Ugh. (Yes, I know. Winning introduction.)
This one is tricky, people. I’m feeling conflicted about posting it, mostly because I try to emphasize easy to make, whip this up on a regular weeknight type recipes on this blog. But this one is decidedly more of a fancy dish you might pull out when entertaining. And to make things more complicated, I happened to make it on an average Thursday night, out of sheer laziness. Have I confused you yet?
Mostly, the snafu came about because I read this recipe title in a book, thought it sounded fantastic and added it to my weekly menu list. It promised a mock soufflé with the addition of some pasta for heft and I thought, sounds fun! Somehow, I forgot the whole part about soufflés requiring a ton of time and an insane number of prep pots and bowls.
But I sincerely hope all this complaining hasn’t turned you away from this ah-mazing recipe. Most of the mistakes here were my own. If I had read through the instructions more carefully, I would have saved this to make over the weekend. Which is what you should do. Preferably this weekend. Good spouffles don’t wait. Just assign someone to be your dishwasher, and you’re set. You will be rewarded by a spectacular, puffed and incredibly delicious combination of sautéed zucchini, billowy egg whites, cheddar and pasta in every bite. The flavors are delicate, sophisticated, and sure to impress your party audience. Or, as in my case, one slightly surprised but still very appreciative husband.
Zucchini and Cheddar “Spouffle”
Recipe slightly adapted from River Cottage Veg
1 1/4 cup milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 of a small onion
a few black peppercorns
4oz penne or similar pasta
2 gloves garlic, chopped
3 medium zucchini, sliced thin
3 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing
6 tbsp flour
3oz cheddar cheese, grated
a little freshly grated nutmeg
3 eggs, separated, plus 1 extra egg white
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put a baking sheet in the middle rack to heat up. Butter a 1.5 liter soufflé dish or similarly sized casserole dish. Put the milk, bay leaf, onion and peppercorns into a small pan and bring to just below a simmer. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse.
Cook the penne until al dente, drain well and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the zucchini and garlic and a hefty pinch of salt. Sauté slowly over medium heat for about 15 minutes, breaking up the zucchini with your spoon as it softens. you should wind up with a kind of soft zucchini purée.
Heat the butter in a pan over a medium heat, stir in the flour to form a roux and cook for a few minutes. Strain the infused milk and slowly stream it into the roux, beating well: you will end up with a very thick bechamel sauce. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, nutmeg, and season to taste. Beat in the egg yolks, then fold in the cooked penne and zucchini purée.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks. Stir a spoonful into the bechamel mix to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest.
Tip into your buttered soufflé dish, place on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen and golden. Serve straight away.