Mastering Béchamel

Mastering Béchamel

Béchamel (BEH-sha-mel) is a creamy, white sauce made with butter, flour, milk, and seasonings. Contrary to its reputation, it is both easy and forgiving, and it's worth mastering since its velvety texture adds decadence to many dishes.

The secret behind Béchamel's creamy texture is in the roux--the mixture of flour and butter you cook first before adding milk. The science behind a roux is this: butter coats the gluten strands in the flour, which keeps them separate. That's why, when the two are mixed well, the flour doesn't clump once the milk is introduced.

If your Béchamel doesn't turn out perfectly the first time, don't worry, it can be saved. If it's too thick, add a little more milk, and if it's too thin, add a little more cooked roux. You can also strain out any last clumps that won't dissolve.

Once you've mastered a basic Béchamel sauce, the possibilities are endless. Try adding a handful of your favourite cheese at the end for an instant cheese sauce for your pasta (this is the sauce behind homemade macaroni and cheese). Or infuse the milk with flavour (try fresh herbs or spices) and strain it before adding it to your roux.

Try Stefano's luscious Creamy Mixed Mushroom Lasagna, where he swaps tomato sauce for Béchamel. Or his delicious Tuna Crespelle, where creamy Béchamel adds luxury to the layers.

And let us know how you use Béchamel in your favourite dishes, too!