When I think about comfort food, there’s a recurring element that enhances the soothing properties of a dish: having someone cook it for me.
Yes, lasagne, crespelle, pies, soups… they are all my ideal comfort food, but what I would give to sit at a laid table and have someone placing a steaming portion of lasagne in front of me. In that gesture, there’s love and care, it is the representation of all the possible meanings of nurturing.
Even a simple bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano Reggiano rises to the level of optimum comfort food when it is lovingly cooked for you (and when you do not have to clean the dishes afterwards).
What if you live on your own, have a family to take care of, or are far from family and friends? One option is a good restaurant, home delivery (something that doesn’t work for us as we live too far in the countryside), or take away (yesterday, for example, we had the first takeaway pizza in years and it was such a reward), the other is a bit of planning.
In this case, I have a trick for you: I cook trays of some of my favourite comfort food in advance.
It can be as simple as preparing my mum’s potato cheese savoury pie a few hours in advance so that I have just to reheat it for dinner, or as smart as freezing eggplant parmigiana in the summer for a cold January night when you’ll just have to transfer it from the freezer to the hot oven.
That’s why two years ago when I was pregnant, I spent quite a lot of time baking lasagne al pesto and eggplant parmigiana. I was baking for the future me, knowing that in a few months I would have been extremely thankful to simply reheat some lovingly made comfort food.
So you might imagine my hidden agenda when I decided to bake again these butternut squash and ricotta crêpes for today’s newsletter: we took new photos, we had a good meal, and now I have an extra portion of crespelle in the freezer ready for a busy, cold day.
Butternut Squash and Ricotta Crêpes – Crespelle di zucca
Roasted butternut squash with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper is my favourite autumn side dish. You can use leftover roasted butternut squash or even roast a whole tray of squash just for this recipe, saving a few slices for your next meal.
These butternut squash and ricotta crêpes might look quite daunting, but the good news is that you can prepare the required ingredients – crespelle, besciamella, butternut squash and ricotta filling – in advance, and bake the crespelle before dinner. You can even prepare the final dish the day before and reheat it with a drop of milk before your family, or your friends, sit at the table.
If you decide to participate in the weekend cooking project, share the results with us on social media by using the hashtag #myseasonaltable and tagging @julskitchen on Instagram.
If you have questions about the ingredients or the recipe, if you have a special request for one of the following cooking projects, or want to have a chat, reply to this email.
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More make-ahead comforting recipes from the blog
Crespelle alla fiorentina. A blanket of béchamel sauce, barely stained with a few tablespoons of tomato purée, files immediately this dish under the ‘80s label, when it was a staple in trattorie and households along with deviled eggs and tagliatelle con panna e prosciutto. I felt a shiver of nonconformism in reintroducing the crespelle in my repertoire and in presenting them during my cooking classes among other favourites such as pici, ravioli and gnocchi.
Lasagne alla bolognese. There’s a sense of comfort in cooking traditional recipes: it is a taste that is part of our DNA, a sparkle that awakens shared memories of happiness and family. You feel also a sense of relief because you realize that everything already works perfectly, from the ingredient pairing to the textures. Innovation and experimentation are always welcomed in my kitchen, even though they are certainly not my signature traits.
Gnocchi alla Romana. They are a dish to keep in mind for family gatherings or dinners with friends, as the gnocchi can be prepared in advance and then you can bake them at the very last minute. This makes them suitable for your midweek dinners, too, when you are running out of time and all you would love is someone who could feed you a comforting dish of gnocchi alla Romana.
Tortino di patate. Its winning point is the filling: cooked ham and mozzarella, smoked ham and blue cheese such as gorgonzola, basically whatever you have in your fridge. Making it time after time you’ll find your favourite combination. As for me, nothing beats smoked ham and gorgonzola. As a matter of fact, though, the best part is the crisp surface.