The first time I tasted a sformata we were in a trattoria in Acqui Terme in Piemonte. I ordered it not knowing exactly what it was and was pleasantly surprised when I was served a light and creamy vegetable custard. After returning home I searched for recipes and made one with spinach. That was quite some time ago and I then I apparently just forgot about them.
I’ve been reading a lot of cookbooks in my abundant spare time and saw this recipe in Katie Parla’s book Tasting Rome. The beauty of a sformata is that it’s texture is similar to a souffle, but without all the work and the worry.
Are you familiar with romanesco? It’s sort of a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. I’ve never seen it in the grocery store and only one farmer at the market had exactly one romanesco which I quickly grabbed!
Sformatini di Broccolo Romanesco (adapted from Tasting Rome)
1 pound Romanesco cauliflower (may substitute green cauliflower)
Vegetable oil, for the ramekins
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
Core and trim the romanesco and separate it into florets; you should have about 5 cups. Steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Cool, then coarsely chop (to yield about 3 cups).
Preheat the oven to 320 degrees. Use the vegetable oil to grease the insides of the ramekins. Line a roasting pan with a folded dish towel and arrange the ramekins on top of the towel.
Bring a large kettle of water to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion; cook for about 8 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked romanesco and wine; cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender (with the center knob of its lid removed, so steam can escape). Puree until very smooth, for several minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl or blender jar.
Whisk together the eggs and cream in a large bowl and stir in the pecorino Romano, then pour in the blended romanesco mixture, stirring to incorporate. Divide the custard mixture among the ramekins, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space.
Pull the middle oven rack forward just enough to slide the roasting pan onto it, then carefully fill the pan with the just-boiled water so it comes no more than halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the custards are a bit jiggly in the center and a knife inserted into the center of them comes out clean.
Carefully transfer the roasting pan to the stove top (off the heat). Let it sit for 10 minutes, then use coated tongs to transfer the ramekins to a cutting board to cool further.
To serve (warm or at room temperature), invert and gently unmold each sformatino.