Béchamel Sauce


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about

    2½ cups

Appears in

How to Cook Italian

How to Cook Italian

By Giuliano Hazan

Published 2005

  • About

Balsamella, a creamy, rich white sauce, is used in many baked pasta dishes, particularly lasagne, and sometimes in gratinéed vegetable dishes. It is simple to make but requires a little patience. Do not be discouraged if it does not thicken right away and don’t be tempted to add more flour. The proportions listed below ensure a fine, delicate, and smooth béchamel sauce.


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt


  1. Pour the milk in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat until steam is released when the milk is stirred, just before it boils.
  2. While the milk is heating, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. Do not brown. Remove from the heat.
  3. When the milk is hot, transfer it to a measuring cup or pitcher with a spout. Place the pan with the flour mixture over medium heat. Begin adding the hot milk, very slowly at first, mixing with the whisk. Do not be concerned if the mixture becomes quite thick at first. Continue adding the milk slowly while mixing with the whisk. As the consistency becomes thinner, add the remaining milk more rapidly.
  4. Season with salt. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. The sauce is done when it thickly coats the whisk. Béchamel is best when used the same day but will keep overnight in the refrigerator if necessary. It’s not necessary to reheat before using.