Timpano (which I think in Italian means “This Better Be Worth It”)

Ever seen the movie Big Night?

Basically, it’s about these two brothers who own a failing restaurant and, as a last resort to gain some sort of notoriety, they throw a lavish dinner party where of course all hell breaks loose.  It’s a great movie.  You should really see it.  So, at the center of this decadent meal is a timpano, a very complicated traditional Italian dish of baked pasta in pastry, which the brothers slave over all day long, pouring their heart and soul into the thing. It’s borderline masochistic, if masochism was made of cheese and penne and tomato sauce and meatballs and salami and soft boiled eggs.  Yes, all at once!  This blog may kill you!

A few months ago, my friend Kerry and her cooking group (nerdy, I know, but everyone’s a nerd about something– for instance, Twi-hards, gourmet food is our Rob Pattinson) decided to tackle a timpano, and I was lucky enough to get a smidgeon of the leftovers, which were so delicious I ate them cold and saved none for Matt. Oops.  So I figured, maybe we should make another one and blog about it! ‘Cuz me and masochism apparently go hand in hand.

Now, just so you know, this is an epic, all-day affair.  It isn’t easy, it isn’t low-fat, and it’s certainly not something you make every day.  Also, I’m pretty sure there’s like, two dozen eggs in the entire recipe, so if you’re watching your cholesterol count, maybe go have some lettuce instead.  But holy mack, is this an impressive dish for that very-important dinner party you plan on throwing, or that holiday gathering you’re going to have when you trim the tree.

We just so happened to make this on a hot and sunny Los Angeles afternoon… Which was a bit weird.  But it still tasted great, even if I had to skip breakfast the next morning because my body was still wondering what in the eff to do with the 5 lbs of pure gluttony in my belly.  But don’t let that turn you off– if you like to cook, you’ve gotta give this one a go at some point in your life.  Here’s the recipe, guys.  Good lord.


(or a bunch of recipes Kerry found and put together to  create “The Big Night”)




The Sauce:

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

salt and pepper

a pinch of crushed red pepper

2 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves

3 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes

2 dried bay leaves

1 cup red wine (drinking wine, people! No “cooking wine”. Ever. That stuff is nasty. And not in a Janet Jackson/good way.)


The Crust:

4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup salted butter (cold)

5 egg yolks (save those egg whites for an omelette tomorrow morning, when you’re feeling guilty and want something healthy)

1 ½ tsp salt

½ cup ice cold water


The Meatballs:

1 lb lean ground beef (or if you can get your hands on it, ground bison’s pretty darn delicious)

1 cup fine breadcrumbs (don’t by the pre-seasoned stuff)

2 large eggs

2 cloves finely chopped garlic

¼ cup chopped parsley

½ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

salt and pepper


The Filling/Layers:

½ lb sliced genoa salami, cut into strips about ½ inch wide

½ lb sliced provolone cheese, cut into strips ½ inch wide

12 soft boiled eggs, shelled (duh) and halved lengthwise

1 box or package penne pasta, cooked HALF the time recommended on the package, so super al dente

2/3 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (or use more of that parmigiano you already have on hand, no one’ll know the diff)

5 large eggs, beaten


What to do:


The Sauce:

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add celery, carrots, basil, and crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until the veggies are soft, another 5 minutes or so.  Add the tomatoes, wine and bay leaves and simmer, uncovered, on low heat for 1 hour. (Use this hour to start the crust and/or drink the rest of that wine you opened.  It’s not gonna drink itself.) After an hour, remove the bay leaves and taste it for seasoning.  Restrain yourself a bit, ok?

The Sauce pre-blending

Add a few ladles of the tomato sauce into a food processor and process until smooth.  Continue with the remaining tomato sauce, then cool it to room temperature in your ginormous fridge, or stick it outside like we do.  Unless your dog’s chillin’ out there.  Then maybe don’t do that.

Let’s tackle that crust, bitches!


The Crust:

Cut the butter into small cubes. Combine flour and butter in a mixing bowl.  Mix together with an electric mixer until it forms into big crumbs (you can work those crumbs with your fingers a bit to smooth them out into flakes like Kerry does, or just wing it and trust your mixer.  It’s a professional.)  Mix in the egg yolks, one at a time, then add the salt.  Dribble the water in there as needed until the dough forms into a ball and pulls from the side of the mixing bowl. Form the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap, then refrigerate it for an hour. Start the meatballs while you wait.


The Meatballs:

In a big bowl, mix the ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, parmigiano, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Roll the mixture into Beyonce’s-wedding-ring-sized balls (golf ball sized).  Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom to about ¼ inch.  Add the meatballs and sauté on all sides until they’re golden brown and cooked through.  Drain them on a paper towel lined plate.  Eat one, you deserve it. (I said ONE.)


Hey, Cutestuff!

Alright, let’s assemble this bad boy.

Timpano was historically baked in an enamel wash basin, but if you’re not an Italian granny, chances are you don’t have one of those.  Kerry hunted around (she likes shopping online as much as I do) and found a 14-inch enamel basin from Kolorful Kitchen.  But one huge mother of a deep dish oven-safe bowl or circular baking dish will work. Who the hell are we kidding, just commit and by a basin.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Generously grease the timpano bowl with a drizzle of olive oil.  Roll out your beautiful dough until it’s nice and thin (but still thick enough that it won’t rip. If it rips, you can always roll it out again—the world will not end).  Fold the dough over in half, then in half again to form a triangle.  Place it in the pan.  Open the dough folds and arrange it so the folds fall over the rim of the bowl.


Toss the penne pasta with 2 cups of your tomato sauce and a drizzle of olive oil.  Distribute 1/3 of the pasta over your pastry.  Top with half the salami, then half the provolone. Add half of your soft-boiled egg halves, half the meatballs, and half the pecorino romano (or parmigiano) cheese.  Pour 1/3 of the beaten eggs over all this mess (they help bind everything together) and then pour about 2 cups of the tomato sauce over that.

Now add another 1/3 of the pasta. Top with the remaining salami, remaining provolone, remaining soft-boiled eggs, remaining meatballs, and the rest of the pecorino romano cheese.  Pour another 1/3 of the beaten eggs over that, then 2 cups of tomato sauce over that.

Add a final layer: the rest of the pasta, followed by a couple more cups of sauce, and then the remainder of the beaten eggs.  If things look like they’re gonna go overboard, just shake the pan a bit to get everything to settle nicely.

Me trying to be patient

Fold the dough over the filling to seal completely.  If there’s too much dough and it’s overlapping a lot, just trim it away.  If there’s not enough dough, cut the folds, roll it out