White sauce is used as the base for various other sauces (such as cheese or vegetable) and today I am going to show you how to make it. Whether Italian or French (its origin can be traced to both countries though the name ‘bechamel’, as it’s also called, suggests it’s French but let’s not worry about that) the simple white sauce and its various adaptations are popular in many cuisines and for good reason. The sauce acts as a thickening agent, keeps the other ingredients moist, enhances flavour and adds richness (without necessarily too many calories).
This simple white sauce recipe contains only 3 ingredients: butter, flour and milk (which, when combined, can only produce one colour – white, hence the name ‘white’), and the only ‘tricky’ bit to making it successfully is knowing which ingredient comes first, second and third. Because if you use the wrong sequence your sauce is likely to be lumpy. So it’s important to start off with the butter, then add the flour, then the milk. In that order!
Many white sauce recipes advise to infuse the milk prior to making the sauce by adding raw onion, nutmeg, fresh parsley, peppercorns, cloves or other ingredients, bringing the mixture to simmering point, then straining it and discarding the flavourings. I think that this is a good idea with many dishes but it’s not absolutely necessary to do as you can always add herbs and spices to the sauce itself (this, however, might affect the colour of the sauce). My aim is to show you the right technique (one that’s always worked for me) of making the sauce. The choice of any additional ingredients is yours.
The proportions in this recipe make a medium thick sauce – not too runny but not too thick either. If you need the sauce to be more runny or thicker simply add a little less or more flour (± 5 g). If you don’t use your sauce straight away and it becomes too thick add some milk and heat it up again whisking all the time.
This sauce can be used in a variety of dishes, such as lasagne, cauliflower and cheese, various types of savoury pies, moussaka and it can also be poured over meat or vegetables.
And this is how to make it:
2 minPrep Time
8 minCook Time
10 minTotal Time
- 400 ml semi-skimmed milk
- 30 g butter
- 25 g flour
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- In a saucepan melt the butter (on a low heat, taking care not to brown it). Add the flour and combine using a whisk. Once the mixture has thickened gradually add the milk stirring with the whisk all the time. You can increase the heat a little to speed things up, but whisk continuously to prevent lumps from forming and the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Once all the milk has been added season and simmer gently for about 3 minutes, stirring all the time. If you don't use the sauce immediately it will thicken after a while. Just add a bit of milk when you are ready to use it and heat it up gently stirring all the time (you may have to adjust the seasoning too).
I shared this post at Totally Terrific Tuesday