Granny Natalina’s recipe for béchamel

This past saturday Anna drove me to the House of the Polishman, we went to visi Lanterna: we had an early Christmas lunch in our books.

What we wanted to do was retrieve some tradition, aka being home (it’s so cold outside), being with people you love, and cook up something alltogether

We wanted a recipe that was long but not difficult, something we had to make completely from scratch, though something we could eat right away, we decided for vegetarian lasagna.
Pumpkin (from Lanterna’s patch) sauce, with nuts and a cheese like taleggio (made by Lanterna’s husband).
Pasta was made with wholeweat flour and fresh eggs (I brought over too many because I misunderstood Lanterna’s directions, but I exchanged extra eggs with two big pieces of cheese :P). We then had to make sheets of pasta, so we pulled out the “Imperia” machine, a thingy with two big rollpins and a handle you spin, those spin as well, and pasta rolls out very thin (we had our little witch-helper Amelia to spin the handle, just like I did when I was little and my grandma made ravioli. Spinning the Imperia is an important point in every girl’s childhood U_U)
I made the béchamel with butter, flour, milk and a lot of patience. Don’t even try to get started on the calories of this, we have to survive cold winter months, eat up!

Here comes the recipe, with my grandma’s advice and my personal notes

– 100 gr unsalted butter
– 100 gr white flour (as I was saying with Anna and Lanterna, béchamel is a frilly french sauce, you have to use frilly refined white flour)
– 1 lt milk

and here comes my grandma’s wisdom:
– a “zinzinin” of salt, pepper and nutmeg
(it stands for a pinch, enough, random, how much you like basically)

Melt the butter on low heat, add in the flour and whisk it well so that it doesn’t clump up (my advice: it might be a little bit more tricky but try to sift the flour in).
You’re toasting the flour and making the “roux”, technical jargon, or if you want my granny’s words for it “Go on untill it gets to the colour of dry cookies” (aka go on untill your arm falls off, cause you’ll have to keep stirring).

Remove from the stove for a little while, add in warm milk (this time I forgot and added cold milk, nothing bad, but it will take longer afterwards) little by litte and keep whisking so it doesn’t clump up. Put back on low heat.

Warning, something my grandma didn’t say: for a little while it will look like you made a mess, milk on the side and big clumps on the other, don’t fret, trust me, keep whisking.

Heat will slowly melt any eventual clump. At this point you’ll be able to have conversation with other people in the room, all you need is an arm that will keep stirring, always in the same direction (I don’t know if this is true or not, but I do not want to find it out while ruining my sauce!!!).

Keep whisking and whiksing and whiksing and whisking, slowly your béchamel will grow thicker, and it’s up to you how thick you want it. Me and my family we like it nice and firm and, since grandma Natalina used to make her own pasta sheets and boil them separately, a nice thick béchamel was the good choice.
So, to have it very firm, bring it to a boil, when it boils cover with a lid and let cook for 10/15 minutes stirring once in a while, then remove from heat, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and there you have it.

If you don’t feel like cooking pasta sheets separately (and we have your back, saturday we didn’t!) leave the béchamel a little bit more runny (saturday I turned off the heat before it boiled, but the density was good), add in salt and spices, and voilà, the pasta sheets will absorb moisture from the béchamel and the veggy sauce, and will be cooked straight in the oven.

We had the best veg lasagna I have ever tried (it would be to easy saying “the best veg lasagna I have ever made” because it was the very first time I was making veg lasagna 😛 But if we’re talking about classic lasagna, I’m sorry I’m not sorry but the very best lasagna ever made, ever seen, ever eaten, ever BEEN, were my grandma Natalina’s ones. Period. No arguing).
The only thing I’d do differently next time (because there WILL be a next time) will be putting a little bit more the béchamel and, while Lanterna is not looking, putting a little salt into the pumpkin sauce as well, if I manage to I can skip salting pasta as well 😛

I brought a piece home to have Sa taste them, the verdict was “F**k, it’s awesome!” while nodding. Which would have been my same reaction at noon if I wasn’t sitting at the table with two blonde little kids 😉

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5 thoughts on “Granny Natalina’s recipe for béchamel

  1. ziaClara

    Concordo la pastalfornodellanonnanatalina era la migliore in assoluto unica e inimitabile
    un ricordo indelebile del natale
    Un merito però anche alla pasta al forno della miamamma che è buonissima
    e anche a quella della tuamamma che è una versione a mezzo tra nonnaNatalina e nonnaPinu (basta che non faccia la versione dietetica)
    Ma mi sono sognata o nella besciamella a casa nostra ci mettevamo anche l’uovo e il formaggio ? ( o almeno io lo facevo )
    baci ziaClara

    1. Euforilla Post author

      Ma come odiavi girare la manovella??? Ma siamo sicure di esser parenti allora?!

      Comunque sì, una versione originaria della “besciamella di nonna Natalina” prevedeva anche uovo e formaggio ma, fra il colesterolo e l’impresa titanica di girare l’uovo in tempo prima di cuocerlo e avere la salsa coi pezzettini di uovo sodo, s’è deciso di tenerla “light”.

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