every time! My go-to recipe for white sauce.

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