White Italian spaghetti sauce is commonly known by its French name, bechamel sauce, although the Italians refer to it as salsa di besciamella. The major difference between Italian white sauce and French bechamel is that Italians don’t incorporate clove, which imparts a warm, slightly sweeter taste, according to the Italian chef Giuliano Hazan. White sauce, rarely used alone, can be tossed with spaghetti and vegetables for a slightly creamy comfort food. Italian cooks also use white sauce to “bind” layered dishes such as lasagna or other oven-baked dishes. White sauce commonly appears in Northern Italian cooking, and it’s fairly easy to make in your own kitchen.
Prepare the saucepan by heating it over medium-low heat with butter -- enough to melt but not brown. Once the butter is melted, use a whisk to gradually blend in enough flour to create an even-textured paste called a roux. Although roux traditionally refers to a brown sauce, white Italian spaghetti sauce calls for butter to be melted but not browned. If you can see streaks of flour, keep stirring until the melted butter has absorbed everything. The texture will be similar to wet sand.
Pour hot milk into the butter-flour mixture gradually, using a whisk to avoid lumps or uneven textures. Switch to a wooden spoon for stirring; the sauce will cook for between 10 and 15 minutes before it’s ready. As you stir, check the back of the spoon. The sauce will be finished cooking when the white sauce is thick enough to stick to the back of the spoon.
Season the white sauce with salt and pepper to your own taste preferences. This simple sauce relies on the creamy milk and butter for its subtle flavor, but you can punch it up with Italian seasoning if you like. Dried oregano or basil make good choices.
Pour the white sauce over your prepared spaghetti, if you plan to use right away. Use a spoon to spread the sauce evenly in the pasta. If you like, add shredded Parmesan cheese, or another shredded white cheese of your choice, for extra creaminess.
Things You'll Need
Salt and pepper
White sauce is best used the same day, although it can be refrigerated overnight if necessary. If the milk-butter-flour mixture has solidified, it will return to a nice, saucy blend once it’s reheated.
Italians love white sauce with clams. For a simple seafood dish, stir in a can of tinned clams with some chopped garlic for a traditional Italian sauce that pairs well with spaghetti.