The basics – White Sauce aka Béchamel

Winter Vegetable Pasta Casserole

Winter Vegetable Pasta Casserole

We have covered the base of most Italian sauces, soffritto. Now we can talk about one of the staples of French Cuisine, which is widely used in Italian Cuisine also, Béchamel sauce.

Many recipes of the French Cuisine are also part of the Italian Cuisine, not only do the two countries share borders, but in history there have been many occasions when the Italians influenced the French, and vice versa.

One of main differences between the French Cuisine and Italian Cuisine, is that the French wrote down the recipes into a book, and therefore claimed them and made them a “rule” . . . in Italy each family has their own version of the same sauce . . .  and no one really wrote them down.

So, back to our White Sauce, it is as easy as 1, 2, 3, and can be upgraded and flavoured in thousands of ways, it is the base of the famous cheese soufle, and many other fancy dishes. For everyday life, it is a great way to make casseroles creamy, and a wonderful way to use up left over vegetables in the refrigerator!

basic Béchamel Sauce:

  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g flour
  • 500g milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

The main thing is that you keep the proportions, if you need more, you can make it with 100g butter and flour, and 1 litre of milk, and so on . . .

I put the milk in a microwave proof container to heat up, if you don’t have a microwave you can heat it up on the stove top.

In a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients, I heat the butter and flour together. The main idea is to melt the butter and toast the flour until it is all one paste – if you cook too much and it turns brown, it is also very good . . . just a bit more colourful  😉

When the butter and flour are bubbling and starting to become golden, add the hot milk to the pot slowly while whisking continuously to avoid the formation of lumps. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once you have mastered this, you can spin off any flavour, you can minced onion, or garlic, or other flavourings to your butter flour mixture, or you can add cheese or spices at  the end, or you can make it “heavier” by using whipping creme or “lighter” by using half milk and half water or stock. You can make it Gluten Free by using rice flour instead of the all purposed flour, and you can make it Vegan by using olive oil instead of butter, and soya milk instead of milk.

I love to use it when I make Pasta Casserole ( photo above), or to dress up vegetables for a special dinner ( photo below ).

Broccoli and coloured cauliflower casserole

Broccoli and coloured cauliflower casserole

Quickest mashed potatoes

Potato

Here is the secret to “last minute” mashed potatoes !

  1. Fill a large pot with water and put it on the stove to heat up
  2. Peel the potatoes and chop them into 1/2 inch cubesPatate
  3. when you will have finished peeling and chopping the water will be boiling
  4. put chopped potatoes into the boiling water and add a bit of salt
  5. after a few minutes pierce the potatoes to see if they are tender, drain them and mash them
  6. add warm milk and butter

Mashed potatoes are READY !!

Mashed Potatoes

 

Saltimbocca alla Romana

Saltimbocca alla romanaA litteral translation of the name would be “jump in your mouth in the roman style”.

Saltimbocca is a an ancient Italian dish, the first person to write about it was Pellegrino Artusi who was born in 1820 and was probably the first to write a cookbook of Italian Cuisine.

We think that the dish originates from the North of Italy in the city of Brescia because Artusi speaks of them in his book after a trip to Rome in a Trattoria called Le Venete. But since Artusi ate them in Rome they have become a typical dish from Rome, hence the name “alla romana”.

This is how I make them:

Ingredients:

Ingredients Saltimbocca

  • veal cutlets
  • ham or prosciutto
  • sliced cheese fontina ( please not the processed ) – I used Havrati
  • fresh sage
  • flour
  • butter
  • white wine

Instructions:

  • lay each veal slice on your cutting board
  • place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on the meat

Prep Saltimbocca

  • fold it in half as I did or roll it up

Saltimbocca ready to cook

  • place 1 leaf of sage and secure it with a tooth pick (as shown in picture)
  • when ready to cook, lightly flour the saltimbocca
  • cook in a pan with butter and olive oil
  • turn them over a couple of times so that the meat is all cooked and the cheese melts
  • deglaze with some white wine ( or Marsala if you prefer them sweeter)
  • serve hot or warm with it’s own yummy sauce

Saltimbocca !