Manfrigole are comfort food from Valtellina, a valley in the North of Italy near Switzerland. I encountered them for the first time during the wine trip to Lombardia last fall, where we enjoyed them for both lunch and dinner. Manfrigole are buckwheat pancakes, filled with a white sauce with Casera cheese. They can be served with more white sauce, or with butter and sage. Sometimes bresaola or pancetta are also included. Casera cheese can be hard to find outside of Italy or indeed outside of Valtellina. It is a cow’s milk cheese that you can substitute with another mountainous cow’s milk cheese such as Fontina or Gruyère if you can’t find Casera. It won’t be authentic without the real cheese, but it will still be delicious. Make sure to use buckwheat flour, because that is essential to get the flavor right. Buckwheat has a nice somewhat nutty flavor. Strangely enough, most recipes (in Italian) for manfrigole I found online have the wrong quantities for the pancake batter, which makes it way too thick. It seems they are mostly copies of the same recipe. Below are the correct proportions.
For 4 servings as a main course or 8 to 12 servings as an appetizer
For the pancakes
- 400 ml (1 2/3 cup) milk
- 2 eggs
- 120 grams flour (generous 3/4 cup)
- 120 grams buckwheat flour (generous 3/4 cup)
- pinch of salt
- butter for frying the pancakes
For the white sauce
- 40 grams (3 Tbsp) butter
- 40 grams (4 Tbsp) flour
- 400 ml (1 2/3 cup) milk
- 250 grams (.55 lb) Casera cheese, crust removed and diced
- freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 100 grams (about 1 stick) butter + more for greasing the oven dish
- 8 fresh sage leaves
Put 400 ml milk and 2 eggs in a large bowl.
Whisk to mix.
Add 120 grams of sifted flour, 120 grams of sifted buckwheat flour, and a pinch of salt.
Mix with a wooden spoon until there are no more lumps.
This is one of rare exceptions when a non-stick frying pan works best. Preheat the pan over medium heat to avoid ruining the first pancake. Melt about 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
Increase the heat to medium-high. Tilt the pan until it is completely coated with butter. Add 1/4 of the batter and tilt the pan to distribute it evenly.
When the top of the pancake looks dry, check underneath with a spatula. When it is golden brown, flip the pancake. The process is exactly the same as for Dutch pancakes, so more photos and a more detailed explanation here.
Do not put the pancakes on a stack, because you want them to cool off. Repeat until you have 4 pancakes.
Make a basic white sauce with 400 ml milk, 40 grams butter, and 40 grams flour, using my instructions. Making white sauce is very quick and easy if you do it my way.
Lower the heat. Season the white sauce to taste with freshly grated nutmeg, freshly ground black pepper, and salt.
Add 250 grams of diced Casera cheese.
Stir over low heat until the cheese has melted completely, then turn off the heat and allow to cool somewhat.
Spread out the cheese sauce on the pancakes, leaving the outer rim bare.
Roll up the pancakes, wrap them in cling film, and refrigerate them to firm up. They can be prepared up until this point and stored in the refrigerator.
To serve the manfrigole, preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease an oven dish with butter. Slice the manfrigole into sections of about 5 cm (2 inches) and place them in the oven dish.
Bake the manfrigole in the oven at 180C/350F until golden brown and heated through, 20 to 25 minutes.
Melt 100 grams of butter in a saucepan. Add 8 fresh sage leaves, and cook them over low heat until the sage is crispy and the butter is slightly browned, then turn off the heat.
To serve, drizzle the manfrigole with the melted butter, and garnish with the sage.