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    Baked savoury pancakes with asparagus and Grana Padano

    Group 393


    Group 382

    4 people


    90 min

    Chef Danilo Cortellini

    In Italy we call them crespelle (my mum actually calls them “screppelle”!) but internationally they are known with their French name, crêpes. The easiest way to translate this name is to explain what they are… Pancakes! Not your regular thick American style pancakes that you usually see on breakfast tables, but a more refined, thin and neutral in flavour version that can be used in many preparations, either sweet or savoury. In this recipe, I flavoured them with spinach and added a pinch of salt, then I stuffed said pancakes with a ricotta filling enriched with charred asparagus, lemon and lots of grated Grana Padano cheese for a burst of umami. Smother them with a Grana Padano bechamel sauce and bake them until golden for the perfect Italian showstopper at your next family meal! In all honesty, I rarely turn on the oven during summer months, but if I do, it has to be worth it……. And this is 🙂


    • 1 lemon
    • Basil to garnish
    • 500 g of green asparagus
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 4 tbsp of olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    • For the filling:
    • 250 g of fresh ricotta
    • 1 yolk
    • 200 g of cooked chopped asparagus
    • 150 g of grated Grana Padano
    • Lemon zest
    • Fresh herbs optional (mint, basil, chives)
    • A pinch of salt and nutmeg

    • For the pancakes:
    • 2 eggs
    • 50 gr of cooked spinach (drained)
    • 300 ml of whole milk
    • 200 ml of water
    • 250 g of plain flour
    • 40 g of melted butter
    • Pinch of salt

    • For the Grana Padano béchamel
    • 500 ml of milk (warm, if possible)
    • 40 g of butter
    • 40 g of plain flour
    • 150 g of grated Grana Padano
    • Salt and pepper to taste


    STEP 1

    Prepare the pancakes ahead as they have to cool down. I like to mix all the ingredients in a blender then pass through a sieve to get rid of any remaining lumps. Of course, you can chop the spinach finely and then incorporate all the ingredients with a whisk in a bowl, but make sure to sift the flour first in this case.
    Whatever the approach, let the batter rest 20 minutes before cooking the pancakes.

    STEP 2

    Now lightly grease a non-stick pan (22/24cm in diameter) with olive oil. Let it warm up well and keep a steady medium heat on. Pour a small ladle of batter into the hot pan and swirl it quickly around so that only a tiny amount of batter stick to the pan and quickly pour back any excess batter into the bowl. This step is crucial to get thin pancakes.
    After 2 minutes the pancake will ease itself from the edges and that’s the time to flip it on the other side. Help yourself with a wooden spatula if necessary and cook for further 2 minutes on the other side.

    Let the crêpes cool, spread onto a clean cloth, then stack them together and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Keep them for maximum 3 or 4 days or freeze them.

    STEP 3

    To prepare the béchamel.
    Melt the butter in a saucepan and add in the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes while stirring, on a medium heat until the roux (mix of butter and flour) is golden. Then slowly pour in the milk and bring to the boil, while whisking vigorously. Boil for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. The béchamel should be now ready, creamy and with no lumps. Stir in the grated Grana Padano cheese, until smooth. Season carefully with salt (as the cheese will have already made the béchamel tasty) and a little black pepper. Set aside.

    STEP 4

    For the filling.
    Rinse the asparagus and trim the woody end of the stalks (usually 2 cm from the bottom, you can easily tell where to chop as they will ‘snap’ exactly on the point if bended by hands). Pan fry the asparagus with a little oil, garlic and large strips of lemon zest for 3 minutes on high heat, until softened and golden. Season to taste and let them cool. Now chop the asparagus and keep the tops to use as garnish.

    Mix the chopped asparagus with the ricotta, the grated Grana Padano, the yolk, a pinch of salt and nutmeg and the remaining lemon zest finely grated. Add some chopped fresh herbs and mix well then use this mixture to stuff the pancakes by spreading a nice spoonful onto each pancake and folding it in half, then fold it once more to create the classic handkerchief look.

    STEP 5

    Grease a baking tray with a little butter and spread a good layer bechamel on the bottom. Now place the stuffed pancakes allowing them space to overlap nicely. Fill the tray and cover with the remaining béchamel, sprinkle with more grated Grana Padano and bake at 180 for about 12/15 minutes or until golden and crispy on top.

    Remove from the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving them while still hot with more grated Grana Padano and the asparagus tips. Garnish with fresh lemon zest and basil leaves.

    Chef’s tip

    When cooking the pancakes do not grease your pan too much. Add a drizzle of oil to a paper towel (or a little knob of butter) and brush it on a non-stick pan, this will suffice. Also do not worry if the pancakes are not perfect. When folded, no one will notice; simply make them as thin as you can in a hot pan, so as to taste the filling more and remember, only practice makes perfect!