Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
- Pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat it over medium-low heat. You want to barely scald the milk, not bring it to a boil. You will know it’s scalded when you see a ring of tiny bubbles beginning to form along the perimeter. Turn off the heat and set it aside.
- Heat a heavy-bottom pot over medium-low heat. Add in the butter and let it melt slowly. Once the butter has melted completely, sprinkle in the flour and begin whisking to incorporate the flour into the butter, making sure to whisk out any lumps that form. Whisk the mixture constantly for about 2 minutes. Do not allow the flour to brown–the mixture should always remain a blonde color. Monitor the heat to make sure the mixture does not scorch.
- Reduce the heat to low and gradually add in the warm milk, whisking constantly. Continue whisking after all the milk has been added to keep any lumps from forming. Monitor the heat to make sure the sauce does not boil. Once the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat. You will know the sauce is finished when you can run your finger down the back of a wooden spoon coated with the sauce, and the sauce does not fill in the gap. Add in the salt and nutmeg (if using), and stir to incorporate the ingredients into the sauce. Use immediately as directed in the recipe that requires béchamel sauce.
- Béchamel sauce is best used immediately after it is finished cooking.