Known today for being one of the most iconic ingredients in the classic lasagne, béchamel sauce has a crepuscular history. Some believe that this delicious, creamy concoction was the work of Louis de Béchamel, chief steward to King Louis XIV of France. However, others claim that the sauce was first invented in Italy in the mid-sixteenth century and later travelled to France. Assuming that the Italian origins of béchamel are indeed true, the name is thought to come from the word ‘balsamo’, literally meaning balm. This referred to a mask made from flour and water which women applied to their faces to make their skin smoother and more beautiful, and these are the same ingredients that were used in the earliest béchamel sauce recipe.
The sauce that we tend to find in lasagne now, known also as white sauce, has a few more ingredients than just flour and water, it usually contains butter and milk too, and sometimes even a little bit of cheese, making it deliciously rich and creamy. We find that béchamel sauce is the perfect antidote to counteract the cold that threatens to settle in around this time of year.
How to Make Béchamel Sauce
Both our traditional béchamel and vegan béchamel recipes will teach you how to perfect this sauce, step by step.
Should you need further guidance on how to make this creamy sauce, follow along with our very own Chef Roberta as she guides you through the process in her classically ebullient fashion.
Our Favourite Recipes with Béchamel
Originating from Ancient Rome, lasagne is cherished by food-lovers worldwide. Many are familiar with the traditional lasagne alla bolognese, which combines a rich beef ragu with tomato sauce and a generous helping of cheese. However, nearly every region of Italy offers a different take on this classic dish. Our founder, Alessandro, fondly recalls enjoying lamb lasagne whilst growing up in Genova. There are also many delicious options for keen vegetarians. For instance, a Sicilian lasagne substitutes beef for roasted aubergine and ricotta salata.
Lasagne has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries. The first record of lasagne dates back to Ancient Rome, but that primitive recipe is quite different from lasagne we know and love today: this initial recipe describes a flattened dough layered with cheese and spices and eaten using a pointed stick. In contrast to this primal-sounding dish, our sumptuous vegetarian lasagne layers earthy porcini and wild mushroom sauce between fresh sheets of pasta, and a healthy amount of Italian hard cheese.
Mushrooms have been integral to Italian cuisine for many years. Back in Ancient Rome, mushrooms were considered an expensive luxury. A philosopher of the time, Seneca, vowed to give them up in his attempt to purge anything non-essential, condemning the humble funghi to be an “unnecessary luxury”. Thankfully today, any number of exotic and earthy mushrooms are readily available, including the prized porcini, which take centre stage in our delicious vegetarian lasagne recipe.
You might have noticed we like to use fresh lasagne sheets. They're simple to make, especially when following Chef Roberta's method:
This sumptuous vegetarian aubergine lasagne recipe draws inspiration from the Sicilian Pasta alla Norma. Named in honour of the famed opera ‘Norma’, written by Sicilian-born composer Vincenzo Bellini, Norma sauce features aubergines grown in the outskirts of Catania, a sun-drenched area in the east of Sicily.
In this vegetarian lasagne, our flavoursome aubergine sauce is layered with creamy béchamel, and sheets of fresh, homemade lasagne. Finished with a generous helping of Italian hard cheese, this vegetarian lasagne is a decadent twist on a Sicilian favourite
Wild boar, or “cinghiale” is commonly regarded as the unofficial mascot of Tuscany, causing mischief in the local vineyards scattered around the coastal region of Maremma. Eaten and revered in equal measure, Tuscans adore this rich meat - so much so, one of the region’s most iconic dishes, pici ai cinghiale, showcases tender wild boar.
Our sumptuous ragu sees the wild boar slowly simmered in a traditional bath of red wine, fragrant juniper berries and tomato until rich and tender. We layer this meaty ragù between fresh lasagne sheets and creamy besciamella sauce, for a luxuriant and gamey twist on the classic Roman dish.
A flavour combination cherished by Italian natives and diners worldwide, our vegetarian lasagne recipe honours the humble but flavoursome spinaci e ricotta, or spinach and ricotta. From ravioli to malfatti, canneloni to rotini, this creamy and vibrant pairing is commonplace in many famous pasta dishes from the peninsula. Rich in iron and other essential vitamins, spinach has been enjoyed in Italy for years - Catherine de Medici was said to love the leafy green, giving way to the ‘florentine’ moniker associated with spinach-infused dishes. Its companion, ricotta, is made throughout Italy by resourceful caseificio (cheesemongers) - the term ‘ricotta’ literally means “re-cooked”, referencing the twice-cooked whey by-product that constitutes the cheese.
We combine these hero ingredients with nutmeg and fresh lemon, before layering this mixture between fresh lasagne sheets and creamy besciamella, and finishing with a generous scattering of vegetarian hard cheese.
At Pasta Evangelists, we bring a taste of Italy to your kitchen. Prepared using the freshest ingredients, our gourmet pasta dishes are perfect for those looking to enjoy restaurant-quality meals, delivered to your door, and ready in under five minutes. Order from our weekly menu today, and we’ll offer you 25% off your first delivery - simply enter the code BLOG25 at checkout.