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Cooking school 101: Claire’s guide to the best-ever béchamel sauce

Bechamel sauce

Creamy béchamel sauce (or “white sauce” to some) is the backbone of so many classic home-cooked recipes. A warming lasagne, a decadent macaroni-and-cheese or a cosy fish pie are all made better with the richness and depth of béchamel sauce.

Claire Brookman Fresh Ideas expert

“The secrets to a silky smooth, ultra-creamy béchamel sauce are flavour, patience and vigilance. Combine them, and a velvety sauce is well within your reach. Flavour your base with fragrant ingredients. Be patient while your sauce simmers and thickens. Keep a vigilant eye on your mixture while it cooks: béchamel has a tendency to burn if overheated. If you’ve ever struggled with yours, don’t worry: here are my tips for nailing it every time.”

– Claire

How to make bechamel sauce

Choose to infuse

Infusing the milk with aromatics such as onion, parsley, fresh bay leaves and peppercorns before cooking your béchamel will add a lovely depth of flavour to the sauce, and that flavour will sing through in your final dish.

Strain away

Straining the milk once it’s infused easily removes solids and any skin that may have formed on the surface of the milk while it was standing.

Bechamel sauce

Slow and steady

Every béchamel starts with a roux: a mixture of flour and butter that will bind with the infused milk, resulting in a lovely, thick sauce. To ensure a smooth and lump-free sauce, remove the pan from the heat before gradually adding the milk – about ¼ cup at a time should do it – to the roux.

Keep it moving

Ever struggled with a burning béchamel? Stirring the sauce constantly while it’s cooking will prevent it from sticking to the base of the pan and eliminate the chance of a burnt sauce.

Bechamel sauce

Try this: How to use béchamel sauce

Now that you know how to make the best béchamel sauce, apply it to some tasty recipes. Whether for pasta, pies, lasagne or veggie bakes, you’ll be cooking up a storm in no time.

Green Mac 'N' Cheese

Mac it up

Who doesn’t love a good macaroni-and-cheese recipe? One of the greatest comfort foods, if you ask me, and béchamel sauce is the base for most recipes. This one is veggie-filled, but you can make it just as decadent as you want it to be.

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Cauliflower Cheese with Crispy Sage

Calling on cauliflower

Another cosy classic. Cauliflower cheese is the ideal accompaniment to a Sunday roast. Here’s one of my favourites, topped with crispy sage and cauliflower leaves.

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Fish & Prawn Pie

Pie’s the limit

Mix a classic béchamel sauce with your choice of protein and veggies, then top with puff pastry for a simple take on a comforting classic. This fish pie is delicious and can be mixed up with what you have on hand.

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Beef lasagne

Luscious lasagne

Layers of juicy beef, pasta sheets, creamy béchamel sauce and stretchy cheese? There’s no beating a humble homemade lasagne. This recipe uses homemade bechamel, but saves time by using jarred tomato sauce. Of course, you can make yours at home, too.

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