A sformato is similar to a soufflé, but is not as airy, with no risk that it will deflate. Antionio Piccinardi says, in his Dizionario della Gastronomia Italiana, that the word sformato derives from sformare, which means to unmold. The batter (for want of a better term) used to make a sformato almost always contains beaten eggs (you occasionally see white sauce instead), though what else goes into the preparation is up to the cook.
- Savory sformati can be made with vegetables, at which point they generally serve as side dishes or light entrees. Or, they can be made with pasta, potatoes or rice, at which point they're generally set in ring molds and used to accompany stews, which go into the well.
- Sformati can also be sweet. In almost all cases they're served with sauces of one sort or another.
A simple concept, in short, but one that offers a great deal of room for experimentation and variation. A few observations:
- Though you can put a sformato into the oven to set, the traditional method is a bagno Maria, i.e. over a double boiler, or with the mold immersed in water, because you don't want the mixture to stiffen or form a hard crust.
- The Italians have adopted the French term Flan to mean sformato, though in France a flan also has a crust.
- In terms of texture, a sformato is not as airy as a soufflé. Because of this, you need not worry about its collapsing.
How to Make a Sformato
You can see how to make Alessio Pesucci's spinach sformato, step by step. This Italian chef shows how to make individual cupcake-sized sformato, but you could also bake them in a ring mold for a larger sformato to serve at a meal.
From Pellegrino Artusi's La Scienza In Cucina e L'Arte di Mangiar Bene, the chef uses porcini mushrooms, chopped and sauteed with butter and simmered with meat sauce.
Then they are blended with béchamel sauce, beaten egg, and grated Parmigiano, and steamed in a double boiler until the mixture sets.
Sfomato Recipes to Explore
Sformato di Baccalà alla Certosina: This is an elegant ring of mashed potatoes filled with baccalà and mushrooms for a salt cod flan.
Sformato di Patate al Ragu: A Sicilian classic from Anna Tasca Lanza. It's a potato, meat, and peas sformato that is normally eaten hot but also tastes great cold.
Asparagus Sformato with Fondata: Chef Mario Batali uses pureed asparagus, parmesan, eggs and Bechamel to make this sformato in a bundt pan. Then he tops it with a fontina and cream fondata.
Sformato di Nocciole e Zucchine: Hazelnut And Courgette Loaf, from Tonino, a retired Calabrian chef who now lives in England. It's one way to use up some of your excess zucchini when it's in season.
Chocolate Sformato with Amaretto Whipped Cream: Chef Giada De Laurentiis brings you this recipe for an easy dessert that won't risk the disaster of a fallen chocolate souffle. It's baked as a casserole and then served in individual bowls topped with the whipped cream.