the appetizer:

Bottega Favorita by Frank Stitt, presents Italian-American recipes like Pasta Dough; Crespelle; and Lamb Spiedini with Sicilian Couscous and Yogurt Sauce.




Serves 6 as an appetizer



Crespelle means "crepe," and the thin pasta dough and filling in this dish are similar in spirit to that traditional Italian preparation. Don't rush home from work and try to pull this recipe off; time and practice are required to get the pasta rolled just right (homemade pasta is mandatory unless you have a source for pasta rolled to request). But this special dish is stunning and certain to dazzle your guests. Imagine a jelly roll, but with cake and jelly replaced by a thin sheet of pasta dough and a delicious filling of ricotta, herbs, and mushrooms. To strengthen the crespelle's structure, we wrap it in a kitchen towel and secure it with twine before gently poaching it. Once it's cooked, the towel comes off, and we're ready to slice and sauce for serving.

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps or 8 cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chopped blanched spinach (about 1-1/2 pounds fresh spinach)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 recipe Pasta Dough, chilled
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 small marjoram sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon marjoram leaves for garnish
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Line a sieve with dampened cheesecloth or a damp paper towel and set it over a deep bowl. Put the ricotta in the sieve and let drain for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and heat until hot, then add the mushrooms, shallot, and thyme and sauté for 3 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden but still firm (they will continue to cook once removed from the heat). Transfer to a plate to cool.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat for a moment over medium-high heat, then add the onion. Cook until it becomes translucent, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool.

Add the spinach and ricotta to the onion, season with a few scrapes of nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and mix well.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Lightly flour a work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the pasta dough very thin into a 12-by-18-inch sheet. Transfer it to a baking sheet covered with a clean damp kitchen towel. Spread the spinach filling evenly over the pasta sheet, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Place the mushrooms lengthwise in a line down the center. Fold over the short ends by 2 inches. Using the rowel to help you, roll up the dough, starting from a long side, to make a log 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Wrap the towel around the log and tie with kitchen string to secure.

Add the crespelle to the boiling water, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the pasta is thoroughly cooked and the roll feels firm. Carefully remove the crespelle and let cool so that the filling can firm up.

Carefully unwrap the crespelle. Using a chef's knife, slice it into 12 slices.

Divide the butter between two large skillets, add a marjoram sprig to each one, and heat. When the butter is foamy, add the crespelle slices, turning to coat on both sides with butter, and warm through.

Place 2 slices on each serving plate. Garnish with a pinch of fresh marjoram leaves and some grated Parmigiano.

To Drink: Soave (Gini or Suavia)

  • from:
    Bottega Favorita
  • A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food
  • by Frank Stitt
  • Artisan 2008
  • Hardcover; $40.00; 270 pages; 150 color photographs
  • ISBN-10: 1579653022
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-57965-302-6
  • Recipe reprinted by permission.

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