Growing up with an Italian grandmother meant we prioritized pizza night. In fact, my grandmother started "Pizza Friday" in her Midwest home in the 1960's and 1970's! Pizza and pasta sauce aren't just for tomatoes. White pizzas are typically pizzas that are made without the use of tomato sauce, and I dare you to find a more loved sauce than Alfredo. This garlic parmesan sauce recipe, based on a classic bechamel sauce, is the perfect way to spice up your next pizza or pasta night sans tomato paste. It's full of creamy, parmesan flavor and spiked with garlic throughout.
This sauce was inspired by my desire to make a garlic-forward white pizza sauce. My potato leek pizza was in need of some supporting flavor! Thankfully, this garlic parmesan sauce was up for the job, and Pizza Friday was saved. 🥳 As a bonus, you can also use this sauce for pasta!Jump to Recipe
🥫 what's a bechamel sauce, anyway?
This garlic parmesan pizza sauce is based on a bechamel sauce, but what does that even mean?! A bechamel sauce is considered one of the "mother sauces" in French cuisine. These mother sauces are called so because they are the starting point of nearly any sauce you could want to cook up in the kitchen. A bechamel sauce is a white sauce that has three basic steps:
- Combine a fat and a starch, usually butter and flour, and lightly cook over medium heat.
- Add in a warmed liquid, usually milk or stock.
- Flavor as you like.
The first step is also known as making a roux, which is a mixture of equal parts butter and flour. This mix acts as a binder, or a thickening agent when combined with a liquid like milk, cream, or stock. The wonderful part about making your own sauces at home is you can completely customize them to your liking. Add whatever you want, make them as thick or thin as you like, and add as many or few spices as you like!
Since the ingredients in this recipe are few, it's important to use the best quality you can. I'll always sing the praises of fresh garlic over the kind that comes pre-minced in a jar, for instance, but use what you have, or what's most convenient for you.
- garlic - use fresh garlic for this recipe. I promise it makes a big difference! How you cut the garlic can also affect the flavor and intensity, so keep that in mind as you prepare your sauce!
- parmesan cheese - opt to go for a high-quality cheese if you can. I buy my parmesan wedges from Costco! It's the real deal, and it's a great value. Trader Joe's also has some reasonably priced authentic parmesan cheese available. If your parmesan cheese isn't attached to a rind, it may not be the real deal.
- milk - you can use whatever milk you prefer. I've had success with whole milk, reduced-fat milk, and even cashew milk!
- butter - unsalted butter is my fat of choice in this sauce. You can control the saltiness of the sauce better if your butter is unsalted. Say that four times fast.
- flour - all-purpose flour will do just fine in this recipe, but you can use whatever wheat flour you have on hand. If you're opting for gluten-free flour, I'd stick to something like tapioca over a nut flour like almond.
- salt - I use diamond brand kosher salt in all my cooking, depending on availability. If you're using a brand like Morton's, you will need to use less salt.
- pepper - freshly ground pepper is the finishing touch on this sauce! Diaspora Co. makes my favorite pepper!
From start to finish, this sauce takes about 15 to 20 minutes to make!
Step 1: Grate your parmesan cheese and finely mince your garlic. Warm your milk, either on the stovetop or in the microwave, to take the chill off from the fridge.
Step 2: Melt the butter and combine with flour, constantly stirring for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Take care to watch the mixture, as it can burn easily. This step in sauce making is called a "roux," where you combine a fat with starch, to make a thickener for the sauce.
Step 3: Once the butter and flour have been combined and have cooked for a few minutes, add in the minced garlic and allow it to cook for a minute or so. This helps take a bit of the sharpness of the garlic away, and adds a nice depth of flavor to the garlic.
Step 4: Slowly add in the warmed milk while whisking. You may need a cooking partner to help with this step, depending on your motor skills. I always end up shouting for my husband's help. 😂 Once you add all the milk, add in your cheese!
Step 5: Simmer the sauce on low heat until it thickens slightly. Be sure to stir every few minutes to keep things from burning. Give your sauce a taste and then season with salt and pepper. If your sauce is too thick, you can add in more milk. If it's too thin, you can allow it to cook a bit longer at a low simmer until it thickens up.
Missing an ingredient? Don't worry, try one of these tested substitutions!
- olive oil - you can swap the butter in this recipe for another fat like olive oil, no problem.
- alternative flour - I've used bread flour and even cake flour to make this recipe. If you're wanting to make this recipe gluten-free, opt for cup-for-cup gluten-free baking flour, or tapioca flour.
