Now that we all know how to make ‘crespelle’ (thin pancakes just like crepes) — see ‘The Peerless Pancake’ post — and now that we all know how easy it is to make bechamel — see ‘The Queen of Sauces’ — we can put together an oven dish that can come in very handy for a potluck dinner, for a large family gathering, or for whenever it makes sense to prepare food the day before the meal. It can be made in advance and put in the fridge, to be cooked the following day. I suppose it could even be frozen in advance, why not?, but I have never tried it. Think of it as a kind of lasagna dish, only there is no pasta (a perfect dish for celiacs if you substitute rice flour for ordinary flour when making both the crespelle and the bechamel).
It does take time to prepare, however, and is best made when you are in the mood to cook in a leisurely fashion.
Crespelle ingredients (see the Peerless Pancake post of 9 November 2010)
Bechamel ingredients (see post of 17th March)
Spinach (fresh is better but frozen will do, cooked and squeezed as much as possible to rid it of its liquid)
Ricotta (again, ewe’s ricotta is better but cow’s milk ricotta will do)
Grated parmesan cheese
Taleggio (or any other cheese of your choice that would melt beautifully into the dish)
Salt and pepper and a twist of nutmeg …
Pre-heat the oven at 190°C.
Steam or cook the spinach and let it cool before squeezing it hard, in order to get rid of the liquid.
Make the pancakes.
Make the bechamel sauce.
Leave the ricotta in a strainer/colander for at least half an hour to drain the liquid. Then transfer it to a mixing bowl, add some salt and beat with a whisk. Actually, a wooden spoon is far better … and I don’t know what why I bothered with a whisk, so learn from my mistake!
ASSEMBLING THE DISH
Put about 2 spoonfuls of the mix onto a crespella: just left of centre … the idea is to fold the crespella in half, pat it down, and then fold it in half again, so that it takes on a triangular shape almost.
Here are all the crespelle, overlapping, in two layers. Time to cover the top layer with the rest of the bechamel sauce. By the way, if your bechamel sauce has ‘thickened’ too much, don’t be afraid to add some milk to it to dilute it and make it easier to handle.
Chop up the taleggio into cubes and add it to the dish.
READY TO SERVE