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French Pasta Mornay

Updated: Sep 3, 2023


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From French Béchamel to Sauce Mornay, This dish is a comfort food from top to bottom. This easy recipe has notes of garlic, smokiness from bacon, and is perfectly creamy.


The recipe begins with making a roux, a thickener. We then make a Béchamel and add cheese to make it Sauce Mornay. But that's not all we do; We add bacon for smokiness and even a few cinnamon sugar walnuts for some texture.


A while back, I couldn't put my finger on which restaurant; I had a creamy white sauce dish with nuts. It was delicious, with the sauce's warmth and creaminess. Our recipe adds nuts with cinnamon and sugar that helps add sweetness to cut through the sauce's creaminess.


Some may make this dish and say the sauce is a fancy Alfredo. In a sense, it's similar, but it has some key differences. While an Alfredo sauce relies on parmesan cheese as one of its primary thickeners, Mornay, or its mother sauce béchamel, is thickened by a roux. While both are dairy-based, Alfredo uses cream, while Mornay uses milk. Similar but different, cooking has countless sauces to enhance a dish, but with each slight variation, the sauce changes characteristics along with its name.


milk, dairy, cream, 2%, 1%, skim, cow

If you look out on question-and-answer sites, you'll see people talking about identical sauces minus a few changes. Some comments say you need to add a few ingredients, and you've turned Mornay into Alfredo. Yeah, the difference doesn't lie in the number of elements but rather the type of ingredients. When you add milk to make a sauce, it becomes Mornay; how can you suddenly make it cream, and therefore Alfredo, while it's already incorporated? Adding butter adds fat, but the ratios and portions are slightly different between butter-enhanced milk and cream.


The Science

cheese, French cheese, parm, parmesan, gruyere

So what's the science behind making this sauce? Let's take a look at the cheese part of the sauce. In any dish that requires the melting of cheese, the milk fat will melt around 90 degrees. Then the protein matrix will break down at about 150 and 180 for gruyere and parmesan, respectively. This largely depends on the moisture content of the cheese. However, keep in mind that with too much heat, the cheese will lose moisture and re-solidify.


So how can you prevent this sauce, or any cheese sauce, from becoming stringy and solidified? Step one is to grate your cheese fine enough so it is evenly dispersed in the sauce, and after adding the cheese, avoid heating the sauce further; too much heat will cause the proteins to tighten. Then there is the matter of stirring the sauce; I often see people want to stir to "loosen the sauce" with cheese- If you over stir, the small particles will come back together and make the saucer thicker/ tighten the proteins.


There are some ways to recover a sauce. Though it may seem counterintuitive, you can add small amounts of flour or cornstarch to the sauce. Remember that both thicken sauces, but in cheese, the proteins attach to the flour or cornstarch rather than other cheese particles. Adding a little bit of wine or lemon juice is better. The acidity in both will help break up the cheese bonds.


The sauce is truly a wonder. Perfect comfort food that tastes and smells fantastic. With classical French techniques and the science behind cheese sauces, you'll learn while making this sauce and enjoy every second of eating it.


Cheers,

Chef Olson

chef, cook, pilot, plane, trained chef, pastry chef, French food








 

Pasta Mornay

Yield: 6 Servings

Prep Time: ~25 Minutes Inactive Time: ~50 Minutes Total Time: ~1 Hours 15 Minutes

 recipe, comfort food, warm, light, filling, family recipe, picky eater, food52, Williams Sonoma, cooks, servings, butter, bacon, onion, smokiness

Bechamel Ingredients

1. 2 tbsp Clarified Butter

2. 3 tbsp Plus 1 tsp Flour

3. 2 1/4th Cups Boiling Whole Milk

4. 2 tbsp Butter

5. 1/4th Onion Roughly Diced

6. 6 Oregano Leaves

7. Pinch of Pepper

8. Pinch of Nutmeg

9. 1 tsp Salt

Sauce Mornay Ingredients

1. 1/2 Cups Whole Milk

2. 2/3rds Cup Gruyere Cheese Shredded

3. 2/3rds Cup Parmesan Cheese Shredded

4. 2 Strips Bacon Chopped & Cooked

5. 2 Garlic Cloves Minced

6. 4 tbsp Butter


Nuts Ingredients

1. 1/2 Cup Walnuts

2. 1/2 tsp Honey

3. 1/4th tsp Cinnamon

4. 1 tsp Sugar

Pasta Ingredients

1. 4 Eggs

2. 3 1/3rd Cup Flour

3. Pinch of Salt

4. 4 tsp Olive Oil

Guide

Bechamel

1. In a large sauce pot, melt the clarified butter over medium heat. Slowly sift in the flour while mixing with a whisk. Continue to cook until a light brown color is obtained. Turn off the heat and wait until cooled.


2. Add the milk, butter, onions, basil, oregano, nutmeg, and salt in a medium sauce pot. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and cover for 15 minutes


3. Pass the milk mixture through a sieve and into the pot with the roux. Mix till well combined and bring to a boil while stirring. Bring down the temperature and simmer very gently for 10 minutes.


Sauce Mornay & Nuts

1. Add the whole milk, garlic, and bacon (including the bacon fat) to the Bechamel. Continue to simmer until the sauce has reduced by 1/3rd. Stir in the cheese and butter until melted.


2. Add the nuts, honey, cinnamon, and sugar to a small frying pan over medium heat as the sauce reduces. Toss to combine ingredients and cook until the nuts are aromatic- roughly 1-2 minutes.


3. Pour the sauce over the pasta and top with grated parmesan, nuts, and oregano.


Pasta

1. In a large bowl, add in your and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well. Add the salt and oil.


2. Gradually mix the flour into the eggs in the center. In other words, start in the middle and work your way out by slowly adding flour.


3. Once combined, knead the dough until it is soft and elastic. Wrap it in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.


4. Once rested, roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until it’s about the thickness of a penny- keep in mind it will double in size once you cook it, so thinner is best. You can also use a mixer attachment.


5. Cut the pasta into thin strips—Cook in boiling salted water for roughly 4 minutes or until done.

Recipe By: Chef Olson Thewoodenspoonchefs.com

 

Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and tag on instagram at the_wooden_spoon_chefs





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