Italian bechamel sauce (besciamella) is a smooth and creamy Italian white sauce made from butter, flour, nutmeg and a little Parmesan cheese. This creamy Italian sauce is so easy to make and our favorite way to use it is to make a traditional lasagne al forno. This Italian bechamel is so full of flavor and the perfect creamy addition to so many recipes.
Italian bechamel sauce is such a lovely treat and the perfect way to make a traditional Italian lasagna. Its uses don't just stop there.
Italian bechamel can be used as the base for macaroni and cheese, as a sauce to pour over cooked vegetables followed by baking them in the oven or for cannelloni, another classic Italian recipe.
It is really a delicious sauce. Italians use this sauce as their "glue" to hold many of their dishes together.
Origins of bechamel
Many Italians believe that their besciamella was the first bechamel sauce and that they invented it, not the French.
There is lots of debate about this, Regardless, both cultures use this sauce in many of their recipes and it is delicious in almost any recipe that uses it.
Ingredients to make bechamel sauce
- Unsalted butter
- All purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese
Make sure you are using whole milk for this besciamella recipe. This is not the time to use low fat ingredients 🙂
Traditional bechamel does not have Parmesan cheese but I always add it to my Italian bechamel sauce to add a little extra creaminess and flavor.
If you have it, I highly suggest using it in the sauce. It really adds a great background flavor.
How to make besciamella
The first thing you want to do is melt your butter in a small sauce pan. Once the butter is melted, you add the flour and let it cook for a few minutes.
Cooking the flour will help get rid of the raw flour flavor. The flour and butter mixture will thicken when it is towards the end of cooking like in the picture below.
Once you see the flour and butter mixture get nice and thick, it is time to add the milk. You want to whisk constantly while adding the milk and keep whisking until the milk is fully incorporated into the mixture.
Once you are done whisking the milk into the flour butter mixture, your sauce should start to look creamy. I like to turn the heat off at this point and add the Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Just whisk until the cheese is melted into the sauce. Once this happens, your besciamella is done!
Tips for working with this Italian White Sauce
Italian bechamel sauce is usually an ingredient in recipes and it needs to be made first before starting on the dish it is going into, like when making lasagna al forno. Because of this, it sits out while you are making another main recipe and it can form a thin skin.
This is not very attractive so here is what I like to do to avoid a skin on my bechamel sauce:
Once I am done making the besciamella, I remove it from the heat and place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the sauce. You want to make sure the plastic wrap touches the sauce which prevents air from touching the sauce and forming a skin.
This is done with many custard recipes as well and it works beautifully with this Italian bechamel sauce.
There will be a some sauce that sticks to the plastic wrap when you remove it but you do not risk having the skin in the sauce which would make it clumpy.
Ways to use Bechamel sauce
As I mentioned above, bechamel is used for many different recipes both Italian and French. Here are some of my favorite ways to use this creamy white sauce.
- In a classic lasagna bolognese
- As the base to the cheese sauce in macaroni and cheese.
- As a creamy topping to cooked vegetables to make a gratin. Just place cooked vegetables into a baking dish pour sauce over them and place under the broiler until bubbly and brown.
- As a sauce to pour over crepes for a savory crepe. It also works as a filling for crepes. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese in with the sauce and some chopped meat as the filling.
- Italians use this white sauce as a topping for cannelloni. Similar to adding it to cooked vegetables, the cannelloni is placed under the broiler or in the oven with the bechamel sauce on top until it is bubbly and lightly brown.
More Italian Recipes You May Like
- Baked Italian Sausage
- Italian American Meat Sauce
- Ricotta Lemon Cookies
- Ricotta Pie
- Tuscan Beans and Tomatoes
- Ground Pork Meat Sauce
Italian Bechamel Sauce
- 2 ¼ cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoon all purpose flour
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- a few swirls of freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium sauce pan heat milk over medium heat until it just reaches a light simmer then turn off the heat and set aside.2 ¼ cups whole milk
- In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Add flour and whisk into the butter and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.4 tablespoon all purpose flour
- Now add the warm milk one ladle full at a time while mixing it into the flour and butter mixture.
- Keep adding one ladle at a time and mixing until all of the milk is used.
- Now add Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.¼ cup grated Parmesan, ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt, a few swirls of freshly ground black pepper
- Remove from the heat and add a piece of plastic wrap over the besciamella making sure to lightly press the plastic wrap on to the surface of the sauce to prevent a film from forming.