white sauce pasta

White Sauce Pasta (Béchamel Sauce Pasta)

By Swasthi on June 19, 2022, Comments, Jump to Recipe

This white sauce pasta is an easy weeknight meal that’s ready under 30 minutes. You will love this rich, creamy & saucy pasta, perfectly seasoned with Italian herbs & topped with red chili flakes. It’s lighter and not heavy and is a satisfying comfort food. White sauce pasta is simply cooked pasta mixed with a silky smooth & decadent white sauce made of milk, butter and flour. White sauce also known as Bechamel sauce has its origin from the Italian & French Cuisines.


white sauce pasta

In classic culinary terms, this is what is known as a mother sauce. It is the base for many other sauces and it offers a great deal of flexibility to your repertoire of recipes.

Once you have learned how to make it well, the options are really endless. Whether you are using it for pasta or as a base for macaroni and cheese, the end is always a delightfully rich, smooth consistency that you coaxed out of a simple sauce of flour, butter and milk.

About White Sauce Pasta

One of the many amazing ways to incorporate white sauce into a really delicious meal is to make white sauce pasta. This dish offers a well-rounded meal that is satisfying and a great way to incorporate vegetables into a pasta that will please your family. It is customizable by changing the vegetables or even the pasta used.

The backbone of this recipe is the sauce, so getting it right is really the key. It is thickened with a mixture of butter and flour in equal amounts which is called roux, in French.

The method is rather simple, but must be followed properly for a smooth, velvety sauce.

Once you have familiarized yourself with white sauce and its many applications you will have discovered a whole new world of dishes that you can create with ease.

White sauce pasta is the start of a whole new itinerary of recipes that you will be happy to serve your family with a vast range of possibilities that will be sure to please them.

White sauce pasta with penne, milk and veggies

How to Make White Sauce Pasta (Stepwise photos)

Boiling pasta

1. Pour 3 to 4 cups of water to a large pot and add ¼ teaspoon salt.

adding salt to pot to boil pasta

2. Bring the water to a rapid boil & add 1 cup (100 grams) pasta.

adding pasta to boiling water

3. Continue to cook on a medium high flame till al dente. Check the instructions on the pasta package for the correct cook time.

cooking penne in hot boiling water

4. Check them a minute earlier than mentioned on the package. They must be tender, firm and chewy but not mushy.

al dente cooked penne

5. Drain to a colander and reserve some water/stock. Set the cooked pasta aside.

draining pasta to a colander

6. Pour ½ tbsp oil or butter to a pan. Add 1 cup mixed vegetables ( I used carrots, sweet corn kernels, red bell peppers and peas). Sauté them on a medium high heat until slightly tender yet crunchy. Set these aside.

frying veggies to make white sauce pasta

Make White Sauce Pasta

7. Use a steel pan for making the sauce. Add 2 tablespoons butter.

melting butter to make white sauce pasta

8. As soon as the butter melts, add 1 teaspoon grated garlic (optional) and fry for 30 to 40 seconds. Then immediately add 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour.

add flour to make roux

9. Turn down the heat to low to medium. Saute well until the flour loses the raw smell, for about a minute. Make sure the color of the flour does not change. This step is very important. Since this is a small quantity, the roux can become dry and clumpy. It’s just fine.

10. Lower the flame completely and slowly pour ¼ cup milk (warm milk).

adding milk to make white sauce pasta

11. Begin to incorporate the roux into the milk using a whisk or a spatula.

making roux with flour and butter

12. Dissolve the flour completely to a creamy sauce. Ensure the flame is low at this stage.

creamy mixture for white sauce pasta

13. Once you see a smooth sauce, free of lumps, pour the rest of the milk (1¼ cups) in 2 batches and stir. Simmer (on a low flame) until the white sauce thickens. Keep stirring & scrape the sides for a uniform sauce.

