Savory crepes with a vegetarian roasted pumpkin, spinach and ricotta filling, covered in sauce and baked.
This is going to sound like a big call coming from someone who practically worships peanut butter and chocolate, but these stuffed crepes are one of my favorite things in the world to eat.
These crepes – which are filled with spinach, ricotta and pumpkin, and then smothered in a homemade tomato sauce and baked – are a slightly French twist on classic Italian cannelloni. Ah, Italy and France: two countries that I thought I could live and/or work in if I wanted to.
You see, had everything planned out: In thirty or so years I’d have a mid-life crisis and run off to France. Then, being an EU citizen, I could hide out there for years without risk of deportation. I’d pay for my many visits to la boulangerie by working as a crepe maker.
Now, there are some pretty obvious problems with this plan (for starters, I don’t speak French). But now my plan’s hit an even bigger roadblock called Brexit.
It seems that soon my British passport will no longer allow to me live in France indefinitely. So there goes that plan. What is my future self supposed to do now – run off to Scotland and make haggis? Ugh.
Actually, as some Scots are calling for another vote to secede from the U.K., I might not even be able to scurry away to Scotland.
Well, I suppose I’ll just have to plan not to have a mid-life crisis. Hmm, maybe that’s for the best.
Brexit brooding aside, let’s talk about these crepes.
Truthfully, I can’t take credit for this recipe. It’s actually my mother’s recipe for spinach and ricotta filled baked crepes – all I did was add pumpkin. Being me, I simply had to add pumpkin.
Of course, the most important part of this recipe is the crepes themselves (and yes, the crepes are also made using my mother’s recipe). Unlike most crepes, these ones are made without any butter or oil. They’re literally just made from flour, salt, eggs and milk (but are still nice and soft).
The filling’s a mixture of wilted spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, a dash of nutmeg and – of course – roasted pumpkin.
Even though it takes time, it is undoubtedly worth roasting the pumpkin. Boiled or microwaved pumpkin is just dull by comparison to that beautiful roasted gourd.
By the way, this recipe makes more tomato sauce than you’ll need. The extra sauce is useful for reheating leftover crepes (as the extra sauce will prevent them from drying out). I also like to serve the crepes with a little extra sauce, simply because I’m one of those people who really loves sauce.
Alternatively, save the extra sauce for some pasta or pizza!
Well, even though my ability to easily live and work in France and Italy will soon come to an end, at least I can still fulfill my dream of eating crepes virtually everyday.
Luckily, no referendum (especially one that affects me although I was ineligible to vote in it) can stop me from doing that.
In other words, crepes all round!
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 2 ½ cups (700g) tomato passata (tomato puree)
- 2 cups (480mL) cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 1 pound (455g) cubed pumpkin
- 4 ½ ounces (130g) spinach leaves
- ¼ cup (15g) finely grated parmesan cheese
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 cup (240g) ricotta cheese
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup (125g) all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (240mL) milk
- For the sauce: In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the shallot is tender and translucent.
- Add the tomato passata, water, salt and basil leaves. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
- With the saucepan lid partly on (so it’s tilted), simmer the sauce for 35 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the stove heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. If the sauce reduces too much or too quickly, stir in a little more water.
- For the filling: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a large baking sheet (or pan) with non-stick paper, or grease it with cooking oil spray.
- Add the cubed pumpkin to the baking sheet and lightly spray the cubes with cooking oil spray.
- Bake the pumpkin for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. Set aside to cool.
- Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of paper towel and cook in the microwave for 1 – ½ minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.
- Add the roasted pumpkin to the bowl, and roughly mash it with a fork, leaving some larger pieces for texture. Stir in the parmesan cheese and nutmeg.
- Use a fork to mix in the ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and gently stir to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Place the mixture in the fridge until needed.
- For the crepes: Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt, and make a well in the center of the mixture. Add the eggs and lightly whisk them with a fork, incorporating a small amount of flour into the eggs.
- Pour in the milk a little bit at a time, while gradually mixing in all of the flour from the edges of the bowl. Once all of the milk and flour has been incorporated, it should resemble a thin batter (with a similar consistency to light cream).
- If the batter is lumpy, pass it through a sieve. Alternatively, use electric beaters to briefly beat the mixture until smooth. Let the batter sit for 20 minutes.
- Preheat a skillet over low heat, and then grease with cooking oil spray. For each crepe, add ¼ cup of batter and then swirl the skillet to spread the batter into a thin layer.
- Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes on one side, or until the edges are dry and begin to curl upwards a tiny bit. Flip the crepe, and cook for 1 minute on the other side. Transfer to a plate.
- Repeat steps 13 – 14 for the remaining crepes (the batter makes approximately eight crepes). Adjust the stove heat as needed.
- To assemble: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Cover the base of a large rectangular baking pan with a thin layer of sauce.
- Place the first crepe on a large plate, and spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of filling down the middle. Fold over the sides, and then roll up the crepe (like a burrito). Place it seam side down in the baking pan. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling.
- Cover the crepes with a thick layer of sauce (there will likely be leftover sauce).
- Bake, covered with aluminium foil, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and then bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes, or until piping hot. If desired, serve the crepes with some extra sauce and parmesan cheese.
For the crepe recipe, use whole (full-fat) or low-fat milk. Do not skim milk or almond milk.
The sauce recipe yields more sauce than needed for these baked crepes.
Personally, I like to serve the crepes with some extra sauce. The sauce is also useful for reheating any leftovers.
The sauce can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.