I have Lidia’s book in hand again tonight.  There are just so many great recipes in this book.  I see a lot of fun in our future!  I’ve mentioned before how much I like the simplicity of flavors she puts together.

Tonight’s dinner is an Italian version of crepes.  These are a bit thicker than their French counterparts, but extremely versatile.  I can see any number of fillings with these – and some pretty fun desserts and other dishes.  Extremely versatile.  I think the recipe sounds a bit more complex than it really is.  There are a mere three steps:  make the crespelle, make the filling, and put it all together.

Crespelle with Spinach

scrippelle agli spinaci
Lidia Cooks From The Heart Of Italy

Italians have many local and regional names for crespelle (what the French, and most Americans, call crepes) and innumerable ways to enjoy them. In Abruzzo, these traditional thin pancakes are called scrippelle and are the versatile foundation for both savory and sweet dishes.

Here’s a typically simple casserole of spinach-filled scrippelle, lightly dressed with tomato sauce and a shower of grated cheese. Serve bubbling hot from the oven as an appetizer or a fine vegetarian main dish (even meat-lovers will be satisfied).

The batter for these scrippelle is a bit thicker than the usual crespelle batter, but it is easy to work with and produces a pancake with fine texture. The Abruzzesi use them in all sorts of creative ways: layered with cheeses and sauce like a lasagna or a pasticiatta, rolled and stuffed and baked like manicotti. A popular technique is to stack and slice the scrippelle into thin, tagliatelle-like ribbons. These ribbons are often used as a soup garnish  or in clever desserts.

For the Scrippelle

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp soft butter, or as needed

For filling and baking the scrippelle

  • 1 1/2 pounds tender spinach leave, rinsed well, tough stems removed
  • 5 tbsp butter plus more for the baking dish
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups Tomato Sauce or Marinara Sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated pecorino or more, as needed

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT: An electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, or a sturdy wire whisk; a 9-inch crepe pan or a 1O-inch nonstick skillet (with a 9-inch bottom); a heavy-bottomed skillet or saute pan, 12-inch diameter or larger; a large baking dish or shallow casserole, 10 by 15 inches, or similar size .

To make the scrippelle batter with an electric mixer: Put the eggs and salt in the mixer bowl, and whisk on medium speed until foamy. Lower the speed, mix in the water, then stop and sift the flour on top. Whisk on low just until smooth. Follow the same mixing procedure if using a hand whisk.

You should have about 3 cups of batter.

Brush the crepe pan with a thin coating of butter. Set over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan, then quickly tilt and swirl the pan so the batter coats the bottom. Let cook about 30 seconds to I minute, until the bottom is lightly browned all over. Flip with a spatula, and cook another 30 seconds or so, until that side is lightly browned.

Flip the crespelle onto a dinner plate. Cook all the crespelle in the same way-a dozen or so total-stacking them on the plate when finished. Brush the pan with butter if it becomes dry or the scrippelle are sticking.

If you won’t be using the scrippelle right away, wrap them in plastic wrap when cool, so they don’t dry out. Refrigerate, well wrapped, to use the next day (or freeze).

To make the spinach filling: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add all the spinach at once, stir, and cover the pot. Blanch until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes, then drain in a colander. Let the spinach cool, firmly squeeze all the moisture from the leaves, and chop them coarsely. (This step can be done ahead of time: cool and refrigerate chopped spinach for use the next day.)

When you are ready to fill and bake the scrippelle, heat the oven to 425° and arrange a rack in the center.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the large skillet over medium heat. Scatter the spinach in the pan, and season with 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for a minute or so, just enough to heat the spinach through.

Heat the tomato sauce in a small pot until bubbling, then turn off the heat and whisk in 2 table¬spoons of butter until incorporated. Spread another 2 tablespoons of butter, or as needed, in the baking dish, coating the bottom and sides well.

To fill each scrippelle: Lay it flat, scatter about a tablespoon of chopped spinach in the center, and sprinkle Yz tablespoon or so grated cheese on top. Fold the scrippelle in half and then into quarter¬rounds. Repeat until all the scrippelle are filled and folded.

Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Arrange the filled and folded scrippelle in the dish in overlapping rows, with the pointed ends covered and the pretty fanlike edges visible. Spoon the remaining sauce on top of the scrippelle, in streaks down the center of the rows-don’t try to cover them completely. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese (or a bit more if needed) lightly allover the top.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil, making sure the foil doesn’t touch the cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes, remove the foil, and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the gratinato topping is golden and crispy, about IO minutes more.

Serve very hot, right from the dish.

They totally rocked.  The crespelle were substantial without being overwhelming.  Two was definitely an adequate dinner portion.  Of course, we both went back for a third.  And as full as I was, I could have gone back for a fourth.  They really were good.

The beauty of these really is their simplicity.  I can see a mushroom filling with a cream sauce.  Fresh fruit with a caramel sauce.  The possibilities are endless.

And once again, Lidia comes through.

Try it.  You’ll like it.