24 June 2015

AUNTIE PASTA: The Delicious Scrippelle of Abruzzo

CHIAVARI, Italy – This post on scrippelles is one of the most popular posts on my blog, and one I thought was worth repeating.
Teramo, Abruzzo

Scrippelles are a typical food of Teramo, a small town in Abruzzo.  If you have never heard of them, you are not alone. I had never heard of them either until Debra Cardelli Cellucci of Philadelphia Pa. talked about them on an Italian-American Facebook page I follow.

Scrippelle are very thin pancakes made from flour, eggs and water. If you are thinking that’s the same recipe for crepes, you are right. They are one and the same. In fact, there is a real French connection to this dish according to an article published in a local Abruzzese magazine called The Abruzzo Enogastronomica, but more about that later.

The real difference between them is the way they are served. In Abruzzo scrippelles are served m’busse, which means in chicken broth. The basic idea is to first prepare a thin batter . . . but wait a minute, I think it’s better if Debra tells you herself. Here is her recipe from the Facebook page:
Scrippelle M'Busso
Debra’s Scrippelle M’Busso Recipe

“12 eggs, 3 cups of water, 1 cup of flour in a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs, add water, then slowly add flour while constantly mixing. Use a good crepe pan. Depending on the size of the pan you may want to cut them in half after rolling. Heat pan to medium to high heat, then lightly grease the pan with either fat back or olive oil.

I use a 10” crepe pan and add about half a soup ladle of batter and roll it around quickly so it spreads evenly.  It should be very thin. Lift the edges of the crepe and when the edges start to curl pick it up quickly and turn it over. It only takes about a minute or less on each side. Let each one cool for a minute or two before stacking them on top of each other.  1 dozen eggs makes about 40 10” crepes. They can be cut in half to double that to 80.

After they are cooked, mix grated pecorino cheese with black pepper to your taste. Take each crepe and sprinkle with a good amount of the cheese/pepper mix, and tightly roll the crepe. Cut them in half and stack them close to each other in a casserole dish or plastic container if you are going to freeze them. When you are ready to serve, let them come to room temperature. Place them in individual soup bowls and pour your favorite chicken soup over them.”
 Timballo di Teramo
And that, according to Debra, is all there is to it. In researching this dish, I found that some cooks like to roll the scrippelle tightly and then slice them into ribbons, like fettucine and then serve them with soup. The crepes are also used to make another delicious local dish called Timballo di Teramo.

This timballo is made in layers, like lasagna, but instead of pasta locals use scrippelle. And there is one other small difference; this timballo is made in a casserole dish rather than a lasagna pan. Using an ovenproof casserole dish, first put in a few spoons of sauce.  The sauce can be a white béchamel sauce with fried artichokes (spinach or peas works well too), and scamorza cheese. Or, you can use your favorite red tomato and meat sauce. Alternate a layer of scrippelle with a layer of sauce. The top layer should be sauce sprinkled with a good grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
 It All Starts Like This
In the Italian recipe it says to preheat your oven to 320 degrees F/160 degrees C and bake for about an hour until the flavors blend together and a slight crust forms on the top. You can probably get the same results with a 350 degree F/ 175 degree C oven and a cooking time of 25-30 minutes. What’s important is that the ingredients heat through and the sauce and the cheese are bubbling.

As for the French connection, the story goes back to the 16th century when the French ruled Abruzzo.  It seems the French chef in charge of the officers' mess in the town of Teramo, used to serve his officers crepes instead of bread. He though they were more ‘attractive’ than the dark coarse breads that were common at that time.

As it happened, one day when Messer Enrico Castorani, the chef’s helper, was moving a heaping plate of crepes, they fell into the soup pot that was filled with hot chicken soup. 

The chef didn’t know what to do. He decided to serve the crepes and the soup, and when he tasted the crepes in the soup, he found that it was a most delicious combination, and that, according to local legend, is how scrippelle in broth was created. 

 A special thanks goes out to Debra Cardelli Cellucci for sharing her recipe with us. Thanks Debra.

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