I think my New Year's resolution will be to make every Sformato recipe I can find. This recipe came via Deborah Mele who was trying to recreate the ricotta sformato she had at Il Cibreo in Florence. It's a warm, pliable, gentle mass of cheese. I decided it's perfect as an appetizer, as a savory dessert, a light meal with a salad and I may have it for breakfast tomorrow. Cheese and an egg? Sounds like breakfast to me.
Il Cibreo (or rather it's lower-priced trattoria - which is not low-priced, mind you - just lower-priced!) was on my radar thanks to research, Bon Appetit, guidebooks and Ciao Chow Linda. I know that Paul and I blow in the wind when it comes to our meals - so if it worked out - we would go there. And if we were elsewhere and hungry - we would miss it. As it turns out, it was a mere three blocks from our pensione. And when we walked there expecting a wait, we were immediately shown to the last table - and then the line formed outside. Serendipity. We had climbed the Duomo, climbed the Piazalle Michelangelo and were ready to eat. A sampling:
Tomato gelee. That is in my past and my future. When the tomatoes return.
"You will not soon forget their polenta," wrote Ciao Chow Linda when she recommended the trattoria. And I haven't. I am consumed by it. And if I could go back in time, this is the baby food I would feed my children. Enriched cream puddles - I have never had a softer or purer polenta.
"It's all pureed!" exclaimed my husband and indeed a lot of it is - or rather most of it is molecular gastronomy. Herbs, cheeses, unbearable softness whipped into a sweet purity with nuance that I will always try to create.There is a tale that a mother came in with her infant and while dining tried to feed her infant some baby food and the baby would have none of it. Chef Fabio Picchi (the chef behind Il Cibreo and its offsprings) added some just-grated Parmesan and a dab of olive oil and the infant lapped up the food with gusto!
Veal "meatloaf" studded with pistachios and served with a warming mayonnaise. It really wasn't a meatloaf - it was a sumptuous pate.
Much has been said about the fact that Chef Fabio Picchi doesn't serve pasta. As if it was a badge of honor - but the reality is - the kitchen was too small. When he first started out 30 years ago, his kitchen was not large enough to accommodate huge vats of boiling water - not with all the Tuscan cuisine he wanted to create. So he put pasta on the back-burner and found that he was gaining a reputation for not having pasta. He decided not to mess with fate and has kept pasta off the menu ever since. Pasta is not on the menu - but Tuscany is.
Chocolate covered coffee mousse. Simple. Pure. Decadence.
Now to return to the Ricotta Sformato. I do get to things in my circular fashion. I did mine in ramekins and halved the recipe because there are presently two of us at home (Paul is in Italy) and I would be in great danger of eating all the extra. The recipe posted serves 6.
Ricotta Sformato Ingredients
1-1/2 cups ricotta cheese (do not use low-fat)
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan Cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced basil (I used arugula - it was fresher than the overgrown basil I saw)
salt and pepper to taste
To serve: Tomato sauce and basil or butter and parmigiano-reggiano
I am thinking that next time - and there will be a next time - possibly on Thanksgiving - I will add some mascarpone to make it even richer.
Ricotta Sformato Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat all ingredients in a large bowl until creamy. Put in oiled baking pan (a loaf pan is good) or in 4-6 ramekins and bake 25-30 minutes. (The ramekins will take about 22-25 minutes). Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes. It's important that they "set."
Invert ramekins or baking pan onto baking sheet. If using a loaf pan, slice into six pieces. Put a dollop of melted butter and some freshly-grated Parmesan on top and broil for 2-3 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Or simply place on dishes and add a few teaspoons of tomato sauce and basil and serve.