pouring milk to sauce

14. To check if the white sauce is done perfectly, dip a spoon or a spatula into the sauce. It must coat the back of the spoon well as seen in the picture below. Alternately You can draw a line with your finger on the back of the spoon, you should see it clean with a space. This means it is thick enough.

thick creamy white sauce in pan

15. Add 2 to 3 tbsps cheese (optional), pepper and oregano. You can also add a pinch of ground nutmeg if you want. I used cream cheese here. You can use parmesan or cheddar.

adding cheese and herbs to make white sauce pasta

16. Mix until the cheese blends well & looks like a rich, creamy and smooth sauce. Turn off. Do not overheat the white sauce. Taste test and add more salt & herbs if needed.

creamy white sauce for pasta

17. Add vegetables and cooked pasta to the white sauce. Mix everything together.

adding veggies to make white sauce pasta

18. If the sauce looks too thick (as it cools down), add 2 tbsps of the reserved stock so the sauce loosens a bit.

Garnish white sauce pasta with red chilli flakes and crushed black pepper. Serve it immediately as the sauce thickens more as it cools down.

white sauce pasta

More Pasta recipes
Masala pasta
Chicken pasta
Scrambled egg pasta
Vegetable pasta in red sauce
Pasta soup
Red sauce pasta

Customizing White Sauce

The flexibility that bechamel sauce offers makes it a perfect candidate for adjusting it to your liking. It really is a blank slate for a wide range of seasonings. Here is how to customize it.

Vegetables: Broccoli, peas, corn kernels, bell peppers (red & yellow) and carrots contribute not just added nutrition, but beautiful color! Use any of your favorite veggies that you prefer.

Meat: For those who are looking to bring some protein to the table, cooked/sauteed chicken or sauteed shrimp take this simple sauce to new heights.

Garlic: The next step is the part that allows you to put your own spin on this dish with the addition of spices, herbs and aromatics. For those who wish to take this dish into a more robust direction, garlic is a nice addition. You can also skip it.

Herbs: Fresh or dried herbs like thyme, oregano and basil bring a not just fresh flavor, but also a fantastic aroma.

Spices: A simple pinch of fresh black pepper can heighten the flavor profile while red chili flakes will appease those who have a preference for a more pronounced bit of heat. Adding a touch of grated nutmeg gives it a French flair.

Cheese: Once you have achieved a velvety smooth white sauce, you have the option to take it into a number of directions. Cheese is an obvious choice here.

Parmesan is quite classic, but for those looking for something a bit creamier can venture to add cream cheese which imparts a richness that is beyond comparison. Consider other varieties, as well, such as mozzarella, or try something that appeals to you. The options are endless.

With the addition of cheese like Gruyere, or a mix of it with white cheddar or parmesan, it quickly becomes a mornay sauce.

Choosing Pasta

One more way to customize this recipe is with the type of pasta you use. Of course, there are so many shapes available in the market and some are better suited to this recipe than others.

For example, I recommend avoiding long pasta like spaghetti which is not really substantial enough to stand up to this sauce, while smaller shapes like orzo can easily get lost in it.

Our favorite shapes are the ones with plenty of surface area and texture to capture and hold the sauce. I have found that penne pasta or even macaroni offer the sauce the opportunity to coat the pasta well, successfully bringing the dish together.

Pro Tips

Cooking pasta

When preparing the pasta, it is really important to cook it properly so that you end up with well-seasoned pasta that has a desired texture. This is referred to as al dente which really means that the pasta has retained some of its toothsome bite.

The best way to ensure that you have perfectly cooked pasta is by starting in a large pot with plenty of water. Ideally, you will want to start with 3 cups of water for 1 cup of pasta.

After bringing the water up to a rolling boil, add ¼ teaspoon of salt. This part really is essential as you really need to season the pasta thoroughly.

With the water still at a boil, add all of the pasta at once and stir immediately to ensure that it neither sticks to the bottom, or to the rest of the pasta in the pot.

