Classic White Sauce

21/07/2012 16:59

Making a classic white sauce is a great skill to learn. It was the very first thing I learned to cook at catering college. The basic recipe for white sauce is so versatile. You can create lots of different dishes with this sauce. Including cauliflower cheese, the topping for a lasagne, a parsley sauce, or for creating that all time comfort dish, macaroni cheese.

A White sauce is made from a 'roux' - equal parts flour and butter cooked to a smooth paste, adding milk to the roux makes a white sauce. Its important to cook the roux paste briefly before adding the milk, this activates the gluten in the flour, which allows the sauce to thicken.


50g butter
50g plain flour
600ml whole milk
white pepper
1 bay leaf
grating of nutmeg

Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the bayleaf, white pepper, and nutmeg. Heat gently to a simmer.
In another pan, gently heat the butter in a heavy-based saucepan until completely melted. Don't allow the butter to burn or it will affect the flavour of your sauce. Then, start to add the flour. Over a low heat, use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour to make a thick paste (roux). Cook for 2-3 mins, stirring all the time until the paste is smooth.
Replace your wooden spoon with a whisk and gradually add the milk, a little at a time, stirring after each addition until combined. Keep the heat gentle so you don't 'catch' the sauce on the bottom of the pan. Heat, stirring continuously, for 3-4 mins until the sauce begins to thicken and turn glossy.

Tips ~

* The secret to a lump-free sauce is to add the milk very gradually, stirring all the time. Adding warm milk makes it easier to avoid lumps.
* Use a wooden spoon at first, then switch to a whisk to help get rid of any lumps.
* If you want to save the sauce for later, just pour it into a container and put a piece of baking parchment on the top (touching the surface of the sauce) so a skin doesn't form, keep in the fridge for up to two days.

Now try your White sauce in one of these recipes...


Cheesy sauce is just about everyones's favourite!
Use it to make a fish pie, creamy cauliflower cheese or a pasta bake.

1  Batch white sauce

Follow the steps for the white sauce, adding 1 tsp English mustard powder to the roux. Remove the pan from the heat, then add 150g Cheddar cheese, grated. Stir until the cheese has melted, season to taste.

Tips ~  * Try using different cheeses - Blue Gorgonzola, Gruyère or Parmesan.

  * Once the cheese has been added, don't boil the sauce or the cheese may turn stringy.


This sauce goes well with almost any fish. Use it to Spoon over grilled fish, or to make gratins, bakes and pies.

1 Batch of white sauce

Follow the steps to make your white sauce, then remove the pan from the heat
and stir through a large handful of fresh chopped parsley, and the juice of half a lemon.

Experiment with different herbs such as tarragon or chervil, or even watercress or rocket. If serving with salmon, add a couple of tbsp of creamed horseradish to the sauce.


Sometimes called a Soubise sauce, it really delicious and goes well with most roast meats, especially lamb or chicken. Use it to make a potato gratin, or as a alternative to bread sauce with roast chicken/turkey.

I Batch of white sauce

Melt 50g butter and 1 tsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Add 200g onions, finely sliced. Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes until softened, then cook for a further 10 mins until lightly caramelised.

Add half the onion to the white sauce and blend until smooth (in a food processor or using a hand blender) stir in the remaining onion and season well to taste. Finish with a couple of tbsp double cream for a more indulgent version.



250g Dried macaroni
250g Cheddar cheese, grated
50g Parmesan cheese, grated

1 Batch of white sauce

Preheat the oven 200C/400F/gas 6
Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling water for 8-10 mins until just tender. Drain well and return to the pan. Add the sauce and half the cheddar cheese. Stir to combine. Spoon into a ovenproof dish and sprinkle remaining cheddar and parmesan over the top. Pop in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.