What do you enjoy most about cooking?
What led you to setting up life in Tuscany?
I first came to Florence as an art student and after spending three months here around the time of my 21st birthday, I knew I had to come back to live here. I arrived a few years later to fulfil that dream — it was only meant to be for a year, but here I am, 18 years later, still here.
What is your philosophy around food? Has it changed since you moved to Tuscany?
Food is an opportunity for sharing joy, memories and connecting with people. It is a bridge for learning about someone else’s culture. Tuscany has also taught me about the importance of seasonality, how things taste at the height of their season and how it’s worth waiting all year for the fleeting, maybe 2 week season, for your favourite vegetable.
Tell us about this dish?
What’s coming up next for you?
Crespelle alla Fiorentina
For the batter:
- 150g of flour
- 300ml milk
- 40g of butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- Pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 1 egg
- 250g of ricotta
- 400g of blanched spinach, squeezed of any excess moisture
For the béchamel sauce:
- 500ml milk
- 350g of butter
- 50g of flour
- Salt and pepper
- 3 or 4 heaped tablespoons of tomato puree (passata) seasoned with salt and pepper
- Handful of grated pecorino (or parmesan) cheese
- Olive oil for greasing
For the crespelle, sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the eggs, mixing well with a whisk or mixer, then the milk and finally the melted butter, incorporating gently. Season with a pinch of salt. The mixture should be fluid (it should run off a spoon like oil) and without lumps. If it is too dense, you can add a little water or some more milk; this will depend on the size of your eggs. Set aside; ideally the batter should rest for about 30 minutes before using.
Heat a non-stick, lightly greased pan to medium heat and pour a ¼ cup or ladle-full of the crespelle batter into the centre of the pan, swirling to cover. When the top begins to look dry, gently flip with a spatula and allow to cook for 10 seconds or so more. They don’t need to brown; they should remain soft. Set aside until all the crespelle are done (this mixture should make eight crespelle).
For the béchamel, add the butter to a saucepan over low heat and when just melted, add the flour and mix until smooth. Carefully cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the milk until very smooth and bring to a boil, whisking continuously. Cook for 10 minutes or until thickened (the sauce should coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and if desired, a little nutmeg. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
For the ricotta filling, take the freshly blanched, drained and squeezed spinach (cooked quickly in boiling water, then rinsed in cold water to stop the cooking process), chop finely and place in a bowl with the ricotta, egg and grated cheese and mix to combine.
Place a heaped tablespoon of ricotta filling on a crespella, fold in half, then in quarters and place, slightly overlapping, in a greased oven proof dish (alternatively you can roll them up like a cigar). Spoon over the besciamella sauce and ‘stain’ the top with a few decorative splashes of tomato puree. Sprinkle over a handful of grated pecorino and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.