“Béchamel Sauce” recipe – “Balsamella”, as Artusi used to call it

    • Prep Time
    • Minutes
    • Cook Time
    • Minutes
    • Yield
    • 1,2kg

Béchamel Sauce - the ingredients

Total Cost: UK/£ 1,43*

Cost/portion: UK/£ 0,36*

Béchamel Sauce: Artusi makes it simple

“This sauce is equivalent to the French béchamel sauce, although that is way more complicated”.

Béchamel is a classic basic sauce in Italian and French cooking, and there are many variations of the recipe.

Pellegrino Artusi gives his own version of it, pointing out how his way is lot easier than the French one.

The proportions of ingredients are very close to the one I am giving you here, but he doesn’t add the nutmeg. I wanted to add it in the list as an optional, since it is mentioned in many classic recipe books, although I do agree with him: the taste is quite distinctive and it might clash with other flavors when the sauce is used in other recipes. Also, nutmeg and black pepper are antagonistic: if added in the same recipe, they would nullify each other.

No lumps: guaranteed!

My method instead is different. I came up with it having to deal with huge quantities of béchamel sauce: when the saucepan is almost as deep as your arm and you are making lasagna for 120 people you really do not want lumps in your nice, creamy and snow-white béchamel sauce!

Also, I do not allow the butter to brown, unlike  Pellegrino.

Note for the users: please click on the label “HOW TO” to watch the slide-show of each cooking step.

* Please note that both total cost and cost per portion are approximate and that can vary according to seasons and to different conditions.

Recipe Rating

  • (2 Rating)

Ingredients

  • Whole milk - 1,1lt

  • Butter - 90gr

  • Plain flour - 90gr

  • Salt - 11gr

  • Nutmeg - to taste (optional, not in the original recipe)

  • Utensils

  • Two 3-4lt saucepans

  • One sieve

  • One wooden or silicon spatula

  • One ladle

  • One cooking probe (optional)

  • One zester

Instructions

  • 1.
    Boiling the milk and melting the butter

    • Whole milk - 1lt
    • Salt - 11gr
    • Butter - 90gr
    • Two 3-4lt saucepans

      Put the 1lt milk into one saucepan and put it on medium high heat. When warm enough, add the salt and stir (step 1 - pic. A). It will need about 15 minutes to come to the boiling.
      After about 5 minutes, put the butter into the other saucepan and melt it gently over a low heat. It needs to melt completely but it must not fry (step 1 - pic. B).

  • 2.
    Incorporating and cooking the flour

    • The melted butter
    • Plain flour - 90gr
    • One sieve
    • One wooden or silicon spatula

      Sieve the flour directly into the saucepan with the melted butter (step 2 - pic. A) and mix them thoroughly into a smooth and creamy paste.
      Increase the heat to a medium-low power and keep stirring the mixture until it gets slightly thicker and starts bubbling along the edges (step 2 - pic. B). This will take from 3 to 5 minutes of cooking, so you will have this done when the milk has started bubbling.

  • 3.
    Incorporating the hot milk gradually

    • The boiling salted milk
    • The butter and flour mixture
    • One wooden or silicon spatula
    • One ladle
    • One cooking probe (optional)

      When the milk starts to boil, add one ladle of it to the butter and flour mixture (step 3 - pic. A). Immediately mix them together and make the butter and flour paste incorporate the liquids completely (step 3 - pic. B).
      The mixture will become suddenly harder because the flour gels will get hydrated by the milk and they will swell up.
      Work on the mixture with the spatula and make sure there are no dry lumps of flour.
      The milk must be added gradually one ladle at a time and must be completely adsorbed into the mixture before adding the next (step 3 - pic. C).
      After 4 or 5 ladles the paste will become looser and whiter (step 3 - pic. D-E) so it is easier to add each time more and more milk until the base of the béchamel sauce is ready (step 3 - pic. F).

  • 4.
    Cooking the béchamel sauce at 92ºC

    • The béchamel sauce base
    • Nutmeg - to taste
    • One cooking probe (optional)
    • One zester

      Now that all the milk has been incorporated, you need to boil the béchamel sauce so the flour will be thoroughly cooked, otherwise the béchamel sauce will taste raw.
      Flour gels cook at 92ºC so you will need to keep stirring the sauce until it gets to that temperature and then let it boil for another 6-8minutes (step 4 - pic. A).If you do not have a probe to check the temperature, simply let it cook for ten minutes after the it starts bubbling along the edges.
      While boiling, the sauce will reduce and thicken enough to “write”: it is ready (step 4 - pic. B).
      As an option, with a thin zester grate some nutmeg directly onto it and stir (step 4 - pic. C).

Instructions

  • 1.
    Boiling the milk and melting the butter

    • Whole milk - 1lt
    • Salt - 11gr
    • Butter - 90gr
    • Two 3-4lt saucepans

      Put the 1lt milk into one saucepan and put it on medium high heat. When warm enough, add the salt and stir (step 1 - pic. A). It will need about 15 minutes to come to the boiling.
      After about 5 minutes, put the butter into the other saucepan and melt it gently over a low heat. It needs to melt completely but it must not fry (step 1 - pic. B).

  • 2.
    Incorporating and cooking the flour

    • The melted butter
    • Plain flour - 90gr
    • One sieve
    • One wooden or silicon spatula

      Sieve the flour directly into the saucepan with the melted butter (step 2 - pic. A) and mix them thoroughly into a smooth and creamy paste.
      Increase the heat to a medium-low power and keep stirring the mixture until it gets slightly thicker and starts bubbling along the edges (step 2 - pic. B). This will take from 3 to 5 minutes of cooking, so you will have this done when the milk has started bubbling.

  • 3.
    Incorporating the hot milk gradually

    • The boiling salted milk
    • The butter and flour mixture
    • One wooden or silicon spatula
    • One ladle
    • One cooking probe (optional)

      When the milk starts to boil, add one ladle of it to the butter and flour mixture (step 3 - pic. A). Immediately mix them together and make the butter and flour paste incorporate the liquids completely (step 3 - pic. B).
      The mixture will become suddenly harder because the flour gels will get hydrated by the milk and they will swell up.
      Work on the mixture with the spatula and make sure there are no dry lumps of flour.
      The milk must be added gradually one ladle at a time and must be completely adsorbed into the mixture before adding the next (step 3 - pic. C).
      After 4 or 5 ladles the paste will become looser and whiter (step 3 - pic. D-E) so it is easier to add each time more and more milk until the base of the béchamel sauce is ready (step 3 - pic. F).

  • 4.
    Cooking the béchamel sauce at 92ºC

    • The béchamel sauce base
    • Nutmeg - to taste
    • One cooking probe (optional)
    • One zester

      Now that all the milk has been incorporated, you need to boil the béchamel sauce so the flour will be thoroughly cooked, otherwise the béchamel sauce will taste raw.
      Flour gels cook at 92ºC so you will need to keep stirring the sauce until it gets to that temperature and then let it boil for another 6-8minutes (step 4 - pic. A).If you do not have a probe to check the temperature, simply let it cook for ten minutes after the it starts bubbling along the edges.
      While boiling, the sauce will reduce and thicken enough to “write”: it is ready (step 4 - pic. B).
      As an option, with a thin zester grate some nutmeg directly onto it and stir (step 4 - pic. C).

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