Having tried out my buckwheat pancake recipe last week, I decided to cook stuffed pancakes for my reading group. I wanted a vegetarian dish that could mostly be prepared in advance, and this seemed to fit the bill. I found the recipe for the filling in Claudia Roden’s The Food of Italy – her recipe for Crespelle Ripiene includes three fillings, a cheese one, spinach and ricotta, and mushroom, but I thought the spinach and ricotta would go particularly well with the savoury buckwheat pancakes.
I altered the pancake batter slightly, to make it a bit richer and easier to roll – the pancakes are stiffer when you make them with water and fewer eggs – and increased the quantity (to make enough for 6), so I used:
200g buckwheat flour
1 tbsp olive oil
3 beaten eggs
400g (approx) of full cream milk
The method was exactly the same as the original recipe. I made the batter two hours in advance (longer or overnight would be fine) and put it in the fridge to rest. Meanwhile, I made the filling and sauce:
Spinach and ricotta filling:
1 large chopped onion
2 tbsps olive oil
salt, pepper and nutmeg
3 tbsps grated parmesan
Wash the spinach and cook it in the water that clings to the leaves in a large saucepan over a medium heat until soft (about 5-7 minutes). Tip into a colander and press hard with a large spoon or spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Allow to cool a little.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and cook the chopped onion over medium heat until soft. Turn the spinach onto a large board and chop roughly. When the onion is cooked, stir in the chopped spinach, ricotta and parmesan and season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
2 400g cans chopped plum tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsps chopped parsley
Simmer the tomatoes in oil for about half an hour, seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar to taste, until they are soft and the sauce has thickened and slightly reduced. Slice the mozzarella finely.
Shortly before you are ready to assemble the pancakes take the batter out of the fridge and heat the oven to 220ºC (unless you’re assembling in advance – in which case put the oven on as your guests arrive). Stir the batter and thin a little with water or milk if it has thickened in the fridge. Cook the pancakes, making them as evenly sized as you can, and stack them on a plate. I discovered that the secret to getting them to spread thinly was to hold the pan off the heat while pouring in a ladleful of batter and turning the pan to spread the mixture before putting it back on the hotplate.
Lightly oil the base of a large rectangular oven dish. Put a couple of large spoonfuls of the spinach and ricotta filling in a line across the middle of each pancake, remembering that you’re aiming to divide the filling equally into six. Roll the pancakes into fat tubes and arrange them neatly in the oven dish. Spoon over the tomato sauce and arrange the mozzarella slices on top. You can prepare the dish in advance up to this point ( though I wouldn’t leave it sitting too long with the sauce on).
Put into the oven for 20-25 minutes until the mozzarella has melted and it is all nice and hot. I served it with a salad of soft curly lettuce, red chicory and rocket, dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette.
Afterwards, we had some Dutch gouda and this excellent Rhubarb and Almond Cake, which was posted recently by SingleGourmetandTraveller. As you can see, it went down very well! It has a delicious flavour, a moist, tender crumb and is a great way of enjoying the early Yorkshire rhubarb that is just coming into season now – highly recommended.