Sformato, the Italian word for a savory flan, can look a little hard to pronounce at first glance. Just think of the word “for” with a S in front – Sfor. Then attach “mato” and you have it! [sforˈmato]
My sister Michele and her boyfriend Jay visited Mark and me in Los Angeles last weekend as a stopover on their way to Maui. I wish we had had better weather for their visit, but I still enjoyed playing tour guide around this big, crazy city. We ate one night at Park’s BBQ (Korean) in LA’s Koreatown for terrific tabletop grilled meats and wide array of banchan (side dishes); checked out a cookbook store in LA’s dwindling Chinatown (Now Serving); had some top-notch Vietnamese Pho at Pho 87 and hit up the historic 3rd and Fairfax Farmers Market for groceries for a little reception we had for friends who know Michele. I also took our special guest to the top of the Culver City Stairs (Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook ) to see the view of the snow-covered mountains, after which, to warm us up on a cold and rainy LA day, we enjoyed delicious Japanese ramen.
It was a great visit; Michele and I cooked up a storm! We also celebrated our newly granted Italian citizenships. Obtaining Italian citizenship was a lot (A LOT) of work. It doesn’t have any practical value, but I feel a sense of closure with my four grandparents who came to America in the early 1900s. They left family behind, whose descendants I am grateful to be connected with today.
While Michele and I were together in person, we planned out some new exciting ideas for Our Italian Table. We also talked recipes, and while we were bouncing ideas around we thought of a new twist on this traditional dish. Michele had made something similar in the past, but we thought a refresh was in order.
Our love of deeply roasted cauliflower led us to this new version, and it was a great way to celebrate both Italian citizenship and cauliflower season! I served this sformata with a simple green salad and Nasturtium flowers, proud that all the greens, including the flowers, been harvested in our little urban garden. But this versatile and flavorful dish lends itself to a variety of presentations: as a separate course with salad, and appetizer, or a side to a main course. I added the ham and peas to give it some extra springtime flare. You could add different cooked greens or meats to this delicious preparation.
So here’s hoping that atmospheric rivers and bomb cyclones will abate in LA. I do have my tomatoes in the ground but they aren’t going to do a thing until we get that LA sunshine and warm weather back ☀️!Print
- 1 large cauliflower head, about 2 lbs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 tbsps unsalted butter
- 3 tbsps all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup defrosted and drained frozen sweet peas
- 3 oz cooked ham, diced or cubed
- Spray olive oil
- Plain breadcrumbs
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground pepper
Roast the cauliflower:
- Preheat oven to 400℉.
- Prepare the cauliflower by removing any remaining green leaves and cut the florets off the main stem. You can trim the main stem of any dried ends and roast that too.
- Cut the florets into roughly equal sizes, place in a bowl and liberally drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss well.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and distribute the prepared cauliflower evenly.
- Roast for 30 mins, toss once and roast for another 15 mins until nicely browned all over.
- Let cool then remove to a cutting board (in batches if needed) and finely chop. Remove to a large bowl.
Make the béchamel (besciamella) sauce:
- Using a microwave or a small sauce pan, heat the milk until very warm to the touch.
- Place a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk for a few minutes until it’s bubbling.
- Whisking while you go, slowly pour the milk in to the butter/flour mixture.
- Continuing over medium heat, whisk for 5-10 minutes until the milk thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Switch to a flat sided spatula to get the sauce out corners of the pan.
- The bescialella sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Let cool before using (so you don’t cook the eggs in this recipe).
Prepare and bake the sformato:
- Preheat oven the 325℉.
- Prepare a 9-inch springform pan for baking the sformato. Cut a pice of parchment paper to fit over the bottom. Spray the bottom and sides with spray olive oil. Add breadcrumbs to the pan and roll them around in the pan to coat the bottom and side.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them with a fork. Hold them for the last step before baking.
- To the bowl with the cauliflower, add the cheese, peas, ham and the besciamella. Stir the mixture to combine then taste and adjust salt and pepper. This is the last chance to season the sformato to your taste.
- Add the eggs and stir the mixture until evenly combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and tap gently on the side to smooth it out.
- Bake for 45 mins to 1 hour until there is no jiggle left in the center.
- Let cool to slightly warm and then place your serving dish over the springform pan containing the sformata, flip it so the sformata is centered on the serving dish, and remove the springform mold.
- Serve at room temperature with a side salad or any other pizzazz you want to add.