Occasionally one is passed on a bit of cooking wisdom which makes a huge difference in your every day abilities to tackle recipes. This was one such piece of knowledge that Luke’s mum, Kerrie, imparted to me. It was while we were in the process of preparing lasagna for a dinner party of 15—during which she and a family friend regaled me with the story of how they had once made 400 lasagnas in one day. Seriously. 400 lasagnas.
Well, once I peeled my jaw from the floor, I started taking notes! Kerrie’s method (which was in turn passed to her from a friend who had once cooked for the army) for making white sauce is so darn easy, not to mention successful, than any other way I’d ever tried to make it. My white sauce making abilities were so dismal that I’m pretty sure I’d never made a proper one—they were always runny, lumpy, or thick and rubbery no matter what I did. My mum has probably shown me a thousand times how to make a proper white sauce, and I’m sure that every other cook even mildly worth their salt also knows how to make them, plus all the fancy French words.
Point is, if I didn’t know how to do it, there’s a good chance the rest of the world also doesn’t know! So here’s an easy three-step guide to a simple white sauce. Step four is for making it fancy!
The Easiest White Sauce
- 1 part butter (volume), e.g., 1 cup (250 ml)
- 1 part flour (the equivalent weight as per the flour’s volume), e.g., 250 g
- 8 parts milk (volume), e.g., 8 cups
- salt (about 1/4 tsp per every 1/4 cup butter you use, to taste)
- pepper or any other flavourings you might want
1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt your butter until it is no longer lumpy, and getting quite hot.
2. Add your flour, and whisk the two together until there are no flour lumps and the mixture looks a bit like a thick paste (see photo). Sprinkle and mix in your salt. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Slowly add the milk, about 1-2 parts at a time, whisking it in so there are as few lumps as possible. Every now and then, whisk until all lumps are gone, and keep adding more milk.
4. Once your white sauce is at the desired thickness (add or reduce your milk as necessary), you’re done! Add the pepper or whatever other spices you so desire. You can replace some of the milk volume with white wine, or melt in a strong cheese (such as sharp cheddar, parmesean, gorgonzola, etc.) for a cheese sauce.