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