How to Make Béchamel Sauce
While its French name may sound intimidating, learning how to make a béchamel sauce is easier than you might think. Known as one of the "mother" sauces in classic French cuisine, Béchamel is versatile: It's used in dishes such as lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and moussaka, and it can also serve as the base for soufflés, soups, and savory pie fillings. What's more, add a little Swiss cheese, and voilà—you've got Mornay Sauce. We call for white pepper so it isn't visible in the sauce. If it's unavailable, you can omit it.
Combine milk, onion, grated nutmeg, and bay leaf in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 15 minutes.
Flavor Boost: Onion lends the sauce a faintly sweet note. For an even more aromatic béchamel, add a crushed garlic clove to the steeping milk.
After the milk mixture stands for 15 minutes, strain it through a fine sieve over a bowl to catch the onions and bay leaf.
Wipe the pan clean with paper towels. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add flour to pan and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly to form a roux that will thicken the sauce.
Gradually add strained milk mixture, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. The resulting béchamel, also known as white sauce, will bring out the rich creaminess in a dish without resorting to saturated fat-laden cream.