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Crepes with asparagus, ricotta and lemon give the taste of spring

By Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Published: April 17, 2024, 6:00am
3 Photos
Pureed asparagus blended with fresh ricotta is a seasonal filling for these savory crepes.
Pureed asparagus blended with fresh ricotta is a seasonal filling for these savory crepes. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS) (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS) Photo Gallery

Slender asparagus and fresh ricotta are easy to find in spring, and these savory crespelle offer a winning combination of the seasonal favorites.

Adapted from a recipe from Tuscan food writer and chef Giulia Scarpaleggia, the two ingredients are paired in a fresh and creamy filling for lacy, tender homemade crepes that can either be rolled up like burritos, or folded into elegant handkerchief-like triangles.

The asparagus is first simmered in boiling water until just tender and then pureed in a blender. The bright green puree then goes into a bowl with ricotta, grated Parmesan and just enough lemon zest and mint to cut through the richness of the dairy.

I baked the filled crepes on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet, but you also could line them in a buttered casserole dish.

These are topped with a super-simple Bechamel sauce, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you also could drizzle the crepes with Hollandaise sauce. The chopped pistachios add a slightly crunchy, salty finish.

Asparagus and Ricotta Crepes

For crepes

11/3 cups whole milk, room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Generous pinch fine sea salt

For filling

1 pound asparagus

2 cups fresh ricotta

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Zest of 1/2 lemon

3 or 4 mint leaves, finely chopped

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Bechamel sauce

13/4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

11/4 cups milk

Salt and pepper

Grated nutmeg

For garnish

2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped

Fresh mint leaves

Olive oil

Prepare crepe batter. Mix milk, flour, eggs, melted butter and salt in blender just until smooth. (It will be thin.) Cover batter and chill at least 15 minutes while you prepare filling, and up to 1 day.

Prepare filling. Remove woody ends from asparagus, then cook in a saucepan with 1 inch of boiling, salted water until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes depending on thickness of spears. Remove from hot water into a bowl of ice water to blanche, then remove and allow to dry on a paper towel.

Cut off and set aside tips. Place the rest of the asparagus into a food processor or blender and add just enough water (a teaspoon or 2) to blend until smooth.

Add puree to bowl with the ricotta, grated Parmesan, lemon zest and chopped mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If it’s too bland, add more Parmesan or a bit more lemon.

Prepare crepes.

Heat a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. (I used a 9-inch shallow saute pan.) Brush pan with a little melted butter or paper towel soaked with olive oil.

Whisk crepe batter to combine, then pour about 1/4 cup into the pan, swirling it to cover the bottom of pan with a thin layer. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the crepe is golden brown on the edges. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook on the other side for 1 more minute. Remove to plate. (The first crepe might not be perfect, but that’s OK! It will ready the pan.)

Continue process until you have 12 crepes set aside and stacked. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make Bechamel sauce: Melt butter in saucepan on medium heat. Spoon in flour and whisk until golden brown and toasted.

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Pour in cold milk in a thin stream, stirring to avoid lumps. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, then season with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.

Compose crepes: Spread each crepe with the asparagus and ricotta filling, then roll them up as cannelloni or fold them as a handkerchief, first in half and then in half again. Arrange in a casserole pan or on a rimmed baking sheet on top of parchment paper.

Drizzle the crepes with the Bechamel sauce, then decorate each with cooked tips of asparagus, chopped pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling on the sides.

Serve hot out of the pan, with more chopped mint as a garnish. You also can warm any leftovers in 350 degree oven.

Makes 10-12 crepes.

adapted from julskitchen.com