When I saw this recipe in La Cucina Italiana, I was intrigued because a sformata was something new and different to me. It’s a baked, savory custard, but it’s not terribly rich. It’s mostly pureed, cooked cauliflower with bechamel sauce and parmigiano cheese. In the magazine, the sformato was baked in a pretty, wide tube pan the likes of which I do not own, so I used a bundt pan. Really, it could have been baked in any sort of pan, and it wasn’t entirely necessary that it be unmolded, but I was hoping for a nice view of the browned outer surface. The browning was due to a coating of breadcrumbs that was sprinkled onto a thick layer of butter in the pan before pouring in the custard. Considering that I was so eager to see this well-browned surface, you would think that I would have let it set the appropriate amount of time before trying to remove it from the pan. No, I rushed it out of hunger, and my sformata was a little wobbly because of it. As it sat, it firmed up, and next time I’ll have more patience, but the good news is that it very easily plopped right out of the pan. Presentation aside, the reason I’m going on so much about this dish is because the taste was fantastic. The creamy texture of the custard with the parmigiano flavor running throughout was delicious with a bit of crunch from the breadcrumbs.
To begin, a head of cauliflower was quartered and cooked, covered, in a pan with an inch of water for about 20 minutes. It was drained, and each quarter was placed in a towel, and the towel was twisted to remove excess water. The dried cauliflower was pureed in a food processor. A simple bechamel sauce was made, and I melted the parmigiano into the sauce. The sauce was cooled a bit before being added to the cauliflower puree along with two eggs. Once the sauce, eggs, and cauliflower were combined, the resulting custard was poured into a generously buttered and breadcrumbed bundt pan, and it baked for 40 minutes. I should have let it rest for an additional 20 minutes, but I got antsy after about 10 minutes and turned it out onto a platter. The shape held up ok, but I realized that it firmed up a bit more after sitting another 10 minutes or so.
The texture was light and almost fluffy with a sliver of crust on the outside. The cauliflower was mild allowing the flavor of the parmigiano to take the lead. This keeper of a dish even held up well to re-heating the next day. I was delighted with the result, and it’s always fun when something looks far more complicated than it is.