Green broccoli sformato flan with parmesan cream sauce

Hello my friends,

what a fabulous time to cook this is, don’t you think? Ingredients are fabulous, days are short, and there is no better comfort than cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I spend every free moment cooking and fantasizing about menus for the holidays. Also, I’m very much looking forward to the lovely friend and family who will come to visit in the next few weeks.

Beautiful broccoli at my neighborhood market in Rome


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In preparation for the holidays, I want to welcome you into the world of the “sformato” and the “sformatini”, a much beloved vegetable dish that appears in restaurant as well as family meal menus throughout the year but especially for a party.

A sformato is an Italian savory flan, somewhat firmer than a souffle and softer than a frittata. Sformato is often made with puréed vegetables mixed with béchamel and eggs, but I prefer to use ricotta instead of béchamel. It’s lighter and even simpler and faster to prepare.

A sformato made in an individual mold or ramekin is named “sformatino” or” tortino” (pl. sformatini or tortini) and it’s often served with a cheese sauce, for example “crema di Parmigiano” or “crema di Pecorino”. This is a heavenly combination and, if well executed, results in a really elegant appetizer or a light vegetarian main to combine with a substantial salad or just a slice of crusty bread.

N.B. This recipe contains anchovy, but you can easily make it vegetarian using smoked cheese or a teaspoon of very finely chopped sun-dried tomato in olive oil. If you are not vegetarian but don’t eat fish, you could use a teaspoon of very finely chopped prosciutto. If you have no restrictions, I highly recommend using the anchovy even if you are not familiar with it. It’s a tiny amount but that little extra umami really makes the dish.


For the flan:

  • 400 g broccoli (about 1 lb)
  • 1 finely minced clove of garlic
  • 120 g (4 oz) fresh ricotta
  • 4 tablespoon grated Parmigiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • a sprinkle black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 6 tablespoon milk


For the Parmesan cream sauce:

  • 90 grated Parmigiano Reggiano o Grana Padano
  • 250 ml (1 cup) full fat milk
  • 30 g (1 oz) butter
  • 30 g (1 oz) corn starch

To finish:

  • 3 anchovy fillets (if vegetarian, see note above)
  • 6 cubes of semi-soft mild cheese like mozzarella, young Asiago or Taleggio, with 2 cm (2/3 inch) sides
  • 1 zucchini


  • food processor
  • microwave
  • parchment paper

To make the sformatini:

1. Prepare the broccoli

Clean the broccoli, cut into florets and peel the thickest part of the stem, then dice. Blanch in boiling hot water for 5–6 minutes, until fork tender but not overcooked. Drain and cool immediately in cold water. The broccoli must be tender enough to blend to a smooth mixture while still retaining a lovely green color.

Using a shallow large pan, heat the garlic until lightly sizzling, then stir-in the cooked broccoli and simmer for 5 min, stirring occasionally to absorb the garlicky flavor. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

broccoli saute with garlic

Cool to room temperature or refrigerate in a covered container if using later. The broccoli can be prepared up to one day ahead.

2. Blend the sformato ingredients

Transfer the broccoli into a food processor, add the ricotta cheese, egg, cornstarch, grated Parmigiano, salt and blend until smooth. Add the milk, 2 tablespoons at the time, to soften the mixture. Blend again to achieve a pudding-like consistency.

3. Assemble the sformatini

Mise en place

Using a cheese or potato peeler, slice the zucchini into 6 long, paper-thin strips.

Cut 6 pieces of parchment paper into squares which must big large enough to cover the top and side ramekins, with about 15 cm (5 inches) sides. Press the parchment paper squares on one of the ramekins to shape them like a capsule, which will be used to cover the sformato while cooking.

Oil six 3/4 cup (140-150 ml) ramekins. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil on both sides and use them to line the ramekins.

Spoon half mixture into the molds, press the soft cheese in the middle and top with 1/3 anchovy fillet.

Spoon the rest of the broccoli mixture into the ramekins, level it and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

4. Cook the sformatini

Cover with the parchment paper “capsules” and microwave 3 ramekins at the time at 450W for 6 minutes.

You can serve the sformatini with no sauce, just drizzled with olive oil or unmold them directly atop the sauce, see below.

If you don’t have a microwave, place the sformatini in an ovenproof pan, fill with boiling water until half the sides of the ramekins and bake in a preheated oven at 180 °C (350 °F) for 15 min or until set but still soft. If using the oven, cover the sformatini tightly with aluminum foil.

To make the Parmesan cream:

The easiest way to make a Parmesan cream, or crema di Parmigiano, is to prepare a slightly liquid béchamel and add a generous amount of Parmigiano in it.

I make the white sauce very quickly and efficiently in the microwave using glass measuring jugs.

1. Heat the milk until near boiling point, about 2 min. In a different jug, melt the butter then whisk in the corn starch to create a roux. While whisking add the hot milk, first one tablespoon at the time until smooth and then all the rest.

2. Transfer the mixture to the microwave and heat for one minute. Quickly stir, then microwave for one more minute, or until the mixture is almost at boiling point. Whisk again. At this point, the sauce should be thick and smooth.

3. Add the grated cheese. Note that Parmigiano melts beautifully at 80°C (175 °F) and becomes stringy at higher temperatures. For this reason, allow the sauce to cool until quite warm but not boiling hot, then add the Parmigiano and whisk again to incorporate.

To assemble the dish:

Allow the sformato to cool just enough to handle. Meanwhile, distribute the Parmesan cream in the center of 6 dishes, invert the ramekins in the center of each plate to unmold. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.





  1. This looks spectacular! Next market is this Friday.
    My preferred place to purchase veggies, cheese and flours.

    I will post photos!

    PS my sourdough starter is beginning to develop that beautiful sourdough taste. I have made two loaves.

  2. This sounds and looks lovely. I’ll add broccoli and anchovies to my shopping list!

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