Béchamel for the tired guy

One of the things I am enjoying about having a reasonably stocked small kitchen is seen in the last legs of a two week meal plan. That moment when I’m too beat from the day to truck out to the market with a new meal plan/ shopping list in hand. Of course that’s when I’m usually starved and ready for something comfortable to eat before settling down for a film or a good read to end the day.

The solution is always different but in this case came in the form of left over spinach, broiled chicken breast and fresh pasta… smothered in Pancetta seasoned Béchamel sauce. “La Varenne Pratique,” by Anne Willan is one of my favorite not too technical “tired guy in the kitchen” compatible books. She opens her book early on with a chapter on sauces. Béchamel is one of two types of white sauces. She goes on to state that these are typically used in one of three different ways; to bind things like soufflés, to thicken soups and lastly to smother over things. I chose the latter in this instance.

Willan recommends using Bay leaf and nutmeg to season the sauce. I believe this lends an aromatic quality to the end product which is really beautiful. Given that I was low on energy and at the end of my grocery I used some left over Pancetta blended in at the end to give a little over the top flavor. It’s a 12 to 16 minute meal depending on what you have prepared and a good example of repurposing with minimal preparation.


3/4 cup milk
3 to 5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream (a bonus left over from New Years cooking)
1 1/2 tbsp. flour
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese coarsely chopped
2 slices pancetta

1. Cook the pancetta in a sauté pan (4 +/- minutes)
2. Remove cooked Pancetta from sauté pan & drain fat into measuring cup (saving for other uses)
3. Add the milk and cream to a sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil without any seasonings (10 minutes)
4. Take off heat and set aside to (very) slightly cool
5. Make the roux in the empty pancetta saucepan; melt the butter then whisk in flour until “foaming” (1 minute)
6. Remove the roux from heat and let cool slightly
7. Strain in the hot milk/cream into the roux whisking constantly
8. Return to heat and season with nutmeg, salt & peppercorns, Parmesan & chopped cooked Pancetta (1 minute)
9. Simmer for two minutes or until desired thickness

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