Serves: Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup finely ground semolina flour
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- Tomato Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
- 1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
- 1 tablespoon torn fresh basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Béchamel Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk or half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 (5-ounce) bags baby spinach leaves, rinsed
- 1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for topping
Procedures:This recipe illustrates the versatility of the crepe pan. Here, it is used to make crespelle, Italian-style crepes that are traditionally used in place of pasta sheets in manicotti and lasagna. These delicate crepes are made with semolina flour, the same flour that is used for some pastas, gnocchi, and couscous. A hint of ground cloves in the crepe filling is an exotic surprise. Make the béchamel, crepes, and tomato sauce a day or two before assembling the dish. The assembled dish can be baked immediately, or it can be refrigerated up to overnight before baking.
Make the crepes: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Whisk in 1 cup of the water. Gradually add the semolina, whisking well after each addition. Stir in the salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight. When ready to cook the crepes, the batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup of water, or as needed, to achieve the correct consistency.
Heat a 9- to 11-inch crepe pan over medium-low heat until hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle on contact. Brush the surface of the pan with a thin film of the butter. Blot any excess with the tip of a paper towel. Stir the crepe batter well with the whisk. Ladle about ⅓ cup of the batter into the heated pan, and then simultaneously tilt and roll the pan from side to side to coat the surface up to the rim with a thin layer of batter. Cook for 1 minute, or until the edges begin to set. Run the tip of a small, narrow rubber spatula under the edges of the crepe to loosen it from the pan. Use your fingertips to lift the crepe and quickly flip it over. Cook the other side for 30 seconds, or until the batter is set into a thin pancake. Do not brown the crepe or cook until crisp. Transfer the crepe to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing the pan with more butter if necessary. Stack the crepes as they are made. You should have about 10 crepes. If making ahead, wrap the crepes in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent drying out. The crepes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Make the tomato sauce: In a 10-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring, for 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, or until softened. Meanwhile, set a food mill, fitted with the medium disk,on the rim of a medium bowl, add the tomatoes with their juices, and puree. Or, puree the tomatoes in a food processor and then press though a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Add the puree to the skillet, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add the basil, salt, and a grinding of pepper and stir well. Set aside to cool.
Make the béchamel sauce: In a 1½- to 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour, stir with a flat whisk until the mixture is smooth, and then continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk while whisking constantly until smooth. Continue cooking, whisking gently, for 5 minutes, or until the sauce boils and thickens. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool.
Make the filling: Place 3 of the eggs in a small saucepan and add cold water to cover. Place over mediumhigh heat and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes. Drain the eggs, rinse with cold water, and then crack and peel away the shells. Coarsely chop the hard-cooked eggs and set aside.
Place the spinach in a 10-inch sauté pan or other wide, shallow pan with a lid, place over medium heat, cover, and cook for 3 minutes, or until wilted. Transfer the spinach to a strainer and press firmly with the back of a spoon to extract the excess moisture. Set the spinach aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, the remaining uncooked egg, the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cloves, and a generous grinding of pepper until blended. Fold in the spinach and the chopped eggs. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Gradually whisk the cooled tomato sauce into the cooled béchamel sauce until blended. Ladle half of the sauce mixture into the bottom of a shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
>Spoon about ⅓ cup of the filling across the center of each crepe and gently roll into a cylinder. Arrange the rolled crepes, seam side down, in a row in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining sauce mixture on top of the crepes. Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the top.
Bake the crepes for 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. If the crepes have been assembled ahead of time and refrigerated, cover the baking dish with aluminum foil for the first 15 minutes of the baking time, and then add 15 minutes to the total baking time, or bake until the sauce is bubbling and the crepes are heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.