RECIPE: Baked Crespelle stuffed with Celeriac, Pancetta, Ricotta, Thyme, Garlic and Parmesan topped with Béchamel and served with Tomato Sauce



Now here really is an alternative for pancake day! Crespelle are the Italian version of pancakes but use a standard pancake batter recipe. They are often stuffed and rolled to be used in place of cannelloni sleeves in recipes but can also be stacked or folded into triangles. The crespelle create a lighter, softer and slightly fluffier version of oven baked pasta dishes.

For this recipe I've stuffed the crespelle with a tasty mixture of smoked pancetta, garlic, thyme and celeriac but a wide range of ricotta based fillings could be used, from a classic ricotta and spinach to wild mushrooms and truffle.

Again, this was a recipe for Morrisons who gave me a celeriac as the seasonal ingredient to work around for their Seasonal Pancake Challenge. The ingredient was originally supposed to be Jerusalem Artichokes which will also work well in this.

And if you missed yesterday's post and fancy something sweet for pancake day, I included a recipe for Sicilian Cannoli inspired Pancakes filled with Sweet Ricotta, Vanilla, Orange and Toasted Almonds served with Clementine Sauce.

Serves 3-4 people

INGREDIENTS

Crespelle
120g plain flour
2 Eggs
300ml Milk
Olive oil

Filling
Olive oil
125g Smoked pancetta, cubed (or lardons or chopped streaky bacon)
200g celeriac, cut into 5mm cubes
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 Generous sprigs thyme, leaves removed
250g Ricotta
60g Parmesan, freshly grated
Seasoning

Béchamel sauce
25g Butter
25g Plain flour
250ml Milk
Seasoning
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Tomato sauce
Olive oil
Half an onion, chopped finely
400g Tinned whole tomatoes
Fresh basil, 6 leaves
Seasoning

METHOD

Make the Pancake batter. Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and beat with a fork. Gradually beat in the milk until you have a smooth batter. You may want to use a whisk at this point. Pop the batter in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile you can make the filling and the sauces.

Make the tomato sauce. In a saucepan heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and fry until translucent, making sure it does not brown. Add the tinned tomatoes, crushing them with the side of a wooded spoon to break up. Add one heaped tablespoon of tomato puree and cook for 20 minutes. Add the basil leaves and season and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or until thick and reduced.

Make the filling. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add the pancetta cubes. Fry gently for 4 minutes until the fat melts out. Add the cubed celeriac, crushed garlic and thyme leaves and continue to fry until the celeriac softens. In a bowl place the ricotta, Parmesan and the pancetta mixture. Season well and combine thoroughly.

Make the béchamel. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the milk gradually, whisking the whole time. Continue to whisk until the sauce begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season and add a pinch of nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

Make the crespelle. Using a piece of kitchen paper, scantily coat the base of a 10cm frying pan with a little olive oil. Ladle in just enough batter to thinly coat the base of the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes until golden. Turn (or flip if your fancy) and cook the other side. The batter should make eight crespelle.

Pour half the béchamel into the base of an ovenproof dish. Place an eighth of the ricotta mixture into the centre of each crespelle and spread. Fold in half then half again to form a triangle. Place in the ovenproof dish on top of the béchamel. Repeat with the remaining crespelle, overlapping them slightly in the dish. Pour over the remaining béchamel and bake for 30 minutes.

Reheat the tomato sauce if needed.

Serve the crespelle with the tomato sauce.