Every time we celebrate a birthday or a holiday, or simply gather the family around a table for the pleasure of spending time together, eating good food, my mum and my grandma make a sformato, a flan.
Every season has its preferred vegetable: spinach, green beans, cardoons, or artichokes. The vegetables are typically cooked and pureed, then mixed with bechamel sauce, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and an egg to keep everything together. Once you have scraped the sformato into a baking pan, you sprinkle the surface with breadcrumbs and dot it with butter, then you bake it until firm. It’s a comforting side dish, but on an average weekday, it can double as a main course, with a green salad as a side.
This sformato di carciofi is made with cooked and puréed artichokes and ricotta, instead of bechamel, but it remains just as soft and rich. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top during the last minutes of baking for an elegant touch of crunchiness.
- 10 artichokes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 1/4 cup fresh ricotta
- 1 cup grated pecorino romano
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- Butter, to grease the baking dish
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Clean the artichokes, removing the tougher outer layers and stems (set aside). Quarter the artichoke hearts, scoop out the chokes if needed, and place the quarters in a pot. Peel the stems, cut them into small pieces, and add them to the pot. Cover the artichokes with water and add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, the garlic, and 2 teaspoons salt.
Cook the artichokes over medium heat, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until they are so soft that they can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
Drain the artichokes and purée them with an immersion blender, then transfer the artichoke purée to a bowl. Add the ricotta, the grated pecorino Romano, and the beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Preheat oven to 390 degrees F.
Grease an 8-inch round baking dish and dust with breadcrumbs. Scrape the artichoke and ricotta purée into the dish, dust with remaining breadcrumbs, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake for about 50 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the surface with sliced almonds, then bake until the flan is golden brown.
Let it rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. It keeps well for a day in the fridge; you’ll just need to reheat it before serving it. It can also be frozen.