Sauce Béchamel ‡

Béchamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is one of the “mother sauces” of French cuisine. It is purportedly named after the “marquis de Béchamel,” a financier in the service of Louis XIV, and purportedly an improvement upon a similar, earlier sauce, known as velouté. As a mother, it is used as the base for many other sauces, among which are Mornay sauce (with cheese), Nantua sauce (with crayfish, butter and cream), Crème sauce (with heavy cream), Mustard sauce (with various forms of mustard), Soubise sauce (with finely diced onions sweated in butter), and Cheddar Cheese sauce (with cheese and other condiments). It also is used in Italian (e.g., lasagna) and Greek (e.g., moussaka, pastitsio) dishes. Its recipe here is different from the classic only in the use of less caloric ingredients were possible.

  • 3 tbsp <butter>
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • ½ tsp <salt>
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¾ cup fat free half and half cream
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Melt the <butter>, add flour, and stir until there are no lumps. Add the chicken stock, <salt>, paprika, and cream; raise temperature to a simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened and no floury taste remains. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Makes 1 ½ cups.

alfred sauce

Fettuccine Alfredo is an Italian version of Mac and Cheese purportedly created in 1914 by Alfredo di Lilio at his restaurant, Alfredo alla Scrofa (literally Alfredo’s on Pig Alley) in Rome. It was made famous by Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who discovered it on their honeymoon, brought the recipe back to the U.S., served it to their friends, and the word about their discovery spread rapidly thereafter.

The original restaurant is still in operation today, with its original name, menu, recipes, and celebrity client photos, despite di Lilio’s retirement in 1938. In 1959, Alfredo agreed to lend his name to another restaurant, just a few blocks north of the original; it, too, is still in business. Alfredo’s son, Alfredo II, in collaboration with Guido Bellanca, brought Alfredo’s to New York, Epcot Center, and Disney World. The Epcot location closed in 2007.

The original was very simple: pasta, butter, and the best Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese one can buy. Highly flavorful, it is also highly caloric. My Americanized approximation below presents only the sauce part of the dish, which, with a pasta of your choice, is also spectacularly flavorful, but with only 20% of the calories.

  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • ½ cup nonfat cottage or cream cheese
  • ¼ cup nonfat liquid <butter>
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp <salt>
  • ¼ tsp black ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ tsp dried basil (or more)

Put all of the ingredients, except the basil, into a blender and buzz at the highest rate until smooth. Transfer the mixture into a small sauce pan, add the basil, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and taste of cornstarch is gone. Serve with any type of pasta, or spaghetti squash, or zoodles.