We first had this at one of our favorite restaurants here in Northern Le Marche: Osteria da Doddo in Urbania.
They always have a sformato in the antipasti section of their menu and, if the season is generous, an abundant shave of black or white truffle covers the soft deliciousness. Zucca (pumpkin/winter squash) is my favourite, but they also make carrot and spinach, all really delicious!
I googled, I experimented and I tested until I obtained what I think is the perfect recipe (and a really easy one!).
Pumpkin is a very versatile ingredient… in Italy it’s a very common vegetable and we make filled pasta (Cappellacci from Ferrara or Tortelli in Mantova and a huge number of variants and names in the nearby areas), gnocchi, preserve it in oil, bake it, use it in creams and soups. Yes, we mostly use it in savory dishes, even if some, like the Tortelli Mantovani, have a distinct sweet taste, combined with the tonnes of parmigiano that balance the sweetness.
There are also many different varieties of pumpkin and winter squash, but the ones that I prefer are the Violina, Mantovana and Marina di Chioggia: they have a thick floury pulp, very fine fiber and lots of taste and sweetness. This is the kind of taste you’re looking for. Butternut is usually a good alternative.
To make the sformato you need to bake your pumpkin: cut in big slices, put on a pan with a bit of olive oil and salt and bake at 180C until soft and slightly roasted.
Scoop the pumpkin pulp out of the peel and mash (if it’s very watery squeeze some water from the pumpkin pulp putting it in a cloth and squeezing). You need 500 gr of pulp.
For every 500 g of pumpkin squash you need:
100 g of grated parmigiano
Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
Butter a loaf pan or use parchment paper for an easier unmolding. Pour the pumpkin mix in the pan and bake (you can put the pan in a bigger pan with water or just straight in the oven) at 180C for 40/50 minutes depending on your oven. If you touch it it has to be quite “hard”. You can also make smaller mono portions (adjust baking time accordingly).
I serve this with a cheese cream. You can use cream and parmesan but I like a bit of tartness so I often use robiola (100 gr) a fresh cow cheese, along with some parmesan (2tbsp) and some cream (4 tbsp).
Top with shaved truffles if you are lucky enough to have it or you can use chopped walnuts or hazelnuts or poppy seeds (or your favorite crunchy seed).