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Crespelle with Prosciutto and Fontina

In Emilia-Romagna, thin, eggy crepes, called crespelle, sometimes take the place of pasta. This dish is perfect for a dinner party, since both the sauce and the crespelle can be made up to 2 days before serving, or the entire dish can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before you bake it. 

Ingredients:

For the crespelle:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 cups milk 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 tsp. salt 
  •   

For the white sauce:

  • 3 cups milk 
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dishes 
  • 6 Tbs. all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt 
  •   
  • Olive oil or canola oil for frying 
  • 6 oz. very thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma 
  • 1/2 lb. Valle d’Aosta fontina cheese, rind trimmed  
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

Directions:

To make the crespelle batter, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, eggs and salt until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.

To make the white sauce, in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a heavy, nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until a thick, smooth paste forms, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Slowly drizzle 1 to 2 Tbs. of the hot milk into the flour paste while whisking constantly. The mixture will immediately become thick and lumpy. Continuing to whisk vigorously, add the milk about 2 Tbs. at a time. The sauce will gradually become smooth. After adding about 1/2 cup of the milk, slowly add the remaining milk in a thin, steady stream while whisking constantly. Stir in the salt, return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 1 minute.

Use immediately, or let cool, cover and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat over low heat, stirring constantly and adding a little hot water or milk to thin, if necessary.

Warm a 6-inch crepe pan or nonstick fry pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, brush it very lightly with oil. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of the batter, add to the pan, and tilt and swirl the pan to spread the batter evenly over the bottom. Pour any excess batter back into the bowl. Cook until the edges begin to brown and lift away from the pan sides, about 1 minute, then flip and cook until spotted with brown, about 30 seconds. Slide onto a plate, and cover with a piece of waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the crespelle and separating them with waxed paper. You should have at least 24 crespelle.

Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter two 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dishes. Spread a thin layer of the white sauce in the bottom of each dish.

Cut the prosciutto and fontina into pieces equal to the number of crespelle. Stack a piece of prosciutto and a slice of fontina on half of each crespelle, fold it in half, covering the prosciutto and cheese, and then fold into quarters. Place in one of the prepared dishes. Fill and fold the remaining crespelle in the same way and arrange them, overlapping slightly, in the dishes. Spread the remaining sauce over the crespelle, dividing it evenly between the dishes. Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the top.

Bake until the sauce is lightly browned on the surface and the cheese is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 10 to 12.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).