Crespelle are the relatively unknown Italian equivalent of the world-famous French crepes. Although very similar to crepes, crespelle are often baked in the oven with other ingredients.
Both in crepes and in crespelle, the batter is mainly made of milk, flour, and egg. The proportions, however, can vary considerably from recipe to recipe. The version I’m presenting is light in the egg and flour, making for a batter that is quite runny and which turns into a thin disc. The resulting crespelle are more brittle than those made with higher proportions of egg and flour, but they are strong enough to be handled and are more similar in flavor and texture to fresh pasta. This makes them a great vessel to hold the filling without overpowering the dish.
The result is a decadent first course that is perfect for a festive meal as an alternative to other baked dishes like lasagna or cannelloni.
- 1 egg
- 75 g flour (5 tablespoons)
- 250 ml milk (1 cup)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Butter to grease the pan
- 400 g mushrooms (e.g. chestnut), sliced
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 200 g fontina, raclette, or gouda
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp flour
- pinch of salt
- 300 ml milk
- Butter to grease the baking pan
- 2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano
- Make the batter by working the egg into the flour, then add the salt.
- Gradually, whisk in the milk - small amounts at first, then more until all of it is incorporated. The batter will appear quite thin.
- Preheat a 6-8 inch (15-20 cm) non-stick pan at medium heat, and brush it evenly with melted butter.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of batter into the pan, then quickly swirl it around by tipping the pan until it spreads to cover the entire pan. (Adjust the batter amount if necessary.)
- Let the crespella dry and cook undisturbed until you see it browning slightly on the edges.
- Using a spatula, lift the crespella at the edge slightly, then continue lifting it using two fingers and fully slide the spatula underneath it.
- Move the crespella onto a plate. As you make more of them, stack them on - they won't stick to one another. You should be able to make 8 to 12 crespelle (depending on the size of the pan).
- Set the crespelle aside. Roast the sliced mushrooms in a large non-stick pan in a mix of oil and butter at high heat. Make sure not to crowd the mushrooms (you may need to roast them in two batches). When the mushrooms start to soften, add a pinch of salt and pepper. If the mushrooms release water, continue cooking at a high temperature until it reduces substantially.
- Make the bechamel sauce in a small pot. Start by bringing water and butter to a boil. Then add the flour and mix vigorously.
- When the mix makes a sizzling sound, reduce the heat and gradually pour in the milk until fully absorbed. Then, allow the mix to boil for one full minute for the flour to cook - mix constantly preventing it from boiling over. In the end, the bechamel will appear quite thick and creamy. Set it aside and let it cool down a bit.
- As you preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), fill each crespella with a heaping tablespoon of mushrooms, part of the cheese (the size of a finger), and a tablespoon of bechamel. Roll the crespella gently.
- Continue rolling the crespelle placing them side by side in a buttered baking pan. (I used an 8-inch square pan.)
- Once the baking pan is filled, drizzle it with the remaining bechamel and cover it with grated Parmigiano.
- Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.