There are 5 basic sauces in classic French cuisine that can be modified and added to for a long list of dishes and the white sauce is one of those.  You can't have macaroni and cheese without it!

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Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News
Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News

Foodie Friday basic: Béchamel Mother Sauce (prep. Time about 20 minutes. Makes more than enough for a large, 3-layer white lasagna, like vegetable or mushroom.)

¼ yellow onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, grated or fine dice

2 Tb. Butter

2 Tb. All-purpose flour

1 Tb. Dried oregano

1 Tb. Dried basil

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cracked black pepper

1 quart milk

(to continue to an alfredo sauce)

4 oz. softened cream cheese

½ C. shredded parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Saute diced onion until they start to become tender, add garlic and herbs and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.  Slowly stir in the flour, coating the onion and garlic.  Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the milk, making sure to get into all the edges and through the middle to fully incorporate the flour into the milk.  Return to medium-low heat and continue to stir or whisk as the milk warms.  Stir in the salt and pepper to taste.  Increase heat to medium-high and whisk in the cream cheese until it melts and you have a silky-smooth sauce.  When the sauce comes to a simmer, it will quickly thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, which will further thicken the sauce.  If you want to continue to a cheesier sauce for macaroni and cheese, a baked potato topping, cheese steak or other topping, this would be time to stir in cheddar, gruyere or other desired cheese to taste and melt.

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News
Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News

The béchamel is what holds a white-sauce lasagna together.

The cheese, onion and garlic can be left out of a basic béchamel or white sauce and add nutmeg and bay leaf.  The basic sauce is the white gravy in sausage and gravy (over biscuits, of course) in Southern cooking and can be used as a base for a non-sweet soufflé’, over pasta or on top of roasted vegetables or veal.

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