These may look like cannelloni or even manicotti, but they are the crespelle-the Italian version of a crepe. Crespelle are light and luscious and making them is a lot less time consuming than making homemade pasta. The batter can be whipped up in mere moments and the filling can be as easy or as complicated as you feel like.
I was lucky to have some filling tucked away in the freezer from my recent tortelloni making adventure and knew it would be perfect in my crespelle. There was only one problem-there was only enough of the meat mixture to fill a few of them. I found some ricotta cheese in the fridge along with some spinach and with a little freshly grated nutmeg and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese mixed in, I was good to go.
The crespelle are not at all difficult to make if you have a non-stick pan. I remember the days when I would make them using my well seasoned crepe pan, and although that would still work, the non-stick pan makes this a simple task. You can use your crespelle rolled up like cannelloni, or you can lay them flat and stack them with the filling in between the layers.
Sitting down to a plate of crespelle brought back a memory of our very first time in Florence. We were wandering around the Oltrarno neighborhood looking for a place to dine. It was Sunday evening and our first choice was closed. Walking down a little side street we happened upon a little trattoria that was filled with locals. I saw spinach stuffed crespelle on the small menu and didn’t even bother reading any further. In we went and after an amazing antipasto of crostini with a variety of vegetable toppings, I dug into the crespelle. We had made the right choice-our dinner was so good that we went back there the following evening and I ordered them again!
Crespelle (from the Glorious Pasta of Italy)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Put the flour in a large bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the flour, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. When the batter is smooth, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Melt a little butter in a 9″ non-stick frying pan over medium heat, tilting the pan to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin film. When the pan is hot, pour in a small ladleful of batter (about 1/4 cup) and gently swirl it around so that it completely coats the bottom of the pan, forming a thin pancake. Cook for 30-45 seconds. Flip the pancake over and cook for 20-30 seconds longer, then transfer it to a plate. Continue making until you have used up all the batter. Make sure to grease the pan lightly with a little butter from time to time. I like to stack the crespelle between sheets of plastic wrap. If you aren’t using them right away, you can wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 3 days or freeze for up to one month. Yield: 24 crespelle