I first tasted a sformato a few years back when we stayed in Acqui Terme at the charming Baur B & B. We dined in town one evening at a lovely restaurant recommended by Diana, the innkeeper. The menu was in Italian and although I understood most of it, I had no idea what to make of one of the starters-sformato. When the owner came over to take our order and explained to me that it included cheese, eggs and a puree of a vegetable, I knew I was in. It was luscious without being heavy and not eggy at all.
On my recent trip in Italy I was happy to find sformato on various menus. The first one that I ordered was at Osteria Miranda and it was made with artichokes and set on top of a creamy sauce. The next one was at dinner one evening and was made with pecorino cheese and served on a pear sauce. My next taste was in Bologna and was a puree of zucchini and eggplant atop a besciamella sauce. The final sformato, also served at a Bologna osteria, was larger than the others and I’m not sure what was in it, but it was scrumptious and I ate every single bite and then hardly had room for my pasta dish.
Upon returning home I made my own version from a book on the cooking of Piemonte-Cucina Piemontese. I had just purchased fresh spinach and that’s what I used. I should have taken the photo after I unmolded them, but you can get the idea from my photo. They are more like savory flans, rather than souffles. At any rate, I adore them and am ready to try my hand at them again soon.
Sformato di Spinaci
2 pounds fresh spinach or 1-10oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease six 4 ounce ramekins and fill a pan large enough to hold them with 3/4″ of water for a bain-marie.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt. Boil the spinach for 1 minute, drain and chop. Melt the butter over medium heat and saute the spinach for 2 minutes.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, cheese, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cooked spinach.
Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins, making sure that they are only about 3/4 full. Place the filled ramekins in the bain-marie and carefully place into the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool briefly. Run a knife around the edges of the ramekins and unmold onto plates. This would be great served with a little tomato sauce on the plate. For a richer version serve with a besciamella sauce.