Béchamel sauce (besciamella in Italian) has French origin and has become part of Italian culinary tradition for a very long time. It’s also known as White Sauce or Mother Sauce because many sauces are made with béchamel as a base, such as Mornay, which is a somewhat richer version. It is a smooth, white sauce made made with just 3 ingredients: flour, milk, and butter.
You can buy ready-made béchamel sauce, but you have to know that homemade béchamel sauce is very easy and fast to make. The ingredients and the steps are few, just follow some rules.
Béchamel Sauce Recipe (Italian White Sauce)
- 500 ml of milk
- 50 g (1,7 oz) of butter
- 50 g (1,7 oz) of all-purpose flour
- a pinch of salt
- grated nutmeg
- parmigiano reggiano cheese (optional)
White sauce ratio: the ingredients for this recipe are for 500 ml of Italian white sauce. If you need 1 liter, doubled the ingredients. If you want a more liquid béchamel sauce, reduce the flour and the butter (for example 30 g (1 oz) of flour and 30 g (1 oz) of butter).
IMPORTANT: the fat part (the butter) and the flour, according to the traditional recipe of béchamel sauce, must have the same weight.
Step 1) – Get ready with all the ingredients. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
Step 2) – Now add the flour, better if you use a flour sieve, in this way you are sure that no lumps are formed. Mix quickly (but very quickly) with a whisk. Stir until the mixture is smooth and without lumps. This is the time when you have to be more careful. Cook for 1 minute so the flour becomes tastier and absorb the fats. The mixture of butter and flour is called roux and it should be a nice golden color; you can even use it to thicken other sauces or gravy. Then add the milk while stirring. The milk has to be at room temperature or slightly warm, but not hot. While pouring the milk, stir very quickly.
Step 3) – Cook over medium heat mixing until a fairly thick consistency (about 10/15 minutes). The sauce is ready when it sticks to the spoon. At the end of cooking, add a pinch of salt and grated nutmeg.
Step 4) – For an even richer flavor, add a little Parmigiano reggiano cheese (optional). Italian béchamel sauce is ready to use.
Storing Italian White Sauce
You can make a Italian white sauce ahead of time. So once cold, it can be kept in the refrigerator, closed in an airtight container, for a maximum of 2-3 days.
The best thing to do is to transfer the bechamel into a bowl and cover it with cling film that is in contact with the sauce (otherwise a denser layer will form on the surface). If this happens, remove it before serving. In fact, if you break it and mix it with the rest of the white sauce, you’ll have many small clumps of clotted bechamel!
Béchamel sauce can be frozen and kept in the freezer for about 1 month.
How to Reheat Béchamel Sauce
If necessary, you can reheat the white sauce in a saucepan over low heat: it’ll return smooth and creamy just working it with the whips of an electric mixer; you can add a little milk to make it more fluid.
Italian Béchamel Sauce Consistency
With this recipe you get an average density. If you prefer a more liquid bechamel, decrease the dose of butter and flour; for a thicker béchamel instead, increase the dose of butter and flour. If lumps form in the béchamel sauce just filter it with a colander.
Summing Up (for 500 ml of milk):
- runny bechamel: 30 g (1 oz) of flour + 30 g (1 oz) of butter
- classic bechamel: 50 g (1,7oz) of flour + 50 g (1,7oz) of butter
- thick bechamel: 70 g (2,40 oz) of flour + 70 g (2,40 oz) of butter
For a perfect Italian béchamel sauce, butter and flour must have the same weight.
Vegan Béchamel Sauce
To make a vegan béchamel, you can replace the butter with olive or seed oil and cow’s milk with a vegetable milk of your choice.