1 large head of radicchio di Treviso, or 2 small heads, about 350g
a good splash of olive oil
2 teaspoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
sea salt
50g unsalted butter
250ml (1 cup) Béchamel sauce (see recipe)
8 savoury crêpes (see recipe)
150g creamy blue cheese
1 heaped tablespoon dry breadcrumbs
60g parmesan, grated
3 eggs
500ml (2 cups) milk
225g (1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
sea salt
15-25g unsalted butter
BÉCHAMEL SAUCE (BESCIAMELLA) makes about 550 ml (but you can halve the quantity)
500ml (2 cups) milk
60g unsalted butter
60g plain (all-purpose) flour
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
sea salt

My mother often made ‘cannelloni’ with crêpes rather than pasta. This dish was inspired by a recipe by Edda Vidiz and Cesare Fonda, who have written a number of books about traditional cooking in and around Trieste when it was ruled by the Hapsburgs. If you do not like the bitterness of radicchio, you can instead use a big bunch of English spinach, which you will need to blanch first; in this case, omit the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. But I urge you to try this radicchio version. It has a lovely, complex taste.

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2.Remove and discard the thick spines from the radicchio leaves. Cut the leaves into strips and wash them.
3.If they are particularly bitter or you do not enjoy too much bitterness, soak them in water for 15 minutes or more, tasting as you go, before draining them.
4.Place the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
5.Sauté the radicchio, in batches if needed, for a few minutes, or until starting to wilt.
6.Stir the vinegar through until the radicchio is well coated.
7.Toss in the sugar, stirring until it dissolves.
8.If there is a lot of liquid left in the pan, briefly turn up the heat so it evaporates.
9.Add salt to taste, then set aside to cool.
10.Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) fan-forced.
11.Use a small amount of the butter to grease the base of a baking dish that will fit all the crêpes rolled up; mine measured 24cm x 28cm.
12.Mix the béchamel through the cooled radicchio mixture.
13.Smear one-eighth of the mixture along one edge of a crêpe, then scatter with one-eighth of the blue cheese. Roll up and place in the baking dish.
14.Fill and roll all the remaining crêpes in the same way, placing them side by side in your baking dish quite snugly, but not squashed together.
15.Melt the remaining butter.
16.Evenly scatter the breadcrumbs over the crêpes, drizzle with the melted butter and, finally, scatter with the parmesan.
17.Bake for 10 minutes, or until warmed through, then use the oven grill setting to brown the cheese topping for a few minutes.
18.Serve warm, with a green side salad.
20.Whisk the eggs with the milk in a large jug and set aside.
21.Place the flour and a good pinch of salt in a large bowl.
22.Pour in about half the liquid, whisking as you go, then pour in the rest of the liquid and whisk until smooth.
23.Set aside for about 30 minutes in a cool spot.
24.Place a 21-23cm non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
25.Add 1 teaspoon of the butter and swirl it around the pan to melt.
26.Add a generous 60ml (¼ cup) of batter, swirling it quickly so it evenly coats the surface, with just a small space at the edge so you can lift it up when you need to flip it over.
27.It should take about 1 minute for the crêpe to turn golden and the edge to lift slightly.
28.Flip it over using a spatula or tongs and continue to cook for 30-40 seconds until cooked through.
29.Place on a warmed plate and repeat with the remaining batter, adding a bit more butter when needed.
30.The crêpes can easily be made 24 hours in advance and kept covered in the fridge.
31.To reheat, stack five crêpes on a plate, cover loosely with baking paper and microwave for about 1 minute, until warmed through.
33.Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium heat, to just below boiling point. Set aside.
34.Place the butter in a second saucepan – one that will eventually fit all the milk – over low heat.
35.Once the butter melts, take it off the heat and add the flour, whisking vigorously by hand to dissolve any lumps.
36.Return to the heat and cook for a few minutes, or until the mixture turns golden.
37.Slowly pour in the hot milk, whisking as you go, to ensure the flour and butter mixture blends evenly into the milk without it burning on the base of the pan.
38.Once all the milk has been added, exchange the whisk for a heatproof spoon and cook over low heat, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes, or until the béchamel thickens.
39.Remove from the heat. Add the nutmeg and a good pinch of salt, tasting to make sure it is salty enough. Set aside to cool.
40.Many recipes will tell you to cover the surface of the béchamel with plastic wrap so that the air does not form a crust on top. However, I no longer use plastic wrap in the kitchen, and I have found that stirring it occasionally as it cools and then storing it in the fridge in a sealed container works fine.
41.It lasts up to 3 days if stored correctly.

This is an edited
extract from Istria
by Paola Bacchia,
published by Smith
St Books, $65.
Photographs by
Paola Bacchia.