flipping marvellous! stuffed Italian-style pancakes (crespelle)

Italian-style stuffed pancakes with ricotta,
tomato and mushroom sauce
While it has become traditional to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday dusted with sugar and drizzled with lemon juice, or smeared with Nutella, I actually prefer savoury pancakes stuffed with cheese and spinach. In fact I like them stuffed with the same sort of things that you would use to fill a tortilla or dosa, such as spicy beans or curried potatoes or lentils.

I made some last year but the photographs I took looked like a dog's dinner - if that dinner had been ravaged by frenzied wolves. Pretty it was not, unless you like your food to have the appearance of some kind of slasher movie gore-fest.

I still haven't got the picture right, but what I can tell you is that while it may not be pretty, it tastes gorgeous and appeals to my sense of taste which mostly craves an intensely savoury experience.

This is also one of the dishes that can be whipped up with leftovers. I use it as a way of using up leftover stews, ragu, bean soups and tomato sauces. While this version is vegetarian, I can vouch for the fact that it tastes delicious with a few nuggets of fried chorizo (but clearly not suitable for vegetarians!)

Makes about 8-10 small pancakes
Skill level: Easy (after a bit of practice!)

300g cream cheese or ricotta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
tomato and mushroom sauce
fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (plus extra, to serve)
100g Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
steamed spinach or chard
pancake batter
125g plain flour, sifted
a pinch of salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
225ml milk
a small knob of butter

  1. Blend the ricotta cheese with the chopped parsley, about a third of the Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.
  2. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons of the tomato and mushroom sauce, drained of excess liquid and combine with the ricotta cheese. Check the seasoning. You probably won't need any salt but will need black pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
  3. Sift the flour into a large bowl together with a pinch of salt. Make a well in the flour and tip in the whole egg and egg yolk and begin to combine. Add a little of the milk and continue to combine, adding a little more of the milk. Whisk in the rest of the milk until all of the milk has been incorporated. If the pancake batter seems a little thick, then add 1 tablespoon of water if necessary. The batter should be the consistency of cream. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat your frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes. Add a small knob of butter and when melted, wipe with kitchen paper.
  5. Ladle enough batter into the frying pan to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer after tilting the pan and swirling the batter around to create an even layer. It may take a couple of goes to get this right. (I use half a ladle - but of course, this depends on the size of your ladle and the size of your pan!)
  6. Cook the pancake for about 30 seconds, when the bottom of the pancake should be a light golden brown.
  7. To flip the pancake over, either use a palate knife or a fish slice. (Unless of course you are feeling adventurous and want to try the whole wrist flicking, pancake tossing thing - I don't bother, since there lies the danger of redecorating my kitchen!)
  8. Cook for about another 30 seconds. Tip out onto a plate and replace the pan on the heat before adding the next batch of batter. Every 3 or 4 pancakes, wipe with the greased kitchen paper to prepare the pan's surface.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 190C / Gas Mark 5.
  10. Lay the steamed spinach or chard at the bottom of a lightly greased ovenproof dish. (Make sure that you have squeezed out any excess water.)
  11. Spread a little (about a third) of the tomato and mushroom sauce over the top of the steam greens.
  12. Lay a pancake on a work surface. Dollop about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture into the middle of the pancake. Bring the top and bottom of the pancake up and around the filling. Then bring the left and right sides of the pancake into the middle - forming a little pancake parcel.
  13. Place the pancake, join side down, on top of the greens and tomato mixture.
  14. Continue making the pancake parcels and placing them in the ovenproof dish in a single layer.
  15. Top with the remaining tomato and mushroom sauce and the rest of the grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheese.
  16. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with a little sprinkled parsley.

  • Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes before using.
  • Use a non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast-iron pan.
  • The first pancake is the pancake equivalent of cannon fodder. It will never be perfect, but don't worry. You get to taste it as part of kitchen quality control!
  • Whether you use oil or butter, wipe the excess from the pan with a piece of kitchen paper. After every 3 or 4 pancakes, give the pan a quick wipe with the greasy kitchen paper. It keeps the momentum going.


o cozinheiro este algarve said...

Delicious I love crespelle.Such a wide choice of fillings I never know what to opt for.Last year I made crespelle and layered them like a lasagne or baum torte putting the filling between each layer as I stacked them and then sliced it like a cake.

belleau kitchen said...

love a savoury pancake... so good to see something different x

Janice Pattie said...

I think it looks great, would love that for dinner.

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Algarve - next year will be pancake pie! (I think I may have overdone the pancakes this year - I can't face any more!)

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Dom - talking of something different, I have some dosa pancake batter fermenting right now. Now need to make some curry to go with it. Oh what a hardship!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Janice - I have to say that this was very popular. Unfortunately I decided to make some the next day and suddenly it didn't seem quite so appealing and I now have a fridge load of leftovers. Oh well, that's lunch sorted out!