Basic sauces bring tasty twist to comfort food

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


White, or bechamel, sauce is one of five French 'mother' sauces that forms the basis of many dishes. For example, macaroni or cauliflower cheese, moussaka, lasagne, fish pie, chicken pie and creamy soups.

Basic white sauce

Traditionally, a bechamel sauce is made entirely with whole milk. This recipe is lower in fat and calories. You can vary the sauce by adding chopped herbs, chopped cooked onions, capers, mustard, grated cheese, garlic or pesto.


550ml reduced-fat milk

35g butter or trans-free low-fat spread

35g plain flour

salt and white pepper to taste


1 Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat.

2 Add the flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon to form a smooth paste (this butter and flour paste is called a 'roux').

3 Take the saucepan off the heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk and stir vigorously until the milk has been incorporated into the roux. Repeat, adding a little milk at a time, until you've used it all. The sauce should be smooth and free of lumps.

4 Place the saucepan back over a low heat and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring continuously until the sauce has thickened. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutritional information per 100g: 85kcal, 356kJ, 3.0g protein, 4.8g fat, 7.9g carbohydrates, 0.2g fibre

Macaroni cheese

Use the white basic sauce to turn cupboard basics into a speedy and delicious family favourite.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

250g dried macaroni

100g Cheddar cheese

100g Parmesan cheese

50g wholemeal breadcrumbs


1 Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.

2 Add the macaroni and boil for 8 minutes, drain well and set aside.

3 Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5.

4 Add the half of the Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses to the white sauce, stir to mix and then pour in the macaroni. Stir and then pour the cheesy pasta mixture into a deep, heat-proof dish.

5 Mix the remaining cheese together with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the macaroni.

6 Cook in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Nutritional information per serving: 486kcal, 2050kJ, 20.4g protein, 17.7g fat, 65.6g carbohydrates, 2.6g fibre

Creamy broccoli soup

You can vary the vegetables you use to make this creamy soup. Peas, spinach, potatoes, leek and onions all work well with a white sauce.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

1 large head (350g) broccoli, chopped, florets and stalks separated

1/2 onion, peeled, chopped

250ml chicken or vegetable stock

pinch ground nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste


1 Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the broccoli stalks, cover and cook for 5 minutes before adding the florets and onions. Cook for a further 10 minutes with the lid on until the vegetables are tender.

2 Add the white sauce to the vegetables and bring to the boil.

3 Blitz the soup with a stick blender until smooth. Add the nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutritional information per serving: 236kcal, 989kJ, 13.1g protein, 11.6g fat, 21.1g carbohydrates, 3.7g fibre

Wynnie Chan is a British-trained nutritionist. If you've got a question for her or would like to be featured in this column, e-mail