How to Make a Savory Italian-Style Spinach Flan (Sformato)

Ring-Shaped Spinach Sformato, with a Stew in the Center
Ring-Shaped Spinach Sformato, with a Stew in the Center. Kyle Phillips
  • 01 of 09

    What is a "Sformato"?

    Making a Spinach Sformato: The Spinach
    Making a Spinach Sformato: The Spinach. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    A sformato is similar to a savory flan or a firmer, less-airy and less-fussy soufflé. It's an elegant dish often found on upscale Italian restaurant menus. Alessio Pesucci, chef at the Locanda Del Gallo in Tuscany, demonstrated how to make them.

    "I'm really illustrating a procedure, more than a recipe," he said, noting that while he used spinach, he could just as easily have used the same volume of cooked cauliflower, broccoli, wild mushrooms (porcini are heavenly), or even rice,...MORE and that while ricotta is a requirement, he could easily have used a different cheese instead of Parmigiano, for example, Fontina, Pecorino Romano, or even mild Gorgonzola. What's important is that the flavors of the various ingredients go together.

    The other thing to note is that while Alessio made individual sformati about the size of a muffin, one could also make a single larger sformato, or even pour the sformato batter into a ring mold, at which point one will obtain a ring-shaped sformato that's a beautiful (and elegant) container for another dish, such as a stew. Sformato di riso, rice sformato, is especially well-suited for this role.

    [Edited by Danette St. Onge]

    Continue to 2 of 9 below.
  • 02 of 09

    The Molds, Buttered and Breadcrumbed

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Breadcrumb The Molds
    Making a Spinach Sformato: Breadcrumb The Molds. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    To make 10 muffin-sized sformati, or fill a 10-inch (25 cm) ring mold, you'll need:

    • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) fresh spinach
    • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) ricotta, well drained
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • A healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • The molds
    • 1/4 cup butter with which to butter the molds
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs with which to coat the buttered molds

    Begin by washing the spinach well. Put it in a pot with just the water that is on the leaves, a pinch of...MORE salt, and cook it until it is wilted, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook it, or it will begin to fall apart, and this is detrimental to the texture of the sformato. When it is done, let it cool in a strainer so excess water can drain.

    Continue to 3 of 9 below.
  • 03 of 09

    Start Mixing the Ingredients

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Combine Spinach and Ricotta
    Making a Spinach Sformato: Combine Spinach and Ricotta. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    Coarsely chop the spinach and put it in a large bowl. Add the ricotta.

    Continue to 4 of 9 below.
  • 04 of 09

    Grate the Nutmeg

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Add A Little Nutmeg
    Making a Spinach Sformato: Add A Little Nutmeg. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com
    Sprinkle the Parmigiano over the spinach, and then add a healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg -- it's worth the effort and expense of finding whole nutmegs and grating them, because ground nutmeg of the sort that's sold in a jar fades quickly. Mix well, and check seasoning.
    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Add the Eggs

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Add Eggs
    Making a Spinach Sformato: Add Eggs. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    Add the eggs and mix well.

    Continue to 6 of 9 below.
  • 06 of 09

    The Mixture is Ready

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Mix Well
    Making a Spinach Sformato: Mix Well. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    At this point the mixture is ready. Refrigerate the mixture, covered, 15-20 minutes for muffin-sized sformati, and 40-45 for a single larger sformato. Since sformati are at their best when they're hot, and don't reheat well, don't cook them until just before serving time.

    When ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C).

    Continue to 7 of 9 below.
  • 07 of 09

    Fill the Molds

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Fill Molds
    Making a Spinach Sformato: Fill Molds. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    Butter the molds and coat their interiors with breadcrumbs, holding them upside down and tapping them to eliminate excess crumbs. Fill the molds with the batter; after filling each one rap the bottom firmly on your work surface to dislodge air bubbles. Continue until all the molds are filled.

    Continue to 8 of 9 below.
  • 08 of 09

    Bake

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Baked!
    Making a Spinach Sformato: Baked!. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    Bake smaller sformati for 15-20 minutes. A larger sformato will require longer, 40-45 minutes.

    When they are done, they will be firm, slightly risen, and begin to pull away from the sides of the molds.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Unmold and Serve

    Making A Spinach Sformato: Enjoy!
    Making A Spinach Sformato: Enjoy!. © Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com

    To unmold a small sformato, turn the sformato upside down and tap the mold sharply against the surface of the serving plate. It will come free.

    To unmold a larger sformato, cover the mold with a plate and invert the two. Then tap the mold with a fork to dislodge the sformato.