Florentine-style crêpes

Florentine-style crêpes

Crespelle alla fiorentina

By
From
Florentine
Makes
8 crespelle
Photographer
Lauren Bamford

There is a story that crêpes originated in Florence, not France. Crespelle (Florentine crêpes) are not eaten sweet, but are treated much like fresh pasta, somewhere between ravioli, cannelloni and lasagna. They are stuffed with a spinach and ricotta filling, folded or rolled, covered in a generous amount of besciamella (bechamel sauce), a few splashes of tomato sauce and grated cheese, then baked in the oven. This age-old dish was once made of crêpes that were no more than wafer-thin egg omelettes, also affectionately known as pezzole della nonna (grandma’s handkerchiefs) because of their folded form. Today, flour and milk have been added to the crêpe batter, but unlike fresh pasta, which has thousands of different guises and sauce or filling combinations, Florentine crespelle are always prepared exactly this way.

The different elements for this dish can all be prepared a day, or even two, in advance: the bechamel sauce, the tomato sauce and the blanched spinach can be prepared well ahead of time and the crespelle batter or the cooked crespelle can be made the night before. If you are making it all at once, for practical purposes, have the tomato sauce and blanched spinach already handy. Make the crespelle batter and while it is resting, do the bechamel sauce and the spinach and ricotta filling. Once the crespelle are cooked, it is just a matter of assembling the whole thing.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

Crespelle batter

Quantity Ingredient
150g plain flour
2 eggs
450ml milk
40g salted butter, melted
A pinch salt

Bechamel sauce

Quantity Ingredient
50g salted butter
50g plain flour
500ml milk

Filling and assembly

Quantity Ingredient
100g cooked, drained and chopped english spinach, (about 250 g fresh)
300g fresh ricotta
1 egg
A pinch salt
A pinch freshly ground nutmeg
125ml * tomato sauce [rid:32399]
40g grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

Method

  1. Crespelle

    Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and about 60 ml of the milk, whisking from the centre outwards until well combined. Add the rest of the milk and the melted butter and salt. The batter should be fluid (it should run off a spoon like oil) and without lumps. If it is too dense, you can add a little water or some more milk. Set aside to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes before using.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the bechamel sauce.
  3. To cook the crespelle, lightly grease a non-stick frying pan with olive oil and set over a medium heat. Pour a ladleful of the crespelle batter into the centre of the pan, swirling to form a thin crespella. When the top begins to look dry, gently flip with a spatula and allow to cook for 10 seconds or so more. They don’t need to brown; they should remain soft. Set them aside until all the crespelle are cooked.
  4. Bechamel sauce

    Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, add the flour and mix with a whisk or wooden spoon until smooth. Carefully cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the milk until very smooth and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. Cook for 10 minutes or until thickened. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and season with salt. Set aside to cool.
  5. Filling and assembly

    Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  6. Combine the cooked spinach in a bowl with the ricotta, egg, salt and nutmeg, and mix to combine.
  7. Place a heaped tablespoon of ricotta filling on a crespella, fold in half, then in quarters and place, slightly overlapping, in an ovenproof dish greased with a little olive oil (alternatively you can roll them up like a cigar). Spoon the bechamel sauce over the crespelle and dot the top with a few splashes of sugo di pomodoro. The bechamel should be predominant, just macchiata or ‘stained’, as they say, with the tomato. Sprinkle over the cheese and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
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