I love cheese sauce. It's so versatile and is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It's the basis of simple meals like Mac & Cheese, or the more sophisticated cheese souffle. If you can make cheese sauce you'll never be short of a meal.
Cheese sauce was a staple for me when I was a student - you can add boiled eggs, pasta or cauliflower for an economical, warming meal. Nowadays I'm more likely to make Tuna Pasta Bake, or layer the sauce with a basic Bolognese sauce to make Lasagne.
I have even been known to cook cheese sauce for my dogs when they aren't eating very well. Pasta with cheese sauce goes down very well - if you're a greyhound anyway.
Cheese sauce - or rather the white sauce that it's based on - can have a reputation for being hard to make. In particular, it can be lumpy.
Why is my Cheese Sauce lumpy?
The reason the sauce is lumpy is because the milk hasn't been properly incorporated into the roux (which is the butter and flour basis for the sauce).
Use a whisk or a stick blender to save a sauce that's gone lumpy. Follow the recipe below for foolproof cheese sauce.
Secrets of Success for Cheese Sauce
There are two things which have revolutionised the way I make White Sauce or Cheese Sauce.
Use hot milk
The first is to heat the milk before you start so that you aren't adding a cold liquid to a hot mixture. The liquids mix together better and the time to make the sauce is cut down.
This is what really makes the method foolproof, but if you should have any lumps (and occasionally I still do, especially if I'm in a hurry), then you need a whisk or a stick blender.
Use a stick blender
The second secret of success is to use a stick mixer or hand blender. If you don't have one, then I suggest you buy one now so that you can start making lump-free sauces. A basic model is quite inexpensive, but it's a real kitchen essential.
But if you don't have a stick blender, you can use a balloon whisk or a coil whisk to whisk the hot milk in.
Make a basic Mac 'n' Cheese
You can use this basic cheese sauce recipe for Macaroni Cheese. Just boil some macaroni, mix with the cheese sauce, grate some cheeses on top and bake in the oven at 180°C fan for about 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. For Christmas, and special dinners try my Luxury Macaroni Cheese.
If you like this...
...Why don't you try:
Foolproof Cheese Sauce
- 1 litre milk, full-cream is best
- 100 g butter
- 100 g plain/all-purpose flour (see note)
- 1 teaspoon strong mustard
- Grated nutmeg, (about ¼ teaspoon)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 200 g extra mature Cheddar cheese
- Heat the milk in a microwave or saucepan
- Grate the cheese (a coarse grate is okay)
For the Cheese Sauce:
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes
- Add about a quarter of the milk and stir well as it all starts to bubble. As it begins to bubble the mixture will come together
- Once you have a solid mixture add the next quarter litre of milk and repeat. The mixture will still be quite solid.
- Repeat with the next quarter litre of milk. By now the sauce will be less solid. If it's lumpy, use the stick blender or silicone whisk to smooth it out
- Repeat with the last quarter litre of milk, You will now have a beautiful Bechamel sauce or white sauce
- Add seasoning - pepper, mustard and nutmeg. Add the grated cheese and taste as you add salt.