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Polpette al Sugo (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

  Polpette al sugo is a favourite from way back, a frugal way of feeding the family.  They were always prepared and cooked in sugo (tomato sauce) for Sunday family meals.  During winter, a few freshly homemade sausages would also be added to the sauce for that extra flavour.  The sauce would be served on home made ferretti or tagliatelle , as 'il primo piatto' (first course), and le polpette eaten for secondo with a green salad on the side.  We always made sure that a few would be left for the following days school lunches. Everyone has a favourite meatball recipe, whether handed down from their nonna or mamma ; or discovered in someone's cookbook that they continue to make and swear by.  Mamma likes to add cooked potato to the mix, rendering them moist.  Some like to add ricotta, while I have added grated carrot to these and have done so since my girls were little.  It was a sneaky way of hiding a vegetable they weren't very keen on. Most would agree that they m

Crespelle (Crepes) filled with Ricotta & Silverbeet



Special lunch gatherings at my Sicilian in-laws consisted of either a first course of lasagna or cannelloni made with these fluffy soft crespelle (crepes). Infact, I do not ever recall these baked dishes using the more traditional home-made egg pasta I was used to.  This recipe for crespelle seemed to me, to be an unusual addition to my mother in-laws regional style of cooking. 

Giovanna was introduced to these crepes when relatives from America came to visit and the recipe was shared with her.  She loved the idea so much that it became a family dish, to the point where she even gave these crespelle her very own name - ‘mani cotte’ due to scorching her fingers in the process of flipping them. 

Lasagna and cannelloni can be quite heavy and filling. For those that prefer an alternative first course to fresh pasta that does not take as long to make, these light crespelle are a wonderful substitute. You can also double the dose as I have and freeze the remaining crepes for next time. 

I will be using the rest in a lasagna dish similar to the one Giovanna would make for us.  These have been filled with ricotta and silverbeet that was nearing the end of its season and needed harvesting; you can use the more traditional combination of spinach and ricotta if you prefer.

The savoury crespelle are cooked through to a pale blonde colour by lightly greasing the fry pan with olive oil as opposed to the traditional crepes that use butter.  In fact, using a non stick fry pan avoids the need to grease often.

They come together relatively quickly and all the components can be made a day in advance, assembling and baking just before serving.  They sit inbetween a bed of simple tomato sugo, with the addition of a beaten egg drizzled on top and a final grating of parmiggiano cheese and cracked pepper. 

If you do make this dish, I would love to know what you think! 


Crespelle filled with Ricotta & Silverbeet (Makes 12)

Ingredients for:

Crespelle:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

¼ teaspoon salt

 Filling:

350 gm fresh ricotta cheese

5 large silverbeet leaves finely chopped (stalks removed) steamed and squeezed of moisture

I egg

¼ cup grated parmigiano cheese

salt & pepper to taste

 Tomato sauce:

500 ml of passata

1 spring onion finely chopped

1 clove garlic minced

1 sprig parsley finely chopped

¼ cup olive oil

salt to taste

 To assemble:

1 lightly beaten egg 

grated cheese

pepper to taste

 

To prepare the sauce, add chopped onion and garlic to a saucepan and fry in a little olive oil.  When the onion and garlic have softened, add the passata, chopped parsley and simmer gently until cooked.

Meanwhile, prepare the crespelle batter by placing the flour in a bowl and creating a well. Add the eggs, milk and olive oil and combine using a whisk.  Add salt once all ingredients are fully combined and mixture resembles a light batter.

Lightly grease or spray a non-stick fry pan with some oil and heat on low temperature.

Spoon in 2 or 3 tablespoons of batter; lift and tilt the pan to spread evenly.

Return to the low heat and wait for small air bubbles to appear.  Use a palette knife or fingers to lift and flip to other side. Note that unlike normal crepes, these do not need to brown or crisp up but just cook through. To remove, invert pan over plate and repeat the process with remaining batter. 

Allow to cool while preparing the filling. In a bowl add the ricotta, shredded silverbeet, egg, grated pariggiano cheese and mix until fully combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Evenly portion the mixture on one side of the crespelle and gently roll into a log trying not to squeeze the filling out.  Once all have been filled, they can be assembled in an oven dish.

Ladle a little of the sauce in the bottom of a rectangular oven dish. Place the filled crespelle side by side and finish by adding a layer of sauce, ensuring they are fully covered.  Drizzle with a beaten egg wash, a sprinkle of grated cheese and a grinding of pepper.

Pre heat oven to 200 C.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly and golden.

Enjoy!


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