In A Stir – Marisa’s super-simple bechamel sauce recipe

STEPS 4 INGREDIENTS 5 TIME 30-35 MINS This bechamel sauce recipe (also referred to as ‘white sauce’) is perfectly suited to dairy-loving pasta learners, because my mamma-in-law Marisa’s authentically creamy version is easier than many bechamel sauces to prepare.

bechamel_sauce_recipe_pansSome bechamel sauce recipes are complicated… you have to heat the milk ‘almost’ to boiling point, then cook some ingredients and leave them ‘to stand’ for fifteen minutes.

… or else they include long lists of actions and that dreaded recipe term… ‘meanwhile’ (doing two things at once? not for me).

With this 100% beginner-proof bechamel sauce recipe, all the ingredients are cooked from cold, one at a time. You just need a strong stirring arm!

(Learn about the Louis who gave this sauce its name here.)

Serves 4

Ingredients: (For a printable PDF shopping list click here, or right-click this link and choose ‘Save target/link as’ to save the list for later.)

bechamel_sauce_recipe_pans1 litre/2.1 pints of skimmed/semi-skimmed milk

100g/3.5oz butter (cut into small 1cm-square cubes)

60g/2oz (4 tablespoons) plain/all purpose flour

Half a teaspoon of grated nutmeg (ideally bought whole and grated)



Large pan/skillet

Cheese (or specific nutmeg) grater


Optional: large mixing bowl


Overall: 35 mins

STEP 1 – Grab the milk and chuck it in your pan (or ideally a mixing bowl).

Half-fill the sieve with flour and gently shake this over the pan whilst gently mixing in the flour that falls into the milk.

TIP: Rather than stirring the milk in circles, move your spoon in a ‘forward and back’ motion; this stirs ‘in’ the flour rather than just pushing it around. If any large lumps of flour remain, squish these between your spoon and the side of the pan.

When you can’t see any chunky specs of flour in there, you’re done.

STEP 2 – Put this pan on a maximum heat hob for just 2 mins. This will get the milk warming a little, then turn down to half the heat (so the milk doesn’t boil – not good!).

When the milk is warm, pop in your nutmeg, butter, and a good handful of salt. Stir gently.

The idea now is to keep slowly stirring the sauce – right until the butter melts and the sauce then turns creamy. This usually takes 20-25 minutes, so if you can get an assistant involved, your arm muscles will appreciate it (and should you invent an automatic stirrer, let me know!).

Note: This stirring phase is the main event as far as making bechamel sauce is concerned. Try not to get frustrated whilst you stir, as you need to keep the tempo slow and the stirring smooth. Also, my mamma-in-law Marisa advises me you should stir in the same circular motion the whole time.

It’ll soon be worth it…

STEP 3 – Look out for the moment the sauce ‘turns’. What happens is this: the butter stays on the sauce’s surface for 10 minutes or more and then ‘blam!’, it’s gone… and instead you’re staring at a white creamy sauce. Bizarre but true!

The sauce will need another 5 or 10 minutes stirring after this creaming point, so keep the faith and keep stirring…

STEP 4 – When the sauce turns to full cream (in other words, it drips slowly off your spoon rather than being very liquidy), it’s done.


Need ideas for bechamel-based pasta recipes? Why not use this bechamel sauce recipe as the starting point for a hearty baked rigatoni.

Or maybe an alternative bechamel version of a delicious vegetarian lasagna. Whatever you choose, buon appetito!