Rick Tramonto's Pecorino custard with tomato sauce is a bread pudding with a difference (or two.) First, it's a savory appetizer, not a dessert. Second, the custard-soaked cubes of bread we associate with the dish are puréed before baking to give a silky, uniform texture.
Served with good marinara sauce and toasted bread for dipping, the full-flavored budino, or Italian pudding, is a luxurious way to kick off a dinner party. To make sure your meal goes off without a hitch, choose a young Pecorino that's not overly firm, which will prevent the cheese from turning grainy when it melts.
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- 1 quart whole milk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 10 large egg yolks
- 5 1/2 ounces ciabatta bread (about 5 slices), crust removed, diced, plus 12 slices 1/2-inch thick ciabatta bread
- 1 3/4 pounds young Pecorino-Romano cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a heavy saucepan, warm the milk and cream over medium-high heat, until heated through but not boiling.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks. When they are blended, slowly add about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture to temper the eggs, whisking continuously. Slowly add the tempered eggs to the hot cream in the pan as you continue to whisk the mixture.
Spread the diced bread on a baking sheet and dry in the oven for 1 minute.
Increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Transfer the diced bread to a mixing bowl and pour the egg-cream mixture over it to soak the bread. Using a hand-held mixture, purée until smooth. Stir in the cheese.
Divide the mixture evenly among 4 6-ounce ramekins. Put the ramekins in a roasting pan and add enough water to come 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
Very carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the custard is heated through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Lay the bread slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Toast in the oven, turning once, for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, heat the marinara sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and bubbling.
Put one ramekin on each of four serving plates and top each with about 1/4 cup of marinara sauce. Drizzle each ramekin with olive oil and pepper. Put three slices of toast on each plate and serve.