Updated: Feb 2, 2022
By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
I remember enjoying the movie Big Night many years ago with my beloved partner-in-crime Elizabeth Gracen. We were relaxed on her sofa, surrounded by dogs, and certainly we were sipping some Prosecco or a nice, cold Martini (not too dirty and shaken, not stirred). As usual, we adored the movie—because it was not the first time we watched it. I miss those lazy days of summer where she called me Hoochie Mamma and I deemed her my Flapper!
I want to share with you the memorable classic Italian recipe from Big Night: the TIMPANO!
The Timpano is a kind of old-fashioned pasta timbale, and the first version of this monumental dish was invented by chefs of the Medici court and served to aristocratic guests during the Renaissance at the banquets in Palazzo Pitti in Florence. It's made with homemade pasta and assembled like a lasagna, but cut in pieces and tossed with a game meat sort of ragout.
The recipe below is a modern version—a sumptuous dome of maccheroni with everything you can think of! In the movie, it was made using Stanley Tucci's family recipe from his grandma. My version is the traditional timballo in the Southern Italian tradition. It is a long, rich, and complicated dish, and you need lots of guests to share it with. The flavor is rich and fantastic and has all the generosity of Southern Italy!
The Timpano has a cult-like status that requires a special occasion, a large mold to make it in . . . and a lot of time to prepare. Very special!
2 cups canned tomato purée
6 oz (170 g) tomato paste
10 Italian sausages
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
The Pasta Brisè Dough:
2 lb. (900 g) all-purpose flour
1 lb. (450 g) unsalted butter
6 tbsp ice water
12 oz. (300 g) ground pork
12 oz. (300 g) ground beef
2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 cup bread crumbs soaked in milk
Chopped parsley to taste
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil to fry
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 oz. (50 g) chopped pancetta
Fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 lb (1.5 kg) maccheroni 2 cups chopped Provolone cheese
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup pecorino cheese
4 oz. (100 g) Genoa salami
Make the ragù:
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the diced vegetables. Sauté until the onion is translucent, then add the crumbled sausages and cook until light brown.
Add the red wine and let it evaporate. Pour in the tomato purée and the tomato paste. Add salt and pepper and a cup of water and simmer on low heat, covered, until the water is evaporated, stirring occasionally.
Make the dough:
Cut the cold butter into small chunks. Mix flour, butter, water, and 2 pinches of salt. Quickly knead the dough until it is smooth. Cover in plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Make the meatballs:
Mix all the ingredients, except vegetable oil, together. Roll into 1-inch balls.
Bring the frying oil up to a high temperature.
Working in batches or one at a time, use a slotted spoon to ladle the meatballs into the oil. Stir gently as they cook and remove when they turn golden brown. Place on a paper towel to cool.
Make the eggs:
Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover completely with cold water. Turn heat to high and bring water to a rolling boil. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let the eggs cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from water and set aside to cool before peeling and slicing them.
Make the peas:
In a medium pan, add olive oil and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add peas and cook for a further 4 minutes before adding a 1/2 cup of water. Cook until it has completely evaporated and the peas are soft and add chopped parsley and salt and pepper.
Make the pasta:
Bring a very large pot of water to boil; salt and add maccheroni. Cook al dente;
drain and mix with a few ladles of ragù in a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool for later.
Chop the cheese:
Chop the provolone into small chunks and grate the Parmigiano and pecorino cheeses. Keep separate and set aside for later.
Cut half the salami into thick slices.
The last few steps!!!
Roll the Dough:
When all of your components are prepared, roll the pasta brisè dough:
Cut off about 1/4 of the dough before rolling, and keep refrigerated until ready to seal the timpano.
Butter the inside surface of your timpano pot.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a well-floured counter. Working quickly, roll it with a rolling pin until it is thin (3mm). Drape it over the pot. Gently press it down until it completely molds into the curves of the pot.
Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C)
Ladle a thick layer of pasta into the bottom of the timpano, then spoon some ragù sauce over the maccheroni.
Layer the other components in the following order: peas, sliced eggs, Provolone cheese, meatballs, grated Parmigiano and pecorino, salami slices.
Then add another layer of pasta and ragù and repeat the other layers. You can repeat this as much as you like or as your pot allows, but you need to finish with a layer of pasta and sauce.
Roll out the remaining pasta brisè and place the sheet on top and press gently into a good seal. Poke several holes with a fork into the top and brush the surface with a beaten egg.
Bake for about 1 hour or until the surface of the pasta brisè has turned golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 40 minutes.
To invert the timpano, place a cutting board flush against the top of the pot. Holding it firmly in place, flip the dish over and gently slide the pot up and away.
Slice and serve immediately!
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).