A vegetable flan topped with cheese sauce is a delicious and elegant starter. This roasted pepper flan with pecorino sauce is a winner. It’s vegetarian, low in carbs and it looks more exclusive than it really is. It really is rather simple to make, trust me when I say that this savoury flan with roasted red pepper could become the star of your next meal!
Flan or quiche?
Most people might be familiar with flan as a sweet dish. It is, indeed, another name for crème caramel, a custard pudding served with caramel sauce. Flan can also refer to a savoury dish. The preparation will be similar: it is egg-based and baked in a water bath, but the recipe is savoury rather than being a dessert.
When used to describe a savoury food “flan” is often a synonym for quiche. Yet they are not really the exact same thing. Quiche is a vegetable and egg mixture that is baked inside a pastry crust. Flan is crustless. And often, but not exclusively, it is made in small moulds. At least in Italy, where vegetable flan is served as starter.
Vegetable flan antipasto
Italy runs on vegetables and cheese, and a vegetable flan with a cheesy sauce is a great option for an appetizer. Or antipasto, as we call it in Italian. Sadly, vegetable flans do not rank among the most popular Italian recipes. Yet, red pepper flan is a popular starter dish in Piedmont, the region in Italy I come from. A region known mostly for its excellent wine and cheese.
Another cheesy recipe from northern Italy is polenta concia with mushrooms.
Pecorino is a sheep’s milk cheese made in central Italy (Tuscany and Lazio) as well as the island of Sardinia. I have decided to use pecorino in this vegetable flan recipe for 2 reasons. Mainly, it is for its flavour. I love pairing bell pepper with non-cow cheese, like I did in this red pepper and goat cheese soup. Moreover, I wanted to try something alternative, as I have always had my traditional Piedmont recipes with Piedmont cheese (and Piedmont wine!), so I wanted to go for something different.
Roasted pepper flan ingredients
These are the ingredients needed to make these vegetable flans and their cheese sauce. Please refet to the recipe card below for quantitities:
- Roasted bell peppers
A note about red peppers. If using ready to eat roasted peppers (for exampe jarred, preserved in oil) you will need 250 g, drained. If roasting them at home, you need to use 2-3 fresh bell peppers. The total weight should be about 600 g raw and whole. Baked and cleaned the weight will be reduced to 250-300 g. See recipe card for directions.
How to make roasted red pepper flan
- Combine roasted peppers, whole eggs, ricotta, grated parmigiano and salt in a tall container and blend until smooth.
- Thoroughly butter the molds – even if using silicone! Divide mixture into molds. Please notice that the flans will rise as they bake, so avoid filling the molds to the brim to avoid spilling.
- Transfer molds to a baking dish and pour boiling water in the dish filling it about 1 cm. Place baking dish and molds in the preheated oven.
- Bake the flans at 200°C (390°F) for 30 minutes. Flans are done when they look set and the tops are starting to slightly brown. Let flan rest in the molds for about 10 minutes before plating.
- Flan is fragile and should be handled carefully when removing it from the mold. The easiest way to plate is by placing an upside down serving plate over the mould, and rotating it so that the mould is upside-down. Give the mould top a gentle pat and carefully lift the mould, leaving the flan upside-down on the plate.
- As the flans bake in the oven, prepare the cheese sauce. Add the flour to a small saucepan and set on medium heat.
- Let the flour toast for a couple of minutes, then add the butter and quickly mix to make a roux – a thick flour and butter mixture.
- Add the cold milk and stir to combine. The difference in temperature may cause the roux to clump, but lumps will dissolve as the mixture warms.
- Keep stirring until the mixture reaches boiling temperature and thickens, then remove the saucepan form the heat
- Fold in the grated pecorino. Pecorino cheese is quite salty, so there should be no need to add any salt to the cheese sauce. Stir in some freshly cracked black pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the plated flans and add more pepper if desired. Serve immediately.
Best non-cow cheese recipes
If you love sheep’s and goat’s milk cheese, here are some other recipes where non-cow cheese is the main flavour’s best sidekick:
- Mushroom and goat cheese crostini
- Sweet potato and chèvre quiche
- Baked goat cheese log with figs and prosciutto
- Mini tomato and mustard tarts with feta
- Fig and goat cheese salad with beet sprouts
Have you ever had a vegetable flan? What were the main ingredients? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to pin this roasted pepper recipe for later!
This recipe was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated in October 2020.
Roasted red pepper flan with Pecorino sauce
This vegetable flan is a lesser known Italian recipe that combines a soft roasted pepper flan with a creamy Pecorino sauce.
- 2-3 red bell peppers about 600 g
- 3 eggs
- 100 g ricotta cheese
- 100 g parmigiano grated
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 80 g pecorino cheese grated
- 20 g flour
- 10 g butter
- 200 ml milk
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste
To make homemade roasted peppers
Line an oven tray with three pieces of aluminium foil so that they're slightly overlapping. Wash and dry the red peppers and place them on the oven tray so that they're each on a single aluminium foil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour at 200°C turning them every 15 minutes. When the baking time is up, take the whole tray out of the oven and wrap the roasted peppers individually in aluminium. Let cool wrapped for one hour or overnight.
To make roasted pepper flan
Peel and seed the roasted peppers, discard any excess water or oil depending on type used. The optimal quantity of cleaned roasted pepper slices to be used is about 250 grams.
Combine roasted peppers, whole eggs, ricotta, grated parmigiano and salt in a tall container and blend until smooth. Thoroughly butter the molds - even if using silicone! Flan is soft and fragile and we need to make sure it will smoothly slide out of the molds. Divide mixture into molds. Please notice that the flans will grow as they bake, so do not fill the molds to the brim to avoid spilling.
Transfer filled molds to a baking dish and fill the baking dish with water, about 1 cm. Do not skip this step as flan needs to be baked in a water bath. Place water bath dish and molds in the preheated oven and bake at 200°C f(390°F) or 30 minutes. The flan will rise and set as it bakes.
Remove from the oven when flans look set and the tops are starting to slightly brown. Do not overbake. Let flan rest in the molds for about 10 minutes before plating.
To make the pecorino sauce
As the flans bake in the oven, prepare the cheese sauce. Add the flour to a small saucepan and set on medium heat. Let the flour toast for a couple of minutes, then add the butter and quickly mix to make a roux. Add the cold milk and stir to combine. Do not worry if the difference in temperature causes lumps; stirring will dissolve them. Stir until the mixture reaches boiling temperature, then remove the sauce form the heat and fold in the grated pecorino. Pecorino cheese is quite salty, so there is no need to add any salt to the cheese sauce. Add freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
Pour the cheese sauce over the plated flan, or serve on the side preferably in a metal container so that the sauce keeps warm and does not thicken too quickly.
Red pepper quantity:
- if roasting red peppers you need to use 2-3 fresh bell peppers, depending on their size. The total weight should be about 600 grams raw and whole. Baked and cleaned the weight will be reduced to 250-300 g.
- If using ready to eat roasted peppers (for exampe jarred, preserved in oil) you will need 250 g drained.