Mornay sauce is like the cooler sibling of classic bechamel sauce. It’s practically the same thing as bechamel sauce, but has the added benefit of cheese in the sauce. We all know cheese makes everything better.
Knowing that mornay sauce is simply bechamel sauce and grated cheese, it may be interesting to learn that mornay sauce was actually created before bechamel sauce. The sauce is said to be have been created by the Duke Philippe de Mornay in the late 16th century.
This has led some people in the culinary world to question whether mornay sauce was always a simple combination of bechamel and cheese, since bechamel sauce was invented later on.
Regardless, today, mornay sauce consists of just milk, flour, butter, and cheese.
Mornay sauce is used on a variety of dishes, including classics like mollet eggs (soft eggs) and everyday meals such as chicken, fish, and veggies. In America, we often enjoy mornay sauce in creamy macaroni.
Traditionally, mornay sauce has been made with gruyere cheese. Gruyere is a flavorful, semi-hard cheese that is somewhat salty.
Equally delicious substitutes like parmesan and cheddar are often used as well.
Thick and Velvety
In order to ensure your mornay sauce remains silky smooth, there are a few things you want to be mindful of.
When preparing a white sauce with a thickening agent like a roux (butter and flour), you will want to ensure the prepared roux is just as hot as the milk. This will keep the sauce clump-free once the roux and milk are combined.
Another point to be conscious of is the temperature of the cheese. I like to use room temperature cheese that I finely grate using a food processor.
If you’re using a cheese like parmesan, it’s often possible to find finely grated parmesan ready-to-use in certain grocery stores. Using a finely grated cheese like this just makes clumpy mornay sauce all the more avoidable.
Store and Freeze
If I’m making myself just a small amount of pasta or using the sauce as a garnish for chicken, for example, I’ll usually end up with leftover sauce.
You can simply refrigerate the mornay sauce in a jar for later use in the week, like I do, or you can also freeze the sauce. Either way, when you’re ready to use the sauce, simply thaw the sauce and then reheat over low heat in a saucepan.
A white cheese sauce consisting of bechamel sauce and cheese. Perfect for pasta, chicken, seafood, veggies, and more. Makes 1 cup.
- 1 cup whole milk (245 grams)
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (15.6 grams)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter (14 grams)
- 1/4 tsp salt (1.4 grams) or to taste
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper (.29 grams)
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan (30 grams) or more to taste, room temperature
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until steam begins to rise from the milk and the edges just begin to simmer. Don't let the milk boil.
Meanwhile, in another medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and stir together to create a paste-like mixture (a roux). Continue stirring for approximately 1 minute, until the roux transforms from its original paste-like appearance to a bubbly, liquid-like appearance. Move the roux off the heat.
Slowly stream the hot milk into the prepared roux, whisking the mixture vigorously as you do. Transfer the entire mixture back to the stove over medium heat, and whisk in the cheese. Whisk until its smooth and as thick as you'd like it to be. The longer you cook the mixture (and effectively reduce it), the thicker it will be.
Move the sauce off the heat and stir in the salt and pepper. Taste test for salt and add more if desired. Pour the sauce over your prepared dish. If you won't be immediately using it, run a rubber spatula against the side of the pan, then pour a thin layer of milk over the top to prevent a layer of skin forming on the top. Reheat over low heat when you're ready to use.
The amount of sauce created (1 cup) will be enough for about 8 oz. of pasta (like in a macaroni dish) or as a topping for entrée dishes that will serve 4 people (such as chicken and fish).
You can sub alternative cheeses, or use a combination of cheeses instead of the parmesan. You can also increase the amount of cheese to taste, however, be mindful that the sauce will become thicker with more cheese added.
To make a thinner sauce, use an equal ratio of butter and flour (1 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp butter).
If you use this recipe and your sauce appears too thick for your liking, simply stream in a tablespoon of milk at a time, whisking after each addition. Add until you get your desired consistency.
If your prepared roux is hot and the milk is hot, you shouldn't get any clumps. If you use room temperature, finely grated cheese, you also shouldn't get any clumps. But if you run into this problem, you can pour the sauce in a sieve to strain out the clumps.
If your sauce is too thin, you can combine another tablespoon of butter with another tablespoon of flour in separate pan until bubbly and hot, then pour that into your sauce and whisk to combine.