Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gnoccone Ripieno

This is a first for me, as I came across this recipe lately, browsing through the pages of a new Italian cookbook I recently purchased. Although it did not turn out just like the picture in the book, I was pretty satisfied and I probably figured out where I could improve. This is basically the same recipe for traditional gnocchi, without the frozen spinach (white gnocchi). Instead of making little potato dumplings, you keep the whole dough as one piece and you flattened with a rolling pin (or wit your hands!) until it is about 1/4 inch thick. It is better if you do it already on a kitchen rag as it might be difficult to move the dough once it is flattened (see picture).

At this time you can place on the flattened dough your favorite ingredients. I went for some sliced white mushrooms cooked in butter and garlic, and then finely chopped into a sauce using a blender. I spread the mushroom sauce on a thin layer of shredded mozzarella e Parmesan cheese and topped it with fresh spinach leafs.

Carefully, I rolled the dough using the rag and then tied the two extremities with a string. Make sure the rag is as tight as possible around it. That will give it a nice and firm cylindrical shape to the final cooked product. Place the whole thing into a large pan with boiling salted water for 30 minutes. Remove it from the pan and let it sit, still in the rag, until it has cool down (15-20 minutes). This is an important step as it will ensure that the large rolled dough keeps its cylindrical shape once you untie the ends and remove the rag.

At this point you can slice it and place the slices in a baking pan. Cover with small pieces of butter and with parmesan cheese and baked at 350F for few minutes, until cheese has melted. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


This is a total knockout dish and one you can't ever get tired of, because there are so many little things you can do differently each time. Crespelle is the Italian adaptation of a France classic: Crepes. As you may already know, crepes can be prepared sweet (for desserts) or plain (for main dishes). This is the recipe for the plain (salty) crepes:

- Butter 40 grams;
- Flour 250 grams;
- 2 cups (500ml) milk;
- 3 eggs;
- A pinch of salt.

Sift flour into a mixing bowl with salt and milk (I used my KitchenAid). Mix well until it is lump-free. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs slightly and then add to the mix. Continue mixing for another minute or so, then remove bowl from mixer, cover with a kitchen rug or plastic wrap, and let it sit for 1/2 hour. Melt the butter in the microwave and add to the mix (stir with a spoon). If you have a crepe-maker, this is the time to finally use it... otherwise you can simply use a non-stick frying pan. If you are using the frying pan, place just enough mix to cover the bottom (help yourself with a spoon, but act quickly as it will harden right away). Cook for one minute on each side. Place on a plate and proceed with the next crepe.

After all the crepes are made (you should have a nice stack of 12-15 of them), you can proceed with preparing the filling (or you can prepare it while the crepe mix is resting). Three typical fillings used for CRESPELLE are ricotta cheese and spinach, ham and cheese, or mushrooms. This time I chose mushrooms. I cooked several sliced white mushrooms in a pan with some butter, dry parsley, and a crushed clove of garlic. When the mushrooms where fully cooked, I placed them in a food processor and obtained a nice mushroom paste which was easy to spread. I took my first crepe and spread half of it with a spoonful of the mushroom filling. Then I folded the crepe in half two times (to obtain a triangle shape). Place each crepe prepared this way in a baking Pyrex pan. In a saucepan, prepare 2 cups of bechamel sauce and pour it over the crepes. Sprinkle the top with some mozzarella or Parmesan cheese (or both) and a touch of dry parsley (for looks). Cover with an aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350. Alternatively, you can place 1-2 crepes (with filling and folded) on each plate and pour a little bit of the hot bechamel on them. Enjoy!!