- alternative milk - cashew milk is one of my favorite alternative milk to use for pasta sauces, but you can use whatever milk you like. Just make sure it's not flavored. Vanilla garlic parmesan sauce doesn't have the same ring to it.
- mozzarella- you can swap mozzarella for parmesan cheese in this recipe! The sauce will definitely be cheesier, and stretchier, so you may need a bit more milk.
Feeling like a rebel?! 😈 Make this recipe your own with one of the following variations.
- spicy - add red pepper flakes to the sauce for a spicy kick!
- roasted garlic - roast your garlic before adding it in to the sauce for a sweeter, less intense garlic flavor.
- double (or triple cheese) - add in a mixture of cheeses to give your sauce a double or triple dose of cheesy goodness.
Thankfully, this sauce comes together without the use of any extra-fancy kitchen equipment. You can blend the sauce to make it smoother with an immersion blender or high-powered blender, but it is not necessary. Besides, I love the small pieces of garlic throughout the sauce!
- cheese grater - I used to be a box-grater-girl, but then my box grater bit the dust. Now I am a microplane-girl, and I've not looked back. They store nicely in a drawer, and come in a variety of sizes, from zesting to coarse grating.
- heavy-bottomed saucepan - I love our All-Clad d5 cookware because it heats evenly and retains heat well. I use a 1.5-quart saucepan for this recipe, and it works great.
- chefs knife - a good quality knife can make your life in the kitchen so much better. Dull knives are actually more dangerous than sharp ones. If you've ever wrestled your knife when slicing a lime, you know this to be true. I love the knives from the Wusthof Ikon collection. When choosing knives, go and see them in the store if possible. It's game-changing to be able to hold them and see which ones fit better in your hand.
- whisk - after using a whisk from Ikea until the handle literally fell off, I upgraded to this balloon whisk from OXO. It fits nicely in hand and is a joy to use. Can you say that about your whisk?!
- measuring cups - I like to heat my milk up in the microwave because I hate using multiple pots for a recipe if I don't need to. These glass measuring cups are my go-to.
Once the sauce has cooled, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. It can also be frozen for longer-term storage of up to three months.
Freeze any leftover sauce in ice cube trays to make perfectly portioned amounts of sauce that defrost quickly!
You can use it as a sauce on pizzas, pasta, or casseroles! You can even use it as a dip for your pizza crust!
Yes, you can use a dairy alternative milk. Just be sure it is not flavored. I have made this sauce with both regular milk and cashew milk.
This sauce will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
Yes! You can portion this sauce out and freeze it for up to three months. I love freezing it in ice cube trays because when placed in a saucepan on low heat, it defrosts quicker than a large block of sauce.
If you make this recipe, please leave a review in the comments and a star rating!
I read every single comment! I also love connecting on social media, so snap a pic and hashtag it #myrecipeforfun and tag me on Instagram, TikTok, or pin this recipe on Pinterest!
Garlic Parmesan Pizza Sauce
- 1 heavy-bottomed saucepan 1.5 quart
- 1 cheese grater
- 1 wire whisk
- 1 chefs knife
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoon butter unsalted
- 3 tablespoon flour all purpose
- 1 cup milk reduced fat
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ⅔ cup parmesan cheese grated
- Peel and roughly chop or mince 4 cloves of garlic. Chopping the garlic this way gives it a stronger, more intense flavor, but not as sharp as grating it with a microplane.
- Grate ⅔ cup (55g) of parmesan cheese.
- Gently heat 1 cup of milk to take the chill off, if it's straight out of the fridge. You can heat it in 30-second intervals in the microwave, or on the stovetop in a separate pan. Alternatively, you can allow the milk to come to room temperature before preparing the rest of the ingredients.
- In a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
- Once the butter is melted, whisk in 3 tablespoon of all-purpose flour.
- Stir the mixture for 2-3 minutes over medium-low heat to help cook out the flavor of the flour. This step is also known as making a roux. Keep an eye on the mix as it can brown or burn quickly.
- Add the 4 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Slowly pour the milk into the roux, and whisk constantly as you add the milk.
- Once all the milk has been incorporated, add in the parmesan cheese. Allow the mixture to cook over medium heat at a low simmer for about 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened.
- Give the sauce a taste, and season with salt and pepper. If your sauce is too thick, you can add more milk. If it's too thin, you can let it simmer longer to thicken up.
- Use the sauce in the recipe of your choice. Store any leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week, or freeze for longer storage.