Bechamel Sauce Recipe for Lasagna or Pasta

I can’t remember exactly where I first tasted a bechamel sauce (or, as the Italians call, it, besciamella) after I moved to Italy, but I remember that it was inside a lasagna, mixed with a delicious ragu sauce. I was shocked by how distinct the flavor was  — and how creamy the consistency.

Bechamel sauce is a key ingredient in authentic Italian lasagna.
Bechamel sauce (shown above right) is a key ingredient in authentic Italian lasagna. Photo by Travis Neighbor Ward


It was dense and flavorful, without having any of the heaviness of something truly cheesy. I learned that it contained parmesan (parmigiano) cheese and no ricotta, which is what my Italian-American mother uses to make lasagna. Then I discovered the sauce’s secret ingredient: nutmeg.

I don’t like eating extremely heavy dishes, and I think this bechamel sauce recipe stays on the right side of the line.

The classic Italian besciamella calls for 3 tablespoons of nutmeg, but for me that would bring it too close to the taste of Christmas dishes. I prefer adding just one tablespoon, to give it a definite presence without being overbearing in the slightest.

The sauce is incredibly easy to make, but beware that it does require a watchful eye to make sure it doesn’t burn. This will make enough for one lasagna or a pasta dinner that serves 6 people.

If you use it for the latter, you could also mix it with sauteed mushrooms and onions, chicken, green vegetables, or shrimp. Yum!

  • Prep Time: 5m
  • Cook Time: 15m
  • Total Time: 20m
  • Serves: 6

Bechamel sauce ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 4 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 teaspoons grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add the flour and whisk until it thickens into a paste.
  3. Gradually add the milk, the parmesan cheese, and the nutmeg.
  4. Stir on medium heat for 10 mins
  5. After it boils, stir continuously for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let cool so it thickens.

That’s it! Enjoy.

Got questions about Italian cooking? Leave it in the comments section.


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