Béchamel sauce (also known as white sauce), is one of the classic sauces used in French cuisine and many Italian dishes such as lasagne. It is traditionally made by gradually whisking milk into a roux (equal parts butter and flour by weight). The thickness of the sauce depends on the amount of milk and flour you use.
According to the encyclopaedia of gastronomy, Larousse Gastronomique, the sauce is named after Louis XIV’s steward, the marquis de Béchamel (1630–1703). Larousse suggests that the sauce is an improvement upon a similar sauce called velouté (as often seen on the BBC’s cookery show Masterchef). Many chefs now regard as authoritative the French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer Auguste Escoffier’s recipe as given in Saulnier’s Répertoire:
“White roux moistened with milk, salt, onion stuck with clove, cook for 20 minutes“.
If you have time, you can increase the flavour in your sauce by infusing the milk over a low heat with: onion, celery, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaf for 20-30 minutes.
It is a misconception that Béchamel sauce must contain cheese, cream, dairy milk and/or butter. You can make an excellent, full-flavoured creamy sauce using vegan margarine, flour and soya milk infused as described above. If you don’t have time for that, just add some vegetable bouillon, some nutmeg and freshly ground pepper. Alternatively, add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and some nutritional yeast. There are many options, see what suits you. You can use this sauce in a moussaka, lasagne, macaroni or cauliflower ‘cheese’ and other dishes. Bon Appétit!