Crepes filled with lamb and ricotta, from a fall menu,

Crepes filled with lamb and ricotta, from a fall menu

I love crespelle, which is the Italian word for crepes. Although more famous in French cooking, in many parts of the country Italians make them too! Savory crepes are treated as a pasta course in Italy.  But to me, crepes are even better, with their luxurious texture.

Thomas loves them too.

Thomas loves them, too.

As with pasta, they can be prepared an almost infinite number of ways. They can be layered flat like lasagne, rolled up like cannelloni, folded in a half-moon, or prepared in a number of other ways. One of the most interesting is to fold them up into a triangular handkerchief, in which case they’re called fazzoletti. This past summer at the restaurant we served fazzoletti filled with green beans, garlic, and mozzarella, which we first learned from one of Marcella Hazan’s excellent books.

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Fazzoletti with green beans and mozzarella

During December, we served what is perhaps the simplest but one of the most delicious crepes: simply folded in a half moon and filled with mozzarella and prosciutto. I was inspired to make it by the wonderful panini one encounters in Italy, in which it hardly seems possible that a slice of meat and a slice of cheese can be such a remarkable revelation to eat. Although making the crepes can take a little practice, it’s really not difficult, and once you learn how to do it, copious pleasure will be at your beck and call.

Crespelle with mozzarella and prosciutto (makes 16 crepes)

This recipe calls for grams, rather than cups to measure the flour. If you don’t have an inexpensive (less than $30) kitchen scale, please get one. If you ever use flour in the kitchen, you won’t be sorry you spent the money.

To make the crepes, beat three eggs with 1.5 cups of milk. Gradually add 150 grams flour (all purpose is fine, or pastry) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let sit a few minutes and then pass through a colander to eliminate any lumps. Melt two tablespoons of butter and stir into the batter.

To make crepes you need a good non-stick pan. I far prefer cast iron to teflon, which creeps me out. I want a pan that I can have for decades, and teflon always seems to wear out. I use an 8-inch pan and pour in a little less an 1/4 cup of batter per crepe, but this will vary widely based on pan size and how thick you want your crepe. I like mine thin, but there are various legitimate styles.

Place your crepe pan (or two if you have them) over medium-high heat and very lightly oil it/them. This batter has butter in it, which will help prevent sticking. When the pan is quite hot (the batter should sizzle immediately), add a little less than 1/4 cup of batter and swirl around evenly for about 10 seconds. Cook until the one side is browned and the top is set. It should take around 30 seconds if the pan is the right temp. Flip and do the second side, using a flexible spatula or your fingers if necessary. Cool the crepes on a rack as they finish.

Coarsely chop up about 1/4 pound of imported prosciutto (either San Daniele or di Parma), coarsely grate one pound of fresh mozzarella, and finely grate 1 cup of parmigiano-reggiano. Place a few pieces of prosciutto on each crepe, and add about a tablespoon of mozzarella and a tablespoon of parmigiano. Add a tiny drizzle of olive oil and a tiny pinch of salt (the prosciutto is already very well seasoned). Fold each crepe over and press down with your hand. They can be stacked and sit for several hours before cooking, though I would not refrigerate them.

Melt some butter over medium heat and add as many crepes as will fit comfortably. Cook until lightly crisped on the one side (about a minute or two), and then flip them and do the other. Or, as I do, after flipping them to the second side, place them in a 350 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes. The heat all around does a better job than the bottom heat of the stove top.

Repeat with the remaining crepes, garnish with parsley and parmigiano, and serve at once!

Crepe with mozzarella and prosciutto.

Crepe with mozzarella and prosciutto.