As all pasta requires a specific cooking time, it is essential that you refer the recommendation on the package. It is best to start testing it about a minute before the suggested time. It should be firm and chewy without any crunch, yet not mushy.

When you are satisfied with the doneness of your pasta, strain it immediately, reserving 2 to 3 tbsps of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the white sauce and toss thoroughly.

That extra 2 to 3 tbsps of pasta water will come in handy in the event your sauce seems too thick. Usually white sauce thickens as it cools down so this stock always helps.

Because it is seasoned and contains a good amount of starch, this water will be just the thing to loosen up your white sauce pasta to silky perfection!

Making the Perfect White Sauce

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter thoroughly. Once it is melted add the flour all at once.

Whisk constantly for just a couple of minutes, just to give the roux a chance to develop some flavor and encourage its thickening properties, while preventing it from getting any color.

In a separate pan, gently warm the milk, being careful to not let it heat or come to a complete boil. At this point, carefully add just a small amount of the warm milk to the pan with the roux, stirring constantly to create a smooth, lump-free mixture.

Once this is achieved, you can add more milk (hot or cold) gradually, continuing to stir until all of the milk is added.

Continuing over low heat, cook the sauce for about 5-8 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken until it is shiny and leaves a trail behind the spoon in the bottom of the pan.

Alternately, dip a spoon in the white sauce & draw a finger on the back of the spoon. If it is done perfectly, it leaves an open space meaning it is of the right thick consistency.

Finish your sauce with salt and the seasonings of your choosing and you are on your way to a really great meal!

Cold milk vs Warm milk

Expert chefs always suggest using cold milk as hot milk can end up with lumps of roux in the white sauce. With cold milk you get enough time to incorporate the roux into the milk before it begins to simmer. So no lumps.

However cold milk can end up with instant splatters when added to the very hot roux. So bring down the temperature of the roux slightly before adding cold milk or warm up the milk slightly (not hot, not cold) before stirring it to the hot roux.

There is no one way to make perfect smooth white sauce. In this recipe, it is warm roux + warm milk = no lumps. So if you 2x or 3x this recipe, do follow this as it makes a lot of difference when made in larger quantities.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

white sauce pasta

White Sauce Pasta (Béchamel Sauce Pasta)

This white sauce pasta is an easy weeknight meal that’s ready under 30 minutes. You will love this rich, creamy & saucy pasta, perfectly seasoned with Italian herbs!!
Pin Recipe Print Recipe

For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Servings2
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

  • 1 cup pasta (100 grams penne or macaroni)
  • cup warm milk (full fat or vegan milk, refer notes)
  • tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ tablespoon oil or butter (to saute veggies)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper (crushed or ground, adjust to taste)
  • 2 garlic cloves grated (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon oregano (or dried mix Italian herbs)
  • salt as needed
  • ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes (optional, adjust to taste)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cheese (optional, parmesan, cream cheese, mozarella or cheddar)

optional (1 cup mix veggies)

  • ¼ cup carrots (fine chopped)
  • ¼ cup corn kernels
  • ¼ cup green peas
  • ¼ cup bell peppers (fine chopped)

Instructions

Cook Pasta

  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large pot along with salt.
  • When the water begins to boil rapidly add pasta.
  • Cook al dente. When done, pasta should be tender yet should get a bite into it (not too soft).
  • Drain off to a colander completely reserving ¼ cup pasta water/ stock.
  • Optional – Add ½ tbsp oil or butter to a pan and saute vegetables until slightly tender yet crunchy.

