I have a running list of dishes and recipes that I feel I should try at least once. Béchamel sauce was on that list. I do not know why it took me so long to try making the sauce; I was slightly intimidated, no logical reason why. I decided to try making béchamel while Z. was gone. One of the worst feelings in the world is when I make something I am super excited about and it has luke-warm reviews. I have hyped up the possibilities of béchamel to Z. for ages now, so if he did not like the dish, I would probably cry.
|I did it! I made béchamel sauce!!!|
I wanted to share a few of the things I learned while making béchamel sauce. Some recipes, like Anne Burrell's, said you could use the sauce after bringing it to a boil. Others, like Mario Batali's recipe, said to simmer the sauce for ten minutes. I made the sauce first then cooked my vegetables so I could the sauce my full attention. I am not very good at timing in cooking. Z., on the other hand, can have all the components of a meal all ready at the same time.
Also, I baked my pasta. I really wanted a nice brown top. This sauce would be wonderful right out of the pot. I thought since I was rationing the cheese, the best use of the cheese would be to sprinkle it on top and bake until golden and bubbly. This is a thick béchamel sauce, please feel free to add more milk to adjust to your taste. Enjoy!
- Add grilled or sauteed chicken when mixing pasta, vegetables, and sauce.
- Instead of sauteing the onion and zucchini, cut onion into slices and zucchini into horizontal slices, brush with canola oil, and grill. Then, dice and add to pasta and béchamel mixture.
- Add shredded cheese to béchamel sauce and use macaroni pasta for a grown-up version of macaroni and cheese.
- Adding grated nutmeg to béchamel sauce is very traditional.
Pasta with Béchamel Sauce and Spring Vegetables, serves 2-3
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups penne pasta or 2 1/2 servings of pasta of choice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small yellow or white onion, diced finely
1 small zucchini, diced
approximately 3 cups of baby spinach, washed and dried
4 cloves garlic, more or less according to taste, minced finely
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
red chili flakes, optional
- To make the béchamel sauce, begin by melting butter in a large sauce pan. Add flour and mix with butter. Stir frequently. Cook until mixture is the color of sand, depending on temperature of pan, may take 4-10 minutes.
- Add milk and stir until incorporated. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once sauce has reached a boil, turn heat down and simmer gently. Season with salt and black pepper. Do not forget to stir occasionally while preparing rest of ingredients!
- Meanwhile, preheat broiler in oven and begin cooking pasta. Cook pasta until al dente, make sure the pasta still has a little bite to it. Prepare a baking dish by greasing or spraying with non-stick cooking spray.
- Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt. Stir occasionally and cook until onion is translucent. Add garlic, season with salt again, and cook until garlic is almost cooked, about 3 minutes.
- Add zucchini and cook about 2 minutes before adding spinach. Be careful not to overcook the zucchini. Cook until spinach has wilted.
- When pasta is done cooking, drain thoroughly. In a large bowl, combine pasta, vegetables, and most of the béchamel sauce, reserving enough to spoon over the top of the pasta mixture. I reserved about 1/4 to 1/3 of the sauce for this purpose. Season mixture with kosher salt, black pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish. Top the pasta with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top.
- Place in preheated oven, about 10 inches under the broiler and cook until the top is brown, about 5 minutes. Serve. Makes great leftovers!