Next time I visit my sister-in-law in Adelaide (South Australia) I am to cook for her, what my mother called Omelet di spinaci. Apparently these made a big impression on my Australian sister-in-law, and it was one of the first things that my mother cooked for her when she was first invited to Sunday lunch.
Omlet (corruption of omlette (French) are really just crepes filled with ricotta and spinach (sautéed in butter) and similar to the stuffing used for canelloni. The crepes are also called crispelle in other parts of Italy.
Sunday lunch was always a big event in my parents’ house – this was the time guests were invited to eat with us and my mother went out of her way to make something special.
Omelet di spinaci were in vogue when we left Trieste (northern Italy) and for a while they were just about all my mother made for any guests in Australia. Most of the time the crepes were dressed with a strong sugo made of good quality minced veal and beef. Often she teamed the omlet with a vitello arrosto (roast veal) – except that this was never baked in the oven, but was braised slowly in a saucepan on the stove top and the brown jus was used as the condiment for the stuffed crepes. The meat was always eaten as the secondo.
When we first come to Australia, we were not able to buy what is now known as “English” spinach – this became available commercially much later in time. Most of the time what was called spinach were beets (blede in Italian) and these were usually found at quality greengrocers.
Silverbeet was more common and found in Australian people’s gardens, but to be able to use the green for the stuffing, the leaf had to be stripped entirely from the white stalk, which seemed to be such a waste of a good vegetable (right).
Sometimes we cooked the stalks separately and covered them with a béchamel sauce and parmesan cheese. We baked these in the oven and pretended they were cardi (cardoons, related to the artichoke). Many people refer to all three varieties as ‘spinach’, hence the photos.
3 eggs, slightly beaten, 3/4 cup plain flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 cups milk.
Mix the batter and leave to rest for at least 1 hour.
Fry crepes in a little butter. Make them thin/add more milk if necessary.
The crepes can be left for about 2 hours, and filled later if necessary.
English spinach, (I use 2 bunches for 6 people), 500g ricotta (drained),
50 g grated parmesan, ½tsp. nutmeg, salt. Some people put 1 egg in the
filling. Could be useful if you think that the mixture may be too sloppy.
Place the spinach in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, covered, squeeze out any excess moisture from the spinach. Coarsely chop and sauté the spinach in butter. Add nutmeg, and over medium heat stir occasionally for a few minutes until the spinach is flavoured. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for about 10mins. Add the drained ricotta and parmesan and combine (egg is optional). Season with salt and pepper.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
400g beef mince or cut into small chunks (fat trimmed)
400gveal mince or cut into small chunks (fat trimmed)
1 onion, sliced finely
700g passata or crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper