A very slight variation on Michela Chiappa‘s recipe from her Simply Italian series recently on Channel4. This dish is traditionally made using pasta sheets but Michela’s recipe uses pancakes instead to great effect.
The quantities below made nine Nidi – one per person is plenty as a starter or a light evening meal.
For the pancakes
1 cup plain flour
1 cup milk
butter for frying
For the filling
250g tub ricotta
Handful of basil leaves, chopped
Small amount of lemon zest (I used zest from about ¼ of a lemon
125g mozzarella torn into pieces
1 red pepper – deseeded and cut into large chunks
½ red onion – sliced
1 small aubergine – sliced into 1cm thick pieces
2 small courgette – sliced into 1cm thick pieces
Drizzle of olive oil
30g vegetarian parmesan or pecorino cheese
For the tomato sauce
Splash of olive oil
The other half of the red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 red chili – finely chopped
Start by making the pancakes. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl to form a thinnish batter. You may need to add a little extra milk. Heat a large non stick frying pan. When very hot, add a small knob of butter, then about ½ cup of the batter and swirl around to cover the base of the frying pan. Fry for about 1-2 minutes, flip over and do another 1 minute on the other side. Remove from the pan and repeat. You should get five or six pancakes from the amount of batter depending on the size of your frying pan.
Now for the filling…
Heat a griddle until very hot. Fry the peppers, aubergine, onion slices and courgettes until browned and softened then leave to cool. If you don’t have a griddle you can roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so. When cool, roughly chop everything.
To assemble …
Lay the pancakes out on a clean tea towel to form a rough square two pancakes across and three down. If you only managed to make five pancakes from the batter then use 2½ down. Mix the ricotta and chopped basil and spread evenly over the pancakes. Tear the mozzarella and distribute over the pancakes too. Now spread the chopped vegetables and cover with some of the grated parmesan, keeping back a couple of tablespoons for later.
Now take one end of the tea towel and gently but firmly roll the pancake up into a long cylinder. Cut into slices about 3cm thick and lay on their side in a baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and add a little ground black pepper.
The sauce is simple. Heat the olive oil then add the onion, garlic and chili and fry until softened. Add the tomatoes, cover and leave to cook for a few minutes. Add a little salt and pinch of sugar and keep warm.
Heat the oven to 200C then put the pancakes in the oven for 10 minutes until warmed through and the cheese is melting.
Serve the pancakes with the sauce. I included some fried potato cubes as they go with the tomato sauce – a sort of patatas bravas, Italian, Spanish fusion.