Spinach Tartlets (Sformatini di Spinaci)

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Since I made the sformatini before Conor arrived, only this photo of the finished dish is his

This is the second post in the series of recipes that I made for Conor’s visit. Are you curious what Conor has to say about his visit? Hop over to his blog to find out the connection between me and Hannibal Lecter…

It was easy to decide upon a secondo (main course) for the welcome dinner for Conor. Since I knew he’d like to try sous-vide and he likes beef, I decided on Wagyu Flank Steak, cooked 48 hours at 55C/131F, seared in clarified butter and served with a red wine and beef stock reduction and sautéed mushrooms. But what about a side? I had picked out a great 1997 Barolo Brunate from Enzo Boglietti, and thought that something with spinach from the region of the wine (i.e. Piemonte) would be appropriate. (Spinach does not only taste well with beef, a scientific study has shown that green vegetables with a lot of chlorofyl like spinach can neutralise the increased risk of colon cancer that is associated with the consumption of red meat without green vegetables.)

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A traditional flan di spinaci from Piemonte is made with bechamel sauce and would be a bit heavy, and this is what I came up with as a lighter version. Spinach can be a bit astringent, but these sformatini have a very well rounded deep spinach taste that paired wonderfully with both the wine and the beef. We all loved them and I will definitely make them again. Please give them a dry, you will be glad you did!

Ingredients

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For 4 servings (4 tartlets)

350 grams (.77 lbs) fresh spinach

2 eggs

25 grams (3 Tbsp) pine nuts

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1 clove garlic, halved

freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/2 tsp

60 grams (2 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

salt and freshly ground black pepper

butter (for sautéing the spinach and buttering the muffin pan)

breadcrumbs (for coating the muffin pan)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

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Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large pot or casserole (big enough to hold all of the uncooked spinach) and add the garlic halves. Sauté until the garlic is golden, but make sure not to burn the butter.

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Add the spinach.

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Cook, stirring, over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the spinach is tender. (The spinach will be reduced to almost nothing compared to what you started with.)

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Discard the garlic. Let the spinach drain very well.

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Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in the oven at 180C/350F for 5-10 minutes.

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Take the pine nuts out when they are golden brown. Toasting pine nuts evenly is a lot easier in the oven than it is using a frying pan.

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Put the spinach, eggs, and 2/3 of the pine nuts in the bowl of the food processor. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add freshly grated nutmeg to taste.

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Add freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.

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Process until smooth and homogeneous. The pine nuts do not have to be finely ground, but you don’t want whole pine nuts in there either.

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Butter 4 positions in a muffin pan. (Each muffin holder should be about 100-120 ml, 1/2 cup or a bit less. You can also use ramekins of that size.)

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Coat with breadcrumbs.

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Fill with the spinach mixture.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180C/350F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The sformatini will rise a bit, but they will collapse pretty soon when taken out of the oven.

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It should be fairly easy to remove them from the pan. You can serve them right away, or heat them up later in the muffin pan for 10 minutes in the oven preheated at 180C/350F.

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Sprinkle the remaining pine nuts on top to serve. If serving with beef, it is also nice to serve a bit of the sauce/gravy on top of the tartlets.

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15 thoughts on “Spinach Tartlets (Sformatini di Spinaci)

  1. I just loooove sformatini — and spinach and pine kernels — and your spinach tartlets look very very yummy. In italy, they tend to cook these in the oven inside another oven pan with some water in it(sort of bain marie) but I wonder now, after reading your post, whether this is strictly necessary. I still bechamel however! and agree with Anne Willan “Bring Back White Sauce” : http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/bring-back-white-sauce-and-make-real-macaroni-andcheese/?utm_source=hubspot_email_marketing&utm_medium=email&utm_content=6954129&_hsenc=ANqtz–O1wSpCFPII_XYTgoeTGI2BTi4BRZNkY93fLxmjUVo2vrcruMT9hK6wAL8GZhMGm5j5SgjdGOqx9KlA_FJ_bJ_-yGQ&_hsmi=6954129

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  2. These look like something Vinny could make and enjoy! I’ll try them out on the weekend. I think I read recently that the dark green leafs help keep the blood at a healthy pH level (on the alkaline side) when eating all those amino acids in the meat. I haven’t quite worked out how it all works, though. Am working on it :). I’ll check out the chlorophyll angle

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  3. Such a great tasting side for your sous vide, Stefan. A touch of nutmeg is a great addition to any leafy vegetable and I bet it was fantastic here. Add a bread crumb coating and some pine nuts for crunch and you’ve created quite the elegant accompaniment for Conor’s welcome dinner.

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  4. Tried this one today, thanks for detailed instructions as always! I used panko as breadcrumbs in line with your effort to keep it light. Next time I’m going to hide a little fried bacon or mix sauteed anchovies in the tart and put part of the cheese on top halfway to inject some umami in order to add even more flavour complexity. I’ll report later!

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