Crespelle Recipe – Italian Savoury Pancakes with Tomato Sauce
Crespelle are Italian pancakes, I think of them as lasagne with pancakes. They may take a while to make, especially at first, but this is not a difficult recipe and is great fun to make and to eat. You can play around with the fillings to match your taste of whatever you happen to have in the cupboard.
Pancake Preparation and cook time: 20 minutes
Sauce making, assembly and baking time: 35 to 45 minutes
You will need a non-stick frying pan of diameter 28cm and a cake tin of 25cm diameter.
Ingredients for 4 to 6 Servings
For the Pancakes
500ml / 17 fl. oz. half fat milk
170gr / 6 oz. plain flour
4 x large eggs
¼ tsp of salt
40gr / 1.5 oz. (roughly) of butter to cook the pancakes
For the Tomato Sauce
2 x tbsp olive oil
2 x tins of chopped tomatoes (800gr / 1.7 lb.)
4 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
2 x shallots chopped finely
A large handful of fresh basil leaves chopped or torn roughly (keep a few leaves to sprinkle over the top)
Salt and pepper to taste
375gr / 13 oz. mozzarella di bufala (this is about 5 x small cheeses) chopped into bite-sized pieces.
100gr / 3.5 oz. parma ham, torn into strips
150gr / 5 oz. finely grated parmesan cheese (hold a little bit back to sprinkle over the top)
A little unsalted butter to grease your baking tin.
Method for making the Pancakes
- Place the ingredients (except the butter) in a bowl and usng a metal whisk, bring everything together and whisk until the batter becomes smooth.
- Lightly smear your pan with a little butter. I like to use the paper that the butter is wrapped in to wipe around the pan. Or you can use some greaseproof paper to do this. Put your pan on a medium high heat and wait for it to get hot.
- Taking a ladle (about 75ml / 2.5 fl. oz.) full of the batter, pour it into the middle of your pan and swirl it around and using the back of the ladle to spread it thinly over the pan base, making sure you cover the total surface area of the bottom of your pan. The idea is to get thin pancakes.
- You will see the batter start to set in the pan, you can lift one side gently with a spatula to check if the underside is golden brown. It normally takes a few minutes to get to this stage. Try to resist messing around with your pancake too soon as this will cause it to stick. An indication that the pancake is ready is that little air pockets will start to appear.
- You can either flip your pancake with a spatula or toss it in the pan. Cook on the other side for a few minutes until golden brown. If you are like me, your first pancake may not be the best, but they will improve as you go along.
- Slide your pancake out onto a clean plate, put some greaseproof paper on it and move on to the next one. I tend to use some butter every two or three pancakes. If you use it each time, it can get a little greasy, but try it out for yourself.
- Carry on making pancakes, layering them up with paper until your batter is finished.
Method for making the Tomato Sauce
- Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan on a medium high heat, add the shallots and garlic. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes, just to soften.
- Add the tomatoes and stir through. Cook on a gentle simmer for 7 minutes, add the basil (remember to keep some back for the top of your dish), stir through and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Check for seasoning.
To assemble your Crespelle
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F.
- Smear your baking tin with butter.
- Place the biggest of your pancakes in the tin. Cover it with a layer of sauce, some pieces of mozzarella, ham and a sprinkle of parmesan. Bear in mind that you will need to repeat this for as many pancakes as you have made. Carry on until your cake tin is full and/or your mix is finished. The top layer is sauce, cheeses and ham with a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves.
- If your sauce and pancakes are still warm/hot, then baking will only take about 10 to 15 minutes in the oven.
- If your ingredients are cold, then you can cover the tin with some aluminium foil, bake for about 10 minutes and then a further 10 minutes with the foil removed to give a crispy, melting top.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a couple of minutes. Release from your baking tin and serve in slices.
Tips and Variations
- Serve with a simple green salad. You can serve hot or at room temperature.
- You can get creative with your tomato sauce, using different herbs and cheeses. I love to incorporate some tallegio cheese. You can also use bolognese sauce giving a more lasagne twist.
- You can make the pancakes in advance. I like to make them a day or two before, they keep well in the fridge.
- Of course if you have your own recipe for making thin, plain pancakes you can use it in this recipe.
- These quantities give about 15 pancakes, but don’t worry if you get a little more or less.
For my first pancake I measure the amount into the ladle, after that I do it roughly.