The menu was as follows:
- Pane di Pasqua (Easter bread)
- Timballo de Scrippelle con Ragu di Carne (Baked layered pancakes with meat sauce - recipe below)
- Agnello al forno con patate (Roast leg of lamb with herbs, roasted garlic and potatoes)
- Asparagi alla Milanese (Asparagus with butter sauce)
- Cassata Siciliana (Sicilian ricotta cake)
Easter bread with a selection of anti pasti
What I particularly liked was the small adjustments that Francesca had made to the recipes to make them a little bit healthier for example the butter sauce for the asparagus with made with half butter/half chicken broth making it much lighter.
Asparagus and roast lamb
Asparagus, roast potatoes, roast lamb and timballo
The whole menu was delicious but the stand out dish for everyone was the timballo; luckily my table were responsible for producing this so I feel very happy that I will be able to recreate it at home. I was quite sceptical initially as every time I've tried an Italian dish with pancakes, I've found that it just turns into a big mushy mess. I am now a complete convert and I'm pretty sure when ever I make lasagne - or any baked pasta dish - from now on, I'll use pancakes rather than pasta.
The ingredients for the timballo
The timballo is layered with very thin pancakes made from eggs, flour and water. As there's no milk, they pancakes remain almost translucent when cooked and, when cooked, have the taste and consistency of the highest quality fresh pasta.
The pancakes were layered was a ragu made from tiny meatballs in a rich tomato sauce along with mozzarella and grated parmesan and then the whole thing was baked in the oven for about 30 minutes. I found making what seemed like hundreds of tiny meatballs strangely therapeutic and it didn't take anywhere near as long as I thought it would. The meatballs were then cooked in a mixture of water and olive oil; this was a technique that I had never seen before but was wonderful allowing the meatballs to cook without becoming dry.
The technique in making the tomato sauce for the meatballs was again something that I'd never seen before. We fried a finely chopped onion in some olive oil and added a lump of beef and a lump of veal. These were browned before a glass of wine was thrown in and allowed to evaporate. Then three cans of chopped tomatoes were briefly puréed in a food processor, added to the pan and the whole thing was allowed to simmer for an hour or so. Before the meatballs were added, the beef and veal were removed from the sauce. Although it may seem extravagant to use two sizeable chunks of meat to create a sauce, I can't even begin to imagine how good it would be served cold with some bread and a salad.
Timballo di Scrippelle con Ragu di Carne (this would probably serve 6-8)
For the pancakes:
120g plain flour
300 - 400 ml water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the meatballs:
250g minced beef
40g parmesan, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 slice of white bread soaked in milk
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
For the tomato sauce:
400g beef (in one piece)
300g veal (in one piece)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 glass white wine
3 cans of peeled tomatoes and juiced, briefly whizzed in a food processor
Extra virgin olive oil for frying the pancakes
300g mozzarella or scamorza
1. To make the pancakes, whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the flour and beat well. Pour in the water gradually - you may well not need all of it. The batter should be pale and a bit more liquid than normal pancake batter. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before mixing in the a tablespoon of olive oil.
2. Brush a pan with olive oil and fry the pancakes over a low heat. You want very thin pancakes - like paper - so you only need a small ladle of batter for each one. Cook for approximately two minutes each side; they won't go brown because there's no milk but it should cook relatively quickly. Remove from the pan and place on a plate with kitchen paper between each one so that they don't stick together.
3. For the sauce, cook the onions in olive oil over a high heat. Add the meat and sear on all sides. When browned, add the wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate. Add the tomatoes and salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately an hour.
4. For the meatballs, put all the ingredients in a a bowl and mix well. Rub a few drops of olive oil on your hands to avoid sticking and shape the meatballs into very small balls. Put on a oiled baking tray until needed.
5. To cook the meatballs, heat a glass of water with 2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan. When hot, add the meatballs. Put the lid on and allow the meatballs to absorb all the water.
6. Remove the beef and veal from the tomato sauce and add the meatballs.
7. Layer pancakes, sauce, mozzarella and paremsan in an overn dish ending with a layer of pancake. Place in a preheated oven (at 200oC) for about 30 minutes. Leave to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.