Make White Sauce

  • Add 2 tablespoons butter to a sauce pan. Set the flame to low. Saute garlic (optional) for 30 to 40 seconds until aromatic.
  • Then add flour. Whisk it along with butter & saute until the raw smell of the flour goes off.
  • The flour may turn slightly lumpy. Just break up the lumps and continue to saute until it no more smells raw. Make sure the color of the flour does not change.
  • Slowly pour ¼ cup of milk. Whisk continuously to incorporate the roux (flour mixture) with the milk.
  • When you see the flour is well blended with milk & no lumps appear, pour the rest of the milk and mix well.
  • Simmer this on a low to medium heat until the sauce turns thick & coats the back of a spoon. Check the pictures in the step-by-step section.
  • Add cheese if using and gently stir until the mixture reaches a thick creamy sauce consistency. Do not overheat after adding cheese. Turn off the heat.
  • Next add oregano and ground pepper.

How to Make White Sauce Pasta

  • Taste test and add more salt if needed along with veggies & cooked pasta. 
  • Mix well to coat the pasta with the creamy white sauce.
  • If the sauce is too thick, you may add 2 tbsps of reserved hot pasta cooked stock to loosen the thick sauce.
  • Sprinkle red chili flakes. Serve white sauce pasta immediately as the sauce thickens even more as it cools.

Notes

For vegan white sauce, soak about 12 to 15 cashews for 30 mins in warm water. Blend them with just 1/4 cup water to a super smooth paste. Mix with 1.25 cup water and make it 1.5 cups as needed in the recipe.

Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.

For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.

Video

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
White Sauce Pasta (Béchamel Sauce Pasta)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 486 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Fat 27g42%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 64mg21%
Sodium 333mg14%
Potassium 527mg15%
Carbohydrates 46g15%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 16g32%
Vitamin A 4359IU87%
Vitamin C 33mg40%
Calcium 354mg35%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

© Swasthi’s Recipes

This recipe was first published in December 2016, Updated & republished in February 2021.

White Sauce Pasta (Béchamel Sauce Pasta)

About Swasthi

I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.

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5 stars
Hi Swasthi

I love white sauce pasta. I followed your recipe and it turned out amazing. Thank you so much. Even vegetable biriyani I tried with your recipe, I have never had such great biriyani before. All thanks to you. You rock!

5 stars
Hi Swasthi , I prepared today and it was very delicious .Thank you

Hi Swasthi, I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I’m so sure it’s gonna turn out to be delicious. I have almost tried all your recipes it never disappointed me especially the eggless carrot cake( my favourite till date).
Thankyou for your amazing recipes, we love it. Keep sharing 🙂

5 stars
I think you might increase the quantity of butter so there will be no lumps

5 stars
Did little change instead of all purpose i used wheat flour but turned out yummy

Can we add black olives for white pasta

5 stars
Very nice

5 stars
Thanks This came out very delicious

5 stars
This is by far the best white pasta I ever made. Love the addition of veggies. Tastes delicious!

5 stars
Hello swasthi ma’am!! We tried your white sauce pasta recipe. It turned out to be very delicious. In lockdown we tried almost all your recipes all were great . Thank you 😊😊

5 stars
The recipe turned out great. I’m really a big fan of your recipes. Keep rocking.

Cant thank you enough

5 stars
Hi Swasthi, thank you so much for the great receipe. I have tried many, of them my children love it all.

Thank you once again.

5 stars
Great recipes. ?

I never knew making this was so easy and when I tried it was just yum. Your blog is one stop shop for whatever I try to cook. For a person like me who always want to stay away from kitchen yet have to cook different dishes, your blog will definitely not make one disappointed. Thank you for your recipes.

Can we use corn flour or whole wheat flour instead of maida

5 stars
I made it and it was really nice… Thank tou so much mam

Hi mam your pasta is too delicious I have tried it .Mam instead of butter I can use ghee bcz my child can’t it butter bcz of some problem

Thanks dear for sharing recepie.its yummy

Your recipes are just amazing I made this pasta on my mom’s birthday and she just started loving it. Thank u so much ????

5 stars
I have been meaning to thank you for a long long time now. I have made this pasta several times and it has always been a delight. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe! 🙂