Crespelle alla fiorentina recipe
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Crespelle alla fiorentina recipe

When it comes to food and drink, the world has a lot to thank Tuscany for. Tuscan cuisine dates back to the time of the Etruscans, the ancient civilization once living in areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio a number of centuries before the Romans arrived.   Etruscan frescoes show

Thu 30 Jan 2014 1:00 AM

When it comes to food and drink, the world has a lot to thank Tuscany for. Tuscan cuisine dates back to the time of the Etruscans, the ancient civilization once living in areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio a number of centuries before the Romans arrived.

Etruscan frescoes show beautiful people adorned in intricately woven cloth in many colours, reclining while being fed and served by young boys and girls. There are bunches of grapes and musical instruments. The frescoes also show cooking utensils, pasta wheels and cheese graters. They ate with cups, plates—and finesse, dining while listening to music.

Centuries later, Catherine de’ Medici likewise made an important contribution to the world of cuisine: from the moment of her arrival in Paris at age 14 as the bride-to-be of the next king, she revolutionized French cuisine.

Where would the French be without their crêpes, béchamel sauce, sautéed spinach, pommes frites and duck à l’orange? Back in the Middle Ages, I guess. These dishes we now refer to as French cuisine all came from Florence to France when Catherine de’ Medici arrived with her brigade of cooks and their Italian ways of doing things.

So, if you want to impress your friends or host family, make this Florentine dish of les crêpes for them, and they will know you have already done your homework and have learned that crêpes come from Florence, not from France!

Buon appetito!

RECIPE – Crespelle alla fiorentina   Serves 4


For the crêpes

2 eggs

150g flour

Pinch of salt

250ml milk

50g melted butter

30g melted butter, for coking

Sift the flour and the salt into a bowl, break in the eggs and whisk to a smooth paste, adding the milk a little at a time. Lastly, add the melted butter. Put the crêpe mix in the fridge to rest, about one hour.

Heat a 15–20cm pan, brush sparingly with melted butter and pour in a small amount of the crêpe mix, moving the pan around so the mix covers the whole pan before setting. Cook for about one minute, turn it over to cook the other side, then turn out onto a board. Repeat this until the mixture is finished (at least eight crêpes).

For the béchamel sauce

(One of the basics of French cuisine, originating in Florence!)

30g butter

30g flour

500ml milk

1 onion

1 clove

1 bay leaf

70g grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the onion. Skewer the bay leaf to the onion, impaling it with the clove to hold in position. Drop the onion into a pan with the milk and heat to scalding point; then set aside. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan; stir in the flour and cook through for two minutes without colouring. Add a large spoonful of the milk and mix in quickly until the flour and butter mixture absorbs the milk. Continue feeding the sauce, a spoon of milk at a time, mix well and bring the sauce back to the boil each time. Once the sauce has been fed about half the milk, it is safe to pour in the rest together and whisk to amalgamate. Discard the studded onion (it has done its job of imparting savoury flavours into the sauce). Simmer gently for 20 minutes to cook the flour through, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the filling

1 onion

30ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 egg

400g fresh ricotta

400g spinach

50g grated Parmesan


Salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice the onion and sauté in the extra-virgin olive oil until cooked, about 5 minutes, just until it takes on a little colour, which will give it more flavour. Take the already boiled spinach, squeeze out any excess water and roughly chop with a knife. Mix in the ricotta and Parmesan, add the onion, egg and seasonings.

For the tomato sauce

1 small bottle of tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro)

1 onion

Sip of white wine

30ml extra-virgin olive oil

Fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice the onion, sauté in the extra-virgin olive oil, add the ‘sip’ of wine, then pour in the passata. Bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes, season and throw in the sprig of basil, stalk and all.


Spread each crêpe with an eighth of the filling and roll up like a cigar. Place the crêpes into a buttered ovenproof dish, pour over the béchamel sauce, top with the tomato sauce, and sprinkle with some extra grated Parmesan. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 185 degrees Celsius. This dish looks beautiful and has the colours of the Italian flag. Who on earth could ever thought of it as French!

Wine match

My pick is Pietrafitta Vernaccia di San Gimignano. It is a fresh, crisp, zesty wine with mineral notes, which matches well with vegetable dishes.

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