With beautiful layers of thin crespelle either rolled into cannelloni-like forms or folded in four like a handkerchief, this spectacular spinach and ricotta filled dish is a longstanding Florentine favorite. Dating back to Caterina de’ Medici in the 16th century, this traditional dish has served as the Florentine stake in the sand as to who really invented the infamous French crêpes. Born in Florence in 1519 to the noble Medici family, Caterina married King Henry II of France. According to Florentine historians, she brought with her the traditional thin pancake lathered in velvety bechamel sauce to court, and the rest is history. Today, the special dish is often served during Christmas in Tuscany.
CRESPELLE ALLA FIORENTINA
For the Crespelle
▢ 3 eggs
▢ 3 tbsp all purpose flour
▢ 1 pinch of salt
▢ 1 1/4 cups whole milk
For the Filling
For the Bechamel
▢ 3 tbsp butter
▢ 3 tbsp flour
▢ 3 cups whole milk
▢ pinch nutmeg
▢ pinch salt
- Make the crespelle batter by whisking together the eggs, flour and salt. Whisk until there are no lumps. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously to incorporate completely. Cover and cool in the fridge for 1 hour.
- While the batter cools, make the filling. Wilt the spinach in a large covered pot with a splash of water over medium heat. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and cool. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as possible before roughly chopping.
- Heat 2 tbsp Biancolilla Centinara olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, roughly 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until dry and infused with garlic flavor. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- When the spinach is cool, place in a large bowl with ricotta, grated pecorino, nutmeg, salt, and Aglio e Oglio seasoning. Stir to combine. Add 1 egg, beaten, into the mixture and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Add a tsp of oil to a medium-sized non-stick frying pan and use a clean paper towel to distribute it evenly across the whole pan. Heat the pan over medium heat and add enough batter that when you swirl it around the pan, it covers the pan in a thin layer of batter.
- Cook the crespelle until golden-brown, roughly 2 minutes, and gently flip it over. Cook for another minute before transferring the crespelle to a clean plate. Repeat the process until you run out of batter.
- Make the bechamel sauce by melting 3 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 tbsp flour to the pan and whisk to combine, whisking constantly until the mixture is golden and smells nutty. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking continuously until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in salt and nutmeg and remove from heat.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Spread each of your crespelle evenly with the spinach-ricotta filling. Fold in half, and then fold that in half once more like you would a handkerchief.
- Coat the inside of an ovenproof baking dish with a few tablespoons of bechamel sauce. Arrange the stuffed crespelle in the baking dish so they’re slightly overlapping, and drizzle with bechamel sauce. Drizzle with 4 tbsp of Passata sauce, sprinkle with freshly grated Pecorino Toscano, and drizzle with Biancolilla Centinara olive oil.
- Place the dish in the oven, and immediately lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.