I’ve been intrigued by sformato ever since I first tasted a baked ricotta version sprinkled with sweet cherry tomatoes and fresh thyme one summer in Italy. Despite it’s elegant name which sounds like you are preparing something exceedingly complicated and elaborate, it is really a very simple dish to prepare...plus it’s a fun word to say.
A sformato is kind of like a soufflé-like pudding or flan, lightened by egg whites, and often savory. It is incredibly versatile and can be made from any sort of cooked and pureed vegetables, or even cheese such as ricotta, or pasta or rice.
Here, I’ve come up with a sweet-savory version of this Italian specialty that is rich with crème fraiche, and fragranced by fresh sage. I encourage you to make the crunchy, shaved salad that accompanies this sformato as it provides a gorgeous balance of texture and fresh flavor. If you have a mandoline, that’s the best tool to use to get paper-thin slices.
Recipe: Butternut Sformato with Crunchy Winter Salad
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
- 2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups butternut squash puree (see recipe below)
- 1 cup crème fraîche
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 medium heat fennel, trimmed, quartered, and cored (reserve fronds for garnish)
- 1–2 heads endive
- 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a 2-quart shallow baking dish with the butter, then sprinkle with the Parmesan.
- To make the butternut puree: Peel, dice and roast 1-2 butternut squash until tender. Manually mash or blend the squash in a food processor to create a smooth consistency.
- In a bowl, whisk together the butternut puree, crème fraiche, and egg yolks. Mix in the chopped sage and season with salt and pepper.
- In another clean bowl using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, 1/4 tsp salt, and cream of tartar. Beat until stiff peaks form, but do not overbeat.
- Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the butternut mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the mixture. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish.
- Bake until puffed and golden brown and cooked through, about 25 minutes.
- While the sformato bakes, make the salad. Shave the fennel and endive very thin on a mandolin (or with a sharp knife). Toss together with some of the fronds. Drizzle with the vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve at once with the salad alongside.