Basic Cheese Sauce

Steamed Broccoli with Basic Cheese sauce

Since having a child, I have found cheese sauce to be one of the most important recipes in my culinary repertoire. A basic cheese sauce can be made quickly (about 10 minutes) and goes a long way towards making vegetables more palatable. I know this recipe contains a lot of fat, but it is also chock full of calcium and it only takes a little cheese sauce to lend some welcome flavor to a serving of steamed broccoli or asparagus. In addition to sprucing up vegetables, cheese sauce can be mixed with pasta for a quick homemade mac-and-cheese or stirred into leftover rice along with some vegetables. This sauce also makes a pretty good queso with some bottled salsa stirred in at the end.

Although this is a quick recipe and easy to master, there a few pitfalls that have run into when making cheese sauce in the past, so the recipe below includes some quick fixes for common problems when making this sauce. For example, when I made the sauce pictured below, my daughter fell and hit her head just after I had added the  milk and, as I forgot to remove the sauce from the heat while comforting her, it became much too thick. However, I just lowered the heat, added a little more milk and whisked it well until the sauce smoothed out again. In other

Mac 'n cheese 'n broccoli with homemade cheese sauce

words, don’t be discouraged if this sauce doesn’t turn out perfectly thickened and smooth the first time, there are usually ways to fix these problems.

Basic Cheese Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

pinch of salt

1 cup freshly shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar this time, but gruyere, gouda, and a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan are all good)

1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until a paste forms. Pour in the milk, and a pinch of salt, whisking constantly, and continue to whisk until a smooth sauce forms. If the mixture still has lumps of flour in it at this point, just pour it through a fine-mesh seive into another saucepan and return to medium heat.

2. Continue to cook and whisk constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble and thickens. If the sauce becomes too thick, remove it from the heat, add another tablespoon or two of milk and whisk it in thoroughly.  Remove from heat. Add the cheese and whisk until the cheese is all melted and sauce is smooth.