There bechamel or béchamel sauce it is among the most famous white sauces and used in cooking, especially in France and Italy but also widespread in England where it is known as white sauce.
The real origins of the bechamel are still not entirely clear. Many argue that the béchamel as we prepare it today is a French invention. According to our Italian culture, the ancestor of béchamel is actually Italian and has its roots in Tuscany. Here the glue sauce was prepared, a sauce obtained by the slow cooking of milk, meat broth and spices, used in the kitchen as a binder for many other preparations.
This sauce was imported to France thanks to Caterina de ’Medici. The current name made its appearance in the Italian cookbook of the fifteenth century. known as Medicean cuisine, and was later reinterpreted at the French court in Le cuisinier français ("The French cook", published in 1651) a fundamental text of French cuisine. The name was intended to honor the Marquis Louis de Béchameil for having inspired his invention. In Italy the name of the sauce has changed over the centuries, going from being called "salsa colla", "balsamella", to the current bechamel.
Regardless of its origin the bechamel, simple and delicious, it is the basis of many recipes, tasty first courses, refined appetizers, side dishes and succulent second courses.
In France it is considered a "mother sauce" because if you add very few other ingredients it turns into other basic preparations, such as the well-known Mornay sauce obtained by adding parmesan and / or gruyere or the excellent Nantua with prawns or fish to the béchamel, with which to enrich delicious preparations. A typical dish of French cuisine is the Croque madame: a tasty sandwich to eat hot and steaming, stuffed with cooked ham, gruyère cheese, creamy bechamel and a fried fried egg placed on one of the two slices of bread.
In our country, béchamel is one of the fundamental ingredients of a first course of Emilian cuisine, which is now famous all over the world: lasagna, from the most classic to meat sauce to vegetarian ones, to pesto, with mushrooms; equally known and appreciated are cannelloni but also the different varieties of baked pasta, pasta with four cheeses and timbale.
The béchamel is also used to cook vegetables in the oven, such as potatoes, cauliflowers, courgettes, asparagus or broccoli; for stuffing crêpes, for tying pies and pies, for enriching recipes of and pasta as a good dish of tagliatelle with mushrooms or making soufflés.
If you don't have time to cook, you can find the béchamel sauce ready in brick in food stores and in all supermarkets, however you must know that the homemade béchamel, in addition to being tastier and tastier, is really quick and easy to prepare!
How to prepare traditional bechamel
The béchamel, in its classic version, comes from the skilful union of a few simple ingredients: butter, flour and milk. To make an excellent sauce, always dose the flour and butter in equal parts. The fat must be in sufficient quantity to cover all the starch granules present, but it must not be excessive; if the fat rises to the surface, the bechamel is not very appetizing. Too much flour, on the contrary, would risk forming lumps that are difficult to eliminate.
1) For 500 cl of bechamel melt 30 grams of butter in an enameled saucepan with a very thick bottom. When the butter is completely melted, if it has not been clarified, it will begin to foam: it is the water that evaporates. After about 1 minute on medium heat, the bubbles will begin to decrease, then add 30 g of sifted flour, all together. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon or a whisk to completely incorporate the flour into the butter. Cook for 2 minutes, until the mixture becomes more fluid. Lower the heat and continue cooking, stirring again for 2-3 minutes so that the flour completely loses its raw taste. Remove from the heat and let your preparation rest: white roux.
A perfect bechamel must not have lumps and these can be formed if we have not mixed the flour well in the butter, in the initial phase or when we dilute the roux with the milk in the wrong way: to avoid the formation of lumps just dilute the hot roux in a cold liquid and vice versa.
2) Then add the milk cold or at room temperature and all at once, stirring quickly.
3) Bring the mixture to a boil, continuing to mix so that the flour begins to gel and the bechamel will gradually begin to thicken. Dip a wooden spoon and check if it comes out slightly veiled on the surface.
4) Once the bechamel has thickened, put the heat to a minimum and a lid on the pan, and let the sauce cook for 10 minutes, then flavor it with salt and flavor it with ground black pepper or grated nutmeg.
Tips for an ad hoc béchamel sauce
1) To “correct” a lumpy sauce, work it well with the whisk or, in extreme cases, blend it with the blender until it is smooth and then heat it in a pan. When it is liquid, filter it in a colander and put it back on the fire.
2) You can flavor your béchamel to taste by adding a grated nutmeg and / or ground pepper at the end of cooking. The original recipe, in fact, provides that they are infused in milk: onion, cloves and bay leaf.
If you like, you can add cooked and pureed vegetables (for example spinach or asparagus or even mushrooms).
3) The density of the bechamel is determined by the quantity of butter and flour used in the preparation of the roux. Another element not to be underestimated for the density of the sauce is the cooking time: the longer the béchamel will be kept on the fire, the more it will thicken. In some recipes of bechamel there is also some egg yolk dissolved in milk.
4) To prevent the skin from forming on the surface when you leave the bechamel to cool, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap.
How to store the bechamel
There bechamel, cold, you can keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days or decide to freeze it: In the latter case, however, heat it in a saucepan over low heat with very little milk.
How to prepare lactose-free or gluten-free bechamel
If you want a light bechamel, you can prepare it without butter and choose, alternatively, the extra virgin olive oil you prefer: for a dish with a strong character, you will use an intense fruity extra virgin olive oil, if you use a light fruity, you will get a more delicate preparation .
If you have lactose intolerance or if you prefer to prepare a vegan bechamel, you can replace the milk with rice or soy milk or you can use a vegetable broth. The procedure is the same as the basic recipe.
If you have gluten intolerances, replace the flour with that of rice, with corn starch or potato starch.
1) Make the roux. Combine the oil and flour in a saucepan, mix making sure that no lumps form. Cook the mixture until it is warm and let it lightly color without ever stirring.
2) Complete. Dilute the bottom with soy milk at room temperature, adding it flush as you continue to mix. Put the saucepan on moderate heat and leave to thicken until you have a soft, full-bodied sauce without lumps. Sala, add a generous grated nutmeg and remove from the heat. Let the bechamel cool down and use it in your preparation.
How to prepare the béchamel with the Thermomix
Prepare the bechamel with thermomix it is very simple.
1) Put all the ingredients in the mug
2) Set speed 4 at 90 ° C and cook for 12 minutes. Pour the bechamel into a bowl and let it cool covered with a sheet of plastic wrap.
How to prepare the bechamel with the microwave
If you don't have time to prepare the béchamel with the traditional method, there is a solution that takes a few minutes and has a very low margin of error: the béchamel in the microwave oven. The ingredients and quantities are the same as for the variant made in a saucepan.
1) Melt the butter first in a bowl suitable for microwave cooking, without cooking it: just a few seconds and mix it a little to melt any remaining small pieces of solid butter.
2) Sift the flour and incorporate it into the butter a little at a time, stirring quickly with the whisk, to mix well.
3) Cook the roux in the microwave at maximum power for a few seconds, until the first bubbles begin to appear. Remove the mixture and add a pinch of salt, nutmeg and milk flush, stirring constantly with the whisk until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
4) Put the mixture back in the oven and cook at maximum power for another 40-50 seconds (depending on the power of the microwave), take the bechamel out of the oven and mix it with plenty of energy. Repeat the operation for another 4-5 times, until reaching the desired density.
An extra touch to the béchamel sauce
When you prepare the béchamel, after mixing the milk with the flour, combine the ingredients with a small peeled onion and pickled with 2 or 3 cloves which, once cooked, you will eliminate. In this way, the sauce will acquire an intense and very pleasant aroma. To avoid the formation of lumps, however, mix the béchamel sauce continuously and gently with a long-handle whisk.
The right consistency of béchamel for …
Baked pasta and patties: prepare a medium density béchamel.
Gratin vegetables: the bechamel must be a little softer and stick to the spoon in a thin layer: decrease the amount of flour or increase the milk.
Croquettes and soufflés: it takes a fairly firm béchamel: increase the dose of flour or decrease the milk.