My Maryland Cooking Club theme this month was “Food from a Movie.” I had come across mention of the Timpano from Big Night years ago and remember many people commenting on how they’d never made it because it seemed daunting. Cooking Club is the perfect excuse to make something daunting! Well, sorry to disappoint… it totally isn’t daunting. It isn’t even hard; it just takes a little while to make. The fun part of it is that you can totally customize it for what you like. It can be totally vegetarian or filled with a variety of Italian meats. Apparently, Timpano recipes are unique to families and each claim to have the best recipe. I loved how mine turned out so I’ll make the same claim. 🙂
Timpano means drum (actually “eardrum”) in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. The final dish should look like a timpani drum (band geeks know what I’m sayin’). If you read online, many people talk about enamel dishes to bake this monster in but I certainly didn’t want to buy a baking dish only useful for this one thing. Sooo I used a giant stainless steel bowl I use to make salads in and it worked perfectly. A big Pyrex bowl might work too but it might take a little longer to bake and it might not get as brown as it would in enamel or stainless steel. Hey, if it doesn’t get golden brown, you can add some tomato sauce once it’s been unmolded. It’ll taste great though!
The recipe you’ll find most online consists of pasta (usually ziti or penne), meatballs (beef), cubes of salami and provolone, and hard boiled eggs. Hard boiled eggs? Not my favorite. Cubes of salami? Extra work and probably weird to cut through in the finished product. This was my Timpano so I made it full of things I would like!
Extra equipment: You’ll need a big cooking vessel. I used an 8 quart stainless steel bowl that I filled to the 6 quart level.
Serves a lot. Seriously, probably 12 – 20 people depending on what else there is and hunger levels.
Dough (feel free to use your favorite pie crust recipe if you have one; below is what I used)
1 lb of AP flour
16 tbl butter, frozen and cut into ½” cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tbl sugar
3 – 5 oz water, ice cold
Cling wrap to wrap the dough in
1 lb ground turkey
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ c bread crumbs (I use panko)
5 tbl fresh basil, chopped finely (can use the basil in a tube but def not dried basil)
2 tbl ketchup (or tomato paste if you’ve got it)
½ c shredded cheese (your fav, I used a mozzarella and smoked provolone mixture in these)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground if possible
2 lb frozen spinach
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
½ tsp nutmeg
Other Filling Stuff
1lb of pasta, cooked for half the time listed on the package (I used ziti rigati)
50 – 60 oz tomato sauce (I made my own but you could use your fav jarred sauce)
12 oz shredded cheese (I used a mozz and smoked provolone blend)
4 oz pepperoni, sliced thinly
4 oz parmesan cheese, grated
To make the pie crust:
In a food processor, add the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse once to combine. Sprinkle the cubes of butter over the flour and pulse 6 – 8 times, each about 1 second long. The consistency at this point should look sandy with pea sized pieces of butter throughout. Next, pour 4 oz water, a little bit at a time, while pulsing the dough another 6 – 8 times. Grab handfuls of dough and press lightly together. Place whatever holds together on a clean, floured surface. Once you’ve grabbed all the handfuls you can, press all the handfuls together gently so they form one mass. If you have anything left (dry flour and butter) in the food processor, add a little bit of water and gently press together. Place the entire pile in the center of a piece of cling wrap and wrap up tightly. Let the dough rest in the fridge while you work on the other parts, at least an hour.
To make the meatballs:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine all the ingredients together. Loosely shape 1½ – 2 tbl of the mixture into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve used all of the dough. Cook for about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave on the counter to cool to room temperature. Note: You can make the meatballs a few days in advance to save time on the day you make the Timpano. If you do this, keep them tightly covered in the fridge. Let them come to room temperature before placing them in the Timpano.
To make the spinach:
Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the spinach and cook and until the spinach has defrosted and cooked off some off its water. Add in the cream, salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes until bubbling. Add in the nutmeg and take the mixture off the heat to cool down. Like the meatballs, this can be done ahead and brought to room temperature before assembling the Timpano. If you don’t want to use cream, just skip it.
To assemble the Timpano:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add just enough sauce to the cooked pasta to coat it. When the meatballs are done, add just enough sauce to coat these as well. Grease your cooking vessel liberally with butter.
Take the dough out of the fridge and place on a well-floured surface. Roll out in a circle shape as thin as you can get it, constantly checking to make sure that it is not sticking to the surface you’re working on. It’s best to work quickly with the chilled dough because as it warms up, it will begin to stick to the board and your rolling pin. Add a dusting of flour only when necessary. When you’re done rolling out the dough, gently fold it in half to make a semi-circle then fold in half lengthwise again to make a wedge shape. You can fold it in half again if needed. Place the dough in your cooking vessel with the tip of the wedge near the center of the vessel. Carefully unfold the dough so that it covers the entire vessel with some hanging over the edges all around.
It’s time to fill your Timpano! Start with the pasta – I ended up with 3 layers of pasta. Next I added some sauce, then 1/3 of the cheeses, then ½ of the spinach, then a layer of pepperoni, then ½ of the meatballs. I started again with the pasta, sauce, another 1/3 of the cheese, another layer of pepperoni, the rest of the spinach, meatballs, sauce, the rest of the cheese, and the remaining pasta and sauce. Layer any which way you want. I started and ended with the pasta because it seems that’s the way everyone does it. Now, you take all the excess dough hanging over the edges and fold it over to cover all that goodness. Bake it in the oven for an hour and a half. If the dough seems to be getting too brown on top, cover it with foil (check about 60 minutes in). I left mine uncovered the whole time and it was fine. Note: this sucker is really heavy. I put it on my kitchen scale which reads up to 10 pounds and I got an error reading!
After baking, remove the Timpano from the oven and let it rest and cool on the counter for at least 30 minutes. I found instructions to then flip it onto your serving dish and leave the cooking vessel on it for another 30 minutes before trying to pull it off (it shrinks a tad when cool) BUT my TImpano didn’t come to the tippy top of my bowl so I just let it cool down in the bowl for about an hour. Don’t worry, this thing is so dense it is still STEAMING hot inside. I flipped mine over once I got to my cooking club destination. I wish mine was a little more brown but I had to get it out of the oven in time for cooking club. I’d say if the top isn’t brown at 90 minutes, let it go another 15 minutes in the oven.
Apparently you can let it rest in all it’s uncovered glory for up to an hour. I think mine probably rested about 25 minutes uncovered then it was time to cut into it! The inside is glorious! You could really see all the layers and the green of the spinach is awesome against the other fillings. The bonus? It tasted awesome… total comfort food that looks really cool too. How can you go wrong with ziti, cheese, meatballs, and spinach wrapped in a flaky, buttery, delicious pie crust? You can’t! I will definitely be making this again for a party since it’s not only delicious but it’s so cool looking.
This could be a great use of leftovers (meatballs, sausage, veggies, sauce, whatever) – just make sure you make half-cooked pasta unless you don’t mind using pasta you’ve cooked to eat that will get very soft and overcooked in the Timpano. You should totally make this for your next crowd. In total, the assembly (rolling the dough and layering the Timpano) took about 20 minutes. The rest is baking and resting time.
Here’s our Food from a Movie spread (we were a wee group this month). Everything was really yummy! From the top left, clockwise we have the Timpano (Big Night), Chiles en Nogata (Like for Water for Chocolate), Aloo Gobi (Bend It Like Beckham), Caramelized Onion Tarts (Le Pianiste), Fried Red Tomatoes (Fried Green Tomatoes), Dark Chocolate & Caramel Truffles with Sea Salt (Chocolat; not pictured). Here’s a close up of Rachel’s Chiles (poblano chiles filled with ground turkey, apple mixture and a nut sauce) and Siiri’s Truffles (homemade caramel and hand rolled).