Broccoli Penne Bechamel Bake

by Heather on August 27, 2010

You guys, the response to Faces of Beauty so far has been OVERWHELMING! I’m so amazed at y’alls stories and beautiful pictures, but even more so your hearts in wanting to help inspire others has rocked me to my core. Be sure to check out Gillian’s post today!

I think it should be obvious from yesterday’s post that I really do love butter.  I can’t believe that I spent all of those years hiding from it!  Let’s make up for lost time, shall we?

Now, let’s talk bechamel.  It’s one of the 4 grandes sauces and is used in French cooking specifically, but has variations all over the world.  Something I really like to use it in is lasagna rather than ricotta sometimes.  It’s this amazing, velvety, creamy, thick concoction that’s spiced with nutmeg and will probably make your eyes roll back in your head.  Probably.

The best recipe I’ve found is actually Mario Batali’s traditional bechamel.  Sometimes you just can’t update a classic, and I’m not going to challenge and Iron Chef!


  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

First things first, you have to melt the butter.  I recommend doing this over extremely low heat because if you burn the bechamel…well, let’s just say don’t!

While the butter is melting, boil some pasta.  I did a 1/2 pound of penne, but you could really use any kind you like.  The important thing is to only cook it for 2/3 of the time the box recommends.  You’ll be tossing it in the sauce and then baking, and no one likes mushy pasta.  Drain and set aside when it’s ALMOST al dente and you’ll be good to go!

Once the butter is melted add the flour.  You’ll want to have a whisk nearby to start stirring!  I have yet to meet anyone who really likes burned stuff, and like I said:  don’t burn the bechamel!

Oh Lord help me. Is it wrong to want to jump into a pool of perfectly cooked roux?

So yes…stir, stir, stir your little heart out.  But make sure you take a break to measure out your milk.  You’re going to need it after about 5-6 minutes of cooking the roux!

Might as well get your nutmeg handy as well!  Nutmeg is a super strong flavor, but I have come to adore it in bechamel and savory dishes.  It’s life-changing.

Once the roux starts to darken, pour in the milk and whisk it until thoroughly combined.  You’ll be getting a steam facial while you do this…don’t get scared, that’s totally supposed to happen.  Nothing wrong in combining self care and cooking, right?!

This is when you can finally take a little break with the stirring.  You’ll still need to do it every minute or so, but you gotta leave it alone and let it thicken up!  At first you’ll start seeing bubbles around the edges like the photo above, but very soon you’ll see the bubbles in the middle and the mixture will very clearly be thickening up!

It’s like magic, right?

Just wait til you taste it.

The bechamel is ready to go when you can stick a spoon in there and it coats the back of it.  You can still cook it down even further if need be, but this is the right thickness for the bake that we’re making today!

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the salt and the nutmeg.  Oh the nutmeg!

Fold in the 2 lbs frozen broccoli and the pasta (measurements for both are at the bottom of this post):

Then dump it all into a pan and sprinkle with cheese (parmesan’s the best in my opinion, although I actually used mozzarella last night) and top with fresh cracked pepper.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and brown.

What comes out of the oven at that point is the most magical, drool-worthy pasta/veggie bake you could imagine.

We served it with a simple chicken breast (cooked in salt, pepper, and 1 tsp olive oil).  When you have something truly amazing like this you only need a simple chicken side dish to go along with it :)



Be sure to visit Faces of Beauty and submit your own!  Find the instructions here.

Happy Friday everyone!

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica @ How Sweet August 27, 2010

I looove bechamel sauce. But I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise.


2 Summah August 27, 2010

Mmmmm, more butter! I may have to make this soon. I plan on making the brownies for a party this weekend!


3 Kara @ MyWellnest August 27, 2010

You have the coolest dishes and utensils!


4 Salah August 27, 2010

wow you are a cooking queen!!!!! that looks so yummy :-)


5 Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum August 27, 2010

YUMMY! And it looks relatively easy! Although, I am still dreaming of those cherry pretzel brownies…


6 glutenfreemuse August 27, 2010 :-) I will definitely need to try that sauce GF! I haven’t been to your faces of beauty site because it is blocked at work, but I’m hoping to get there soon!



7 Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life) August 27, 2010

woo-wee, looks fancy! and delicious! Like something from a restaurant :)


8 Stacey@ August 27, 2010

Such a pretty dinner.


9 couchpotatoathlete August 27, 2010

Heather that looks amazing! What a beautiful dish.


10 Joslyn @ missfitbliss August 27, 2010

I like how you used frozen broccoli! It’s a smart way to keep veggies preserved, I just never know what to do with it. Great dish!


11 Stephanie @ Single in the City August 27, 2010

I <3 butter, too! This recipe looks sooo good!! I just found your blog yesterday and am excited to read your older posts. I'll also be contributing to your Faces of Beauty; what an empowering idea!


12 Kristy August 27, 2010

Your dish looks amazing!!! Def going to try it, yum!!! Thanks for sharing!!! :)


13 Anna August 27, 2010

Mmmm, bechamel is my favorite…but I’ll be honest, it intimidates me!!! I’m always afraid I’m going to mess it up!


14 Estela @ Weekly Bite August 27, 2010

Oh my… this looks so decadent!! I love it!


15 Katie August 27, 2010

Mmmm… I don’t have much else to say


16 KeepItSweet August 27, 2010

that looks so good!


17 Maren August 27, 2010

Oh my gawwwwd! I am all about this recipe.


18 Tina August 27, 2010

So happy you are getting a good response for the Faces of Beauty! Hope you have fun this weekend.


19 R @ Learning As I Chop August 27, 2010

That looks sooooo good


20 LaChelle @ SugarDuchess August 27, 2010

Wow! Definitely bookmarking this. I’m always looking for new dinner ideas :) Thanks for sharing!


21 Matt August 27, 2010

Can I come over for dinner?


22 Emily August 27, 2010

Love that the chicken is the side dish. :) YUM


23 SheFit August 27, 2010

YUM! I’ve never heard of this type of sauce. Sounds delicious


24 Tristan | Enjoy Life August 27, 2010

Love the thorough instructions! I could eat this every night of the week! Keep up the awesome work!


25 Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic August 28, 2010

I haven’t made bechamel in years – now I want to cook up some ASAP! Broccoli bake sounds too good to pass up!


26 Heather C August 28, 2010

I heart your butter posts, quite entertaining and screen lickin’ gooood ;)


27 Rachael August 28, 2010

Bechamel was one of the first things I learned how to cook (right after a proper roux was pounded into my head). Love it as the saucy bit in butternut squash lasagna!


28 Kristie August 29, 2010

Oooooh my gosh yum. I don’t think that meal could possibly get more perfect.


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