I love a savory soufflé, but I really hate whipping egg whites. Don’t get me wrong, I love what the ever-versatile egg white can accomplish once whipped, but it’s such a drag (even with a machine), that I often avoid the fluffy food altogether. The sformati is a boon for us lazy soufflé lovers. This tender, airy, and luxurious Italian dish checks all the boxes, no whipping required.
What is sformati?
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Sformati (the plural form of “sformato”) translates to English as “flan” but I wouldn’t call it a direct culinary translation. Sformati certainly require eggs, but unlike dense, milky flan, sformati have a little more lift to them, with a bubbly, soft, egg curd texture. Although “sformato/i” can cover a range of preparations—sometimes the whites are separated, whipped, and folded into the mixture—you’ll just as often find it prepared simply, as described below.
Sformati are made from a base of eggs and cheese, and many recipes will incorporate a roux, including this one. You could leave it plain, or add a vegetable to the mix for color, flavor, and texture. Blitz it all in a food processor to make a luxuriously thick mixture, and bake it in a water bath until it’s puffed and set. I made this recipe with a ton of spinach, and in the wise words of my Italian-American boyfriend, it was “very fancy.”
How to make spinach sformati
1. Prepare your ramekins
Sformati are baked in a water bath to gently heat the eggs, so use a casserole dish that’s large enough to hold six or seven six-ounce ramekins. (I couldn’t find my sixth white ramekin, so Little Red gets a shot today.) Use a pastry brush to grease the ramekins with melted butter. Pour a tablespoon of grated parmesan into one of the ramekins. Rotate and shake it so the cheese clings to the butter, and lightly lines the dish. Pour any excess cheese into the next ramekin and repeat the process to line it. This will help the sformati release from the ramekins easier after baking.
2. Prepare the spinach
Blending spinach into the sformati base is a common practice, and an easy way to add flavor, and some nutrients. You can blanch fresh spinach, but I thawed frozen cut-leaf spinach in the microwave instead. Whichever way you do it, squeeze the water out of your spinach and add it to a food processor.
3. Make a roux
In a medium pot, make a simple roux. Whisk melted butter with flour in the pot for about two minutes over medium-low heat, until it smells like toasted butter. Add hot milk to the pot in four or five installments, whisking the mixture smooth every time. Turn off the heat, and add salt and a dash of nutmeg.
4. Blend it all
Add the roux to the spinach in the food processor and blend it on high speed for about a minute. The spinach should break down into very small pieces, and the whole mixture should be a lovely green. Add the eggs and cheese and blend again until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.
5. Bake the sformati
Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins (which are sitting in the large casserole dish). Pour the mixture almost to the top—about a quarter-inch from the rim. The sformati will soufflé up, but they’ll also deflate slightly once they cool. Butter one side of a large piece of foil. This will go over the top and keep any ambitious sformati from sticking. Put the entire baking dish in the oven, and fill the outer casserole dish with an inch of hot water. This is a great time for a kettle with a long spout. Cover the entire dish with the foil, butter-side down. The foil will protect the tops from overcooking, and also trap some steam in the dish to help the sformati cook.
Cook the spinach sformati for 30 to 35 minutes at 325°F, but check on them after 25 minutes, lifting the foil to see if they’ve puffed. They’re done when they’ve puffed and the top looks dry. Remove the ramekins from the hot water and let them cool for five minutes before loosening up the sides, and flipping the eggy morsels out onto a plate. Top them with grated parmesan and enjoy while warm.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup tablespoons flour
- 2 cups of milk (or alternative milk), warmed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dash of nutmeg
- 4 cups of frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed and drained
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- Butter for ramekins
- Grated parmesan for ramekins
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter one side of a large sheet of foil. (Big enough to cover a large casserole dish.) Lightly butter six 6-ounce ramekins, and shake a spoonful of parmesan around the bottoms and the sides of each dish. Remove any excess cheese that isn’t stuck to the butter. Place the ramekins in a large casserole dish. Heat 3 or 4 cups of water in a kettle.
Make the roux in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk them together for about two minutes, or until it smells toasted. Whisk in the warm milk in four or five installments, making sure to whisk until the mixture is smooth every time. Turn off the heat and whisk in the salt and nutmeg.
Add the spinach and roux to the food processor. Blend on high speed for one minute, or until the spinach is well blended into small bits. Add the eggs, yolk, and parmesan to the processor and blend for another 30 seconds.
Fill each ramekin with the mixture about a 1/4-inch from the rim. Place the entire casserole dish in the oven. Pour about an inch of hot water into the outer casserole dish and cover the whole thing in foil, butter-side down. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sformati are puffed and the tops are dry.