Whether made with spinach, green beans, or artichokes, a flan is always a staple on our Christmas table. The most traditional and loved is sformato di spinaci, a spinach flan made with pureed spinach and bechamel sauce, which would suit equally well a whole roasted salmon, stuffed roast chicken, or stuffed pork loin. It is soft, rich, and festive, as expected from a Christmas side dish.
Serves 8 as a side
- 3 1/3 pounds fresh spinach
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cup whole milk
- Grated nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Butter and breadcrumbs for the ramekins
Rinse the spinach and blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, until soft. Drain and squeeze well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare the bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan: Add the flour and whisk to toast it. When the flour gets brownish, with a delicious nutty smell, pour in the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps.
When the bechamel sauce has thickened, after about 5 minutes, season with salt and add a generous pinch of grated nutmeg.
In a blender or food processor, blend the spinach, then transfer into a large bowl. Add the bechamel sauce, 2 beaten eggs, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and an extra-good pinch each of grated nutmeg and salt, if needed, and mix well.
Butter 8 round ramekins and dust them with breadcrumbs. Distribute the spinach mixture among the ramekins and sprinkle the surfaces with breadcrumbs, then scatter a few knobs of butter on top.
Bake the flan in the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan-born and -bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” Find her online at her blog, JulsKitchen.com