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Cheese Soufflé with Tomato-Basil Sauce

Ingredients:

For the tomato-basil sauce:

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, about 1/2 lb. total
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 4 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
      cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbs. Madeira wine
  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar

Directions:

To make the tomato-basil sauce, core, peel and seed the tomatoes. Cut into small pieces; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender, combine the 1/4 tsp. salt and the garlic cloves. Process until coarsely chopped. Add the basil leaves and continue to process to form a coarse puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the tomatoes and process until a smooth puree forms. Add the olive oil and pepper and continue to process until well blended and smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. In another saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When foaming, add the flour and whisk until blended. Cook, whisking, for 1 minute; do not allow the mixture to brown. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Continue whisking, regularly scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil, 2 to 3 minutes. Cook for a few seconds more until thickened and smooth, then remove from the heat. Let cool a little.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale yellow, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually whisk the hot sauce into the yolks, then add the cheeses, salt, pepper, a sprinkling of cayenne and the Madeira. Stir to mix well. Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a large, clean, dry bowl. Add the cream of tartar and, using a clean whisk or beaters, beat until soft peaks form and hold their shape. Spoon about one-fourth of the egg whites into the cheese sauce and, using a rubber spatula, stir gently to blend. Then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the sauce just until incorporated. Spoon the mixture into an ungreased 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish and bake until puffed and lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes.

Warm the tomato-basil sauce gently over medium-low heat.

Remove the soufflé from the oven and carry it immediately to the table before it begins to fall. Spoon onto warmed plates and top each serving with a spoonful of the sauce. Pass the remaining sauce alongside.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Chuck Williams Collection, Simple French Cooking, by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1996).