Creamy, rich, and buttery, béchamel sauce is one of the “mother” sauces, or sayces meres, of French cuisine.
There are several theories about the origination of bechamel sauce (pronounced bey shah mel), with the earliest being that it was created in 14th century Italy in the court of Catherine de Medici. From there it made its way to several regions of France and over the next few hundred years on to other cultures. Béchamel sauce is a versatile foundation sauce for other recipes. Its basic ingredients are butter, flour, and milk. Once you have that down, you can begin to add all sorts of complementary ingredients to create a variety of delicious, creamy dishes.
From a culinary perspective, béchamel sauce is made by mixing a roux of flour and butter, whisking gently and being sure not to let it brown; then slowly whisk in boiled milk until the sauce is smooth and creamy/thick. After you have the basic white sauce you can then add other ingredients, spices, cheeses, vegetables, and/or lighter meats. Béchamel sauce is also a great base for various veggie dishes like veggie lasagna and macaroni and cheese.
From a health perspective, béchamel sauce is probably one of those things you want to just enjoy in moderation as a special treat. Obviously the healthful qualities will be totally based on the ingredients uses. Grass fed butter and milk and stone milled flours from heritage grain will more than likely reveal a flavor most similar to the early days of béchamel. It’s definitely worth a try if you’re up for experimenting.