How to Make Besciamella (White Sauce)

  • by Nonna Box April 27, 2020
  • |
  • Last Updated on August 21, 2020
How to make Besciamella Sauce Recipe


How to make Besciamella Sauce Recipe

Classic Italian Besciamella

The common use of this mother sauce is with lasagna or cannelloni, but be creative and use it to bring flavor to other dishes!
4.65 from 17 votes
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Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: besciamella, lasagna, white sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 cups
Calories: 404kcal
Author: Nonna Box


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour sifted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • a dash of nutmeg optional


  • Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat, until just about to boil. You’ll know it’s ready if it sends up a little steam when you stir it.
  • While the milk is heating, melt the butter in another saucepan over medium low heat.
  • Add the flour to the melted butter, whisking continuously, creating a smooth mixture. Keep whisking for another minute to let the roux cook. Be careful not to let it brown.
  • Begin to whisk the milk into the roux slowly, a ladleful at a time. Be patient and don’t rush. The mixture will be thick and harder to whisk at first, but thins as you add the rest of the milk.
  • Once all the milk is fully incorporated, season to taste with the salt and pepper. If you want to add nutmeg, go ahead and grate a good dash in at this point as well.
  • Keep whisking slowly until the sauce thickens. This will take about 12-15 minutes, so don’t worry if your sauce seems too thin for a while. It’s ready when it begins to stick to the whisk in a nice thick coat.
  • Remove from heat and use, or let cool completely before storing.


Calories: 404kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 85mg | Sodium: 305mg | Potassium: 322mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1095IU | Calcium: 282mg | Iron: 1mg
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“Mother Sauce”

When it comes to knowing your way around a kitchen, nothing declares your pro status quite like being able to make delicious sauces.

Roasting veggies or creating a quick pasta dish is easy, but it takes real skill to create a yummy sauce to go with it. Or does it? If you’ve been itching to try your hand at sauces, especially béchamel, a little bit of confidence and patience may be your most important ingredients.

Is béchamel French or Italian?

Béchamel, also sometimes called white sauce, is one of the five “great” or “mother” sauces all chefs learn, especially those studying traditional French cuisine. Although most likely French in origin, first appearing in Le Cuisinier Francois in the 1650’s, some legends state béchamel was created in Italy as far back as the 1300’s.

It only later entered French cookery when Catherine de Medici married the future king of France and brought her cooks along with her to the French court. Either way it’s been part of these countries’ cuisines for centuries now, so it’s also firmly entrenched in both food cultures.

What is béchamel?

Known in Italy as besciamella or balsamella, the basic recipe is simply hot milk whisked into a roux. A roux is equal parts butter and flour cooked over a gentle heat. A brown sauce begins the same way, except the roux is allowed to cook a little longer and take on a darker color. The roux in a béchamel isn’t cooked as long and therefore stays a creamy white.

Are béchamel and white sauce the same thing?

The term béchamel is often used interchangeably with white sauce, since it is indeed a white sauce. However “white sauce” is a more generic term that also applies to béchamel’s variations and other sauces that happen to be white as well.

Is béchamel thick?

This sauce is thick enough to make your lasagna nice and gooey. It generally isn’t thin enough to be runny, although a thinner version (made with a little more milk) makes a nice base for a creamy soup.

What do you use béchamel for?

Béchamel can be used in a variety of dishes, from traditional Italian lasagne to creamy macaroni and cheese. Historically recipes are quite a bit fancier, incorporating cream and eggs, frying root vegetables in the butter to add more flavor or adding seasonings like black pepper or nutmeg into the sauce itself.

Besciamella: traditional Italian béchamel

Besciamella recipe - white sauce

Besciamella appears in a number of Italian recipes, usually acting as a luscious binding agent for pasta or vegetable dishes, as the main course or for sides. It’s also the base of a number of tasty variations.

Mornay sauce, for example, is simply a béchamel with cheese melted into it. Which means the next time you make homemade macaroni and cheese you can call it your Pasta a la Mornay.

Does traditional lasagna use besciamella?

The most notable use of besciamella may just be in classic lasagne, one of the oldest recipes in Italy’s rich culinary history. Thousands of years ago Greek chefs used laganon, one of the world’s earliest forms of pasta, to bake pastitsio – or Greek lasagna. It’s been a staple in the Mediterranean region, in one form or another, ever since.

Today most lasagna recipes we know use a tomato-based red sauce, so using a white sauce instead may seem jarring to most of us.

But northern Italian recipes like Lasagna alla Bolognese, from the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, which home to many of the finest of Italian culinary traditions, have always called for besciamella in their lasagne. The result is something so rich and thick you may never use tomato sauce again.

Storing your béchamel

  • Besciamella is best used on the day you make it – and it really doesn’t take much additional time or effort to add this sauce to your meal prep. But you can cool it and then refrigerate it overnight if you’d like. Just let it come to room temperature before using.
  • Want to freeze it? Let it cool completely, with a cover on it so the sauce doesn’t develop a skin on top. Then pop it into a freezable container and store it for a rainy day.
  • Pro tip: pour your sauce into ice cube trays to freeze lovely little individual portions. Then you can turn any quick after work meal from bland to beautiful with absolutely zero extra effort.

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