This grilled vegetable sformato is satisfying enough to be the main course. (Honest, meat eaters.) Stuffed inside the eggplant-wrapper are peppers, tomatoes, cheeses, and pasta.
This layered grilled vegetable sformato is pretty and filling enough to be a centerpiece main dish. It can be made a day ahead and reheated, or made a few weeks ahead and frozen, then thawed overnight in the refrigerator before reheating in the oven at 350°F (175°C).–Robin Asbell
Grilled Vegetable Sformato
- 3 large yellow bell peppers or jarred roasted yellow peppers
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 large eggplants thinly sliced lengthwise
- 4 large eggs lightly beaten
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 6 ounces Romano cheese shredded
- 4 ounces Fontina cheese shredded
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups basil leaves washed and dried
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/2 cup pistachios shelled
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes rehydrated
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat penne cooked
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- Basil leaves
- Preheat the broiler or barbecue grill and roast the bell peppers until skins are blackened. Place them in a small airtight container and close tightly to steam for 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel, dice, and drain the peppers in a mesh colander, pressing out excess moisture. (If using jarred peppers, drain, rinse, and chop them.)
- Brush an 11-inch springform pan with some of the olive oil, which will act as the form for the sformato, then set aside. Heat a grill pan or use the grill. Brush the eggplant with olive oil. Grill the slices until tender and decorated with black grill marks (running lengthwise), 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Put a small slice in the center of the springform pan. Lay slices in a fan or flower design covering the bottom and sides and leaving an inch or so hanging over the edges to wrap around the top of the filled pan.
- In a large bowl, mix ricotta, eggs, cheeses, salt, and pepper. Remove half of the mixture to another bowl. Use a food processor to finely grind the basil, garlic, and pistachios, then mix it with half of the cheese mixture. Dice the tomatoes and add it to the other half of the cheese mixture, then mix in the cayenne. Divide the cooked pasta between the 2 bowls and fold the contents of each bowl together gently.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Into the eggplant-lined pan, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs and distribute the pasta and tomato mixture. Level the surface and top with yellow bell peppers and another 2 tablespoons crumbs. Top with remaining pasta mixture, level, and cover with the remaining crumbs. Fold the overhanging eggplant back onto the top of the peppers.
- Bake the sformato for 50 to 60 minutes and let stand for 20 minutes before serving to firm up. Run a sharp knife around edge of pan. Invert the pan onto a serving plate and release springform, carefully removing bottom. Garnish the sformato with the basil and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a recipe that’s an unusual departure for me. It’s far more time-consuming and more complicated, with a lot of steps along the way, than much of what I choose to make — and absolutely worth it for the results!
To describe this merely as pretty and filling enough to be a main course is a serious understatement: stunning is a much more apt and appropriate description! I had so much faith in this recipe that I made a double batch right from the get-go, figuring that if I was going to all this trouble, I’d best make it worth my while. And it was well worth every minute I put into it! In fact, I put some extra minutes in because I started off by making my own ricotta for the fillings. Though time-consuming, with many steps, the end result, impressive to all (myself included!), was superior. And though I can’t say I will make it regularly, I will keep it top of mind for special occasions, especially as a vegetarian main course option.
It is richly satisfying and no one will miss meat with this entrée; it’s a vegetarian dish that will happily satisfy vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Because I made two, we did have some leftovers, and enjoyed them both at room temperature and reheated. As Bell notes, it can be frozen, then thawed and reheated, so this would be another option for creating a super-impressive and show-stopping entrée without a lot of time-consuming last-minute preparation.
Though it has many of the same ingredients as other vegetarian stand-bys of the Italian variety, the presentation is not predictable. There are flavors here that are not included in standard lasagnas or eggplant parmesans, such as the pistachios and sun-dried tomatoes in the two fillings, and it is beautiful both as a whole and when cut into individual servings. It presents exceptionally well and impressively on the table and on the plate. It held up well as leftovers and sliced perfectly, both when just made and after sitting for a while. If you feel like making something truly lovely and special, this is an excellent option! Note that I chose the homemade approach wherever possible in this recipe, as I felt the recipe deserved top-notch attention to detail: I roasted the yellow peppers on my grill pan, made my ricotta from scratch, used basil and garlic from our garden, and prepared the breadcrumbs from some stale bread we had at home. In addition to working well as an entrée, this could be served as a substantial appetizer course, either alone or aside a nice green salad or some colorful roasted peppers.
Originally published November 11, 2009