I think it should be obvious from this entire blog that I love butter. I can’t believe that I spent all of those years hiding from it! Let’s make up for lost time, shall we?
Now, let’s talk bechamel. It’s one of the 4 grandes sauces and is used in French cooking specifically, but has variations all over the world. Something I really like to use it in is lasagna rather than ricotta sometimes. It’s this amazing, velvety, creamy, thick concoction that’s spiced with nutmeg and will probably make your eyes roll back in your head. Probably.
The best recipe I’ve found is actually Mario Batali’s traditional bechamel. Sometimes you just can’t update a classic, and I’m not going to challenge and Iron Chef!
- 5 Tbsp butter
- 4 Tbsp flour
- 4 cups milk
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
First things first, you have to melt the butter. I recommend doing this over extremely low heat because if you burn the bechamel…well, let’s just say don’t!
While the butter is melting, boil some pasta. I did a 1/2 pound of penne, but you could really use any kind you like. The important thing is to only cook it for 2/3 of the time the box recommends. You’ll be tossing it in the sauce and then baking, and no one likes mushy pasta. Drain and set aside when it’s ALMOST al dente and you’ll be good to go!
Once the roux starts to darken, pour in the milk and whisk it until thoroughly combined. You’ll be getting a steam facial while you do this…don’t get scared, that’s totally supposed to happen. Nothing wrong in combining self care and cooking, right?!
This is when you can finally take a little break with the stirring. You’ll still need to do it every minute or so, but you gotta leave it alone and let it thicken up! At first you’ll start seeing bubbles around the edges like the photo above, but very soon you’ll see the bubbles in the middle and the mixture will very clearly be thickening up!
It’s like magic, right?
Just wait til you taste it.
The bechamel is ready to go when you can stick a spoon in there and it coats the back of it. You can still cook it down even further if need be, but this is the right thickness for the bake that we’re making today!
Then dump it all into a pan and sprinkle with cheese (parmesan’s the best in my opinion, although I actually used mozzarella last night) and top with fresh cracked pepper. Cover the pan with foil. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and brown.
What comes out of the oven at that point is the most magical, drool-worthy pasta/veggie bake you could imagine. We served it with a simple chicken breast (cooked in salt, pepper, and 1 tsp olive oil). When you have something truly amazing like this you only need a simple chicken side dish to go along with it!
- 1/2 pound penne pasta
- 2 lbs frozen or fresh broccoli florets
- Mario Batali’s Bechamel Sauce
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese
Soooo…this might be a repost of one of my absolute favorite recipes ever! We made it again recently and, since it was post almost a year ago and since I cleaned like a crazy woman last night and forgot to take pictures of food for you guys, well, I posted it again. Besides, what better time to fire up the grill with your favorite chicken or fish recipe and have a great pasta/veggie side dish to go with it? Amen y’all. Amen.