Made with just 3 ingredients (butter, flour & milk), this ultra-creamy homemade béchamel sauce is the perfect base for mac & cheese and classic lasagna Bolognese. Ready in 20 minutes! Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze. PS: this recipe makes about 1 quart of sauce which is perfect for a 5+ layer lasagna using 1/2 cup per layer.
Béchamel sauce (also known as “besciamella” in Italian), is a creamy 3-ingredient white sauce made from butter, flour and milk. It’s most commonly used for mac & cheese and lasagna Bolognese, but plays a key role in many authentic Italian pasta dishes, pizza sauces and casseroles. It’s a classic pasta sauce recipe to have in your back pocket. The taste is mild and sweet.
What’s interesting about béchamel sauce is the ultra-creamy texture. It ranges from thick to thin depending on the recipe. Variations include Parmesan cheese, nutmeg and even fresh herbs for flavor.
In this post, you’ll learn how to make my medium-thick béchamel sauce recipe with step-by-step instructions. All you need is one pan, 3 ingredients and 20 minutes to make it.
Béchamel Sauce Ingredients: You Will Need
- Unsalted butter
- Whole milk
- Salt (optional)
A Few Tips for Classic Béchamel Sauce
- Don’t brown the roux! You won’t have a white sauce anymore. The béchamel will turn golden brown instead (you don’t want that).
- Add the milk in batches. This will prevent lumps. Whisk well!
- Béchamel sauce will form a skin on the surface if not used right away. Press plastic wrap or parchment paper directly on the surface of the sauce (assuming you’ve transferred it to a container), to prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Or, add a splash of milk on top instead.
- Use a wide, high-sided skillet (if you have one). Wide skillets make everything cook faster. Alternatively, use a 5 qt enamel coated braiser instead. This is my favorite pot on planet earth. It’s perfect for quick cooking sauces. Plus, I use it to make homemade ricotta, braise chicken, and to toss 1 lb (454 g) fresh homemade pasta directly in the sauce- the Italian way ;) It’s one of the best multi-use items I own!
How To Make Béchamel Sauce (Step-By-Step)
- In a large skillet or high-sided pothttps://amzn.to/3Zu1BBK: melt the butter over low heat.
- Sprinkle the flour on top.
- Mix with a wooden spoon to create a light colored roux. It will look like thick paste. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do not burn!
- Take the pan off the heat. Add 1/2 cup of milk and whisk thoroughly to break up the lumps.
What is a roux? Simply put: a roux is a thickening agent. It’s made from butter and flour and cooked briefly until light blonde OR dark in color (for gravy). It looks like thick paste. When a roux is combined with liquid and simmered until thickened, it creates a sauce. Use milk for creamy béchamel sauce and choose stock for gravy.
- Keep whisking until the mixture looks creamy.
- Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking continuously as you pour.
- Return the pan to the heat. Adjust to medium-low. Cook, whisking often, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of runny sour cream. Lower the heat as needed during the cooking process. Do not walk away! The sauce will catch on the bottom and burn! It will get lumpy!
- When the béchamel sauce is finished, it should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Drag your finger down the center of the spoon to double check the consistency. See above image.
Can you make Béchamel Sauce In Advance?
Béchamel sauce can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. You must cover the surface directly with plastic wrap or parchment paper (cut to size) as mentioned in the tips section to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Or, add a splash of milk on top. Béchamel sauce can also be frozen in the same manner for up to 1 month. Defrost at room temperature overnight in the fridge. Do not cook frozen sauce; it must thaw first.
Note: Béchamel sauce thickens as it cools. Reheat it gently, adding a splash of milk, to loosen up the texture before using.
More Pasta Sauce Recipes To Try!
- Ragù Bolognese Sauce
- Aglio e Olio (Garlic and Oil)
- 20-Minute Arrabbiata Sauce
- Quick Sicilian-Style Tomato Sauce
- Easy Golden Butter & Sage Pasta Sauce
- Authentic Pomodoro Sauce (Fresh or Canned)
- Homemade Italian Sausage Ragù
- Classic Italian Basil Pesto (Pesto alla Genovese)
- Easy Pesto alla Trapanese (Sicilian Pesto)
- 6-Ingredient Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
Fresh Homemade Pasta Recipes
- Classic Lasagna Bolognese With Ragù and Béchamel Sauce
- Beginner’s Guide to Fresh Homemade Pasta Dough
- Beginner’s Guide to Homemade Lasagna Noodles
- Beginner’s Guide to Fresh Homemade Ravioli
- Beginner’s Guide to Fresh Homemade Gnocchi
- How to Make Perfect Pappardelle Pasta
- Fresh Spinach Pasta Dough
- Best Sourdough Pasta (1 Hour or Overnight)
Made with just 3 ingredients (butter, flour & milk), this ultra-creamy homemade béchamel sauce is the perfect base for mac & cheese and lasagna Bolognese. Ready in 20 minutes! Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze. PS: this recipe makes about 1 quart of sauce which is perfect for a 5+ layer lasagna using 1/2 cup per layer.
The flavor of béchamel sauce, in its purest form, is mild and sweet. Feel free to season with extra salt, a pinch of nutmeg and/or Parmesan cheese. It really depends on what you’re using the béchamel sauce for. I typically leave mine plain and doctor it up as needed.
- 80 g (6 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 80 g (1/3 cup) all purpose flour
- 800 ml (3 1/3 cups) whole milk
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- In a large skillet (or high-sided braiser): melt the butter over low heat. Sprinkle the flour on top; mix well with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds to 1 minute to make a light roux. It will look like thick paste. Do not burn.
- Take the pan off the heat. Add 1/2 cup milk and whisk thoroughly to break up the lumps. Keep whisking until the mixture looks creamy. Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking continuously as you pour.
- Return the pan to the heat. Adjust to medium-low. Cook the sauce, whisking often, until it has thickened to the consistency of runny sour cream (it will thicken more as it cools). This should take about 12 minutes or more depending on the size of your pan. Season with salt to taste.
- When ready, the sauce should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Note: If not using the béchamel sauce right away, if will form a skin on the surface. See storage tips below.
Store the béchamel sauce in an airtight container, such as a quart container, with a splash of milk on the surface to prevent a skin from forming on top (alternatively, use plastic wrap or parchment paper to cover, pressed down directly onto the sauce). Chill for up to 3 days. Or freeze for 1 month. Defrost overnight in the fridge or at room temperature. Do not cook frozen sauce; it needs to thaw first.
Keywords: Béchamel, sauce, homemade, recipe, Italian, pasta, lasagna, creamy