I am in no way suggesting that you should forbear from eating your Pancake Tuesday pancakes just so that you can make this delicious dinner, but if it should happen that you have heinous ingrates for children who scorn the pancakes you made, and you can’t manage to eat them all yourself, this might turn out to be a good thing to do. At least, that’s how it was for me.
First we have Mabel, helping me to make the pancakes way back a few Tuesdays ago. (If you didn’t know, one is supposed to have pancakes the day before Lent begins, to use up all the eggs. Because eggs were verboten during Lent, don’t you know. Same concept as Fat Tuesday, just no parade.)
Sieve one cup of flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Beat an egg with 10 oz of milk and then mix all of that into the flour. Melt a tablespoon of butter, let cool a little, and mix that in too. That’s it: no leavening agents, no sugar, nothing else. Let it stand, covered, in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or even overnight. I mixed these up at breakfast time and cooked them for lunch. It made about 14, but my pan was quite small. (You could, of course, double the recipe.)
These are not puffy American pancakes, though I do like to make those at other times. These are thin pancakes, closer to crepes but not that thin because I am not a magic French person with magic crepe-making equipment. Just as thin as I could get by ladling enough onto the pan and swirling it around quickly to coat the bottom. If you use a good non-stick pan (or even a bad one; I’m sure mine was cheap), you’ll know when it’s ready to flip because it will come up easily when you try to slide a fish slice or other flat non-metal object underneath, or even move when you give the pan a vigorous (but not too vigorous lest it end up on the floor) shake. Whether to safely flip or devil-may-care toss I leave to the conscience of the individual.
The good specimens look like this. (The bad specimens are discarded, unless you have a dog.) You may gobble as many as you can with fresh lemon squeezed over and plenty of sugar. Unless you are my children, this is delicious.
However, you might have some left over. In this case, freeze them with a layer of cling wrap (cling film) between each pancake. They freeze well and reheat very quickly in the microwave. Or you can make dinner with them, as I did the other night.
Take your pancakes out of the freezer. Look, they’re still lovely.
Defrost a packet of frozen spinach in the microwave. Squeeze it out in a clean tea towel to get rid of the excess water. Chop a small onion (or half a large one) as finely as you have the patience for, and saute it until it’s very soft. Add a crushed clove (or two) of garlic for the final couple of minutes. Now break up the spinach in a bowl using a fork, add the onion and garlic, and mix in about a cup of ricotta cheese. (I think it was a cup. About the same amount as there is spinach, anyway.) Season with salt, pepper, and a good grating of fresh nutmeg.
Take your defrosted pancakes and roll them up around the spinach mixture in a lasagne dish. Thusly.
Then I took a jar of pasta sauce – look, there’s mine, it was Classico Tomato and Basil – and pour about half of it over your plump and lovingly rolled babies. Five pancakes, in my case, gave us enough dinner to fill two people and still have leftovers for lunch.
Top with lots of parmesan – I should have used more than this, but we ran out. And bake at 350F for half an hour or until it’s bubbling.
It was delicious, even if the parmesan did all disappear.
The pancakes worked perfectly here, but of course you don’t have to go to all that trouble. You could use manicotti or giant pasta shells (but then you have to cook them before stuffing them, which is still a nuisance). You could make an inside-out lasagne. You could probably even use tortillas and call it Italian enchiladas. Or you could just make pancakes for breakfast and plan to have enough left over to make tomorrow’s dinner.