If there is one thing that I use a LOT, in cooking for my kids (and I guess cooking in general), it is my basic white sauce. It is awesome for quickly whipping up a meal for them with basic ingredients in the cupboard, or left overs and is always a winner. Pretty much 95% of kids love great cheesy goodness.
So it’s a bit of a basic one, but it’s amazing how many people don’t know how to make a basic white sauce. Making it at home means no hidden preservatives, it’s dirt cheap and I can almost guarantee that you have all the ingredients already.
The nutritional value of the sauce is not amazing, basically just fat and carbohydrates (and calcium though), but you are using it as a vessel for adding in all the goodness from protein sources and veggies, so worry not my friends. Obviously we want our kids having less fat but you can use low fat or skim milk (just don’t use it as the main milk source for kids under 2), reduced fat cheese and non-saturated fats (margarine in this case) if you are concerned. If cooking this at home is stopping you buying cheesy pasta sauces in the supermarket or at take away shops then you are very likely going to be serving a meal with much less fat anyway.
Some favourites in our household using white sauce are:
– Tuna mornay: Add to the sauce a large drained tin of tuna, a handful of grated cheese, 2 cups of frozen veg and 2 cups of cooked pasta and you have cheesy goodness for weeks.
– Chicken cheesy pasta: Pretty much the same as above but with left over cooked chicken instead.
– Cauliflower and broccoli gratin: In a baking dish, pour the sauce over chopped cauli and broccoli sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs then bake in the over until cooked through.
– Vegetable dipping sauce: Serve cooked veggie sticks with a pot of this liquid gold.
– Lasagne: This is the sauce I use in my lasagna, which is always a winner winner.
So here’s how….
Basic white sauce (and cheesy goodness variation)
¼ cup margarine
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups milk
salt and pepper
Melt the margarine in the bottom of a saucepan.
While this is happening, get your flour measured out and milk CLOSE! You will also need a whisk very handy. Trust me, you will want all of these close by for the next step.
Once the marg is melted add in your flour and STRAIGHT AWAY, start stirring with the whisk. Once it starts going thick (this normally takes about 30 seconds) take it off the heat and add your milk with one hand (with a slowish stream) while stirring furiously with the other hand.
Once all your milk is in return to the heat (have it on medium if you are not in a rush). Keep stirring every now and then (maybe twice a minute) until the sauce thickens.
Season with salt and pepper and you are done. Sometimes I’ll add a pinch of nutmeg and paprika for something extra.
If you want it to be cheesy goodness then add your cheese now and stir while it melts in. Experiment with different cheeses for stronger or weaker flavours.