Before mixing the ricotta

Pancake Nidi with Tomato Sauce

About a year ago, I saw this unusual recipe on a Channel Four programme called ‘Simply Italian’ by Michela Chiappa.

It’s a bit of a faff to be honest, but well worth it! It isn’t quite a vegetarian meal as it contains prosciutto, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to substitute something else if you’re not a carnivore and it’s a damn sight nicer than Beanfeast.

I rejigged the original recipe very slightly as I found there wasn’t enough batter and I had to rush to make more halfway through. Oh, and ‘nidi’ is Italian for ‘nest’ in case you were wondering!

Pancake Nidi with Tomato Sauce
Baked pancake nests filled with ricotta, prosciutto, mozzarella and griddled summer vegetables, covered in a tomato sauce.
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For the pancakes
  1. 2 cups plain flour
  2. 2 cups milk
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 small cube butter, melted, plus extra for frying if necessary
For the filling
  1. 250g tub ricotta
  2. Handful of basil leaves, chopped
  3. 1 large chilli, finely diced (use less if you don't like things too spicy)
  4. Zest of 1 lemon (go easy on this, not too much or it's overpowering)
  5. 6 slices prosciutto (approx. 85g)
  6. 125g buffalo mozzarella torn into pieces, or grated mozzarella
  7. 2 red or yellow peppers, quartered and deseeded
  8. 1 small aubergine, sliced into 1cm thick pieces
  9. 1 small courgette, sliced into 1cm thick pieces
  10. Drizzle of olive oil
  11. 30g parmesan cheese
For the tomato sauce
  1. Splash of olive oil
  2. 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  3. ½ clove garlic, chopped
  4. 400g can chopped tomatoes
  5. ½ vegetable stock cube
  6. ½ tbsp tomato purée
  7. Pinch of cayenne pepper
  8. 2 tsp capers (I didn't have any so I left these out)
To serve
  1. Baby basil leaves (or just torn up normal basil leaves!)
For the pancakes
  1. I followed the original recipe but only ended up with three pancakes so I've doubled the quantity of batter in this version - remember, there is no such thing as too many pancakes!
  2. Whisk the the flour, milk and egg to make a batter - add milk if it's too gloopy.
  3. Heat a decent frying pan and add a little butter.
  4. Add enough batter to the pan to make one pancake, a soup ladle is about the right measure.
  5. Tip the pan around to coat the bottom fully, you don't want any gaps.
  6. Leave the pancake for a couple of minutes, once it's nearly ready you'll be able to see it bubble a little and you'll be able to carefully lift the edge with a fishslice.
  7. Either flip or turn carefully with a fishslice, then cook the other side and turn out onto a plate.
  8. Repeat for the remaining batter, to give six pancakes in total.
  9. Lay out the pancakes on a towel to form a rough rectangle with no gaps (see picture) then stick the edges together with a little melted butter.
Now prepare the roll
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
  2. Mix the ricotta, basil, chilli and lemon zest in a bowl, and then season with some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread a thin layer over the pancakes leaving an even 2.5cm border.
  4. Next lay the prosciutto over the top followed by shreds of mozzarella.
  5. Griddle your peppers, aubergines and courgettes in a hot griddle pan until charred - you don't need any oil, you're looking to get some nice blackened parts.
  6. Season the vegetables and chop into small pieces, then drizzle with a little olive oil.
  7. Scatter your chopped vegetables onto the pancakes and finally sprinkle on two thirds of the parmesan cheese.
  8. Use the towel to help you roll up the pancake, keeping it as tight as you can. Lift one end carefully and place a chopping board underneath.
  9. Cut the pancake log into disks about one inch thick and use the side of the knife to lift each one - make sure you cut through the prosciutto properly or when you try to move the slice it'll fall apart!
  10. Place each disk flat in an ovenproof dish, scatter over the remaining parmesan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes.
To make the tomato sauce
  1. Soften the onion in some olive oil, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, stock cube, tomato purée, a pinch of cayenne pepper and the capers.
  3. Taste, add salt and pepper as required.
  4. Serve the nidi with a good spoon of tomato sauce and a few baby basil leaves.
  1. Like the lady says, don't pile the filling too high or you'll struggle to make the roll. A thin, even coating is what you need. Any leftovers can be chucked into the oven dish anyway, it's no big deal!
Adapted from Simply Italian by Michela Chiappa
Northern Chap

Here are a few cameraphone shots I took while making this dish, as you can see I was losing the light but you get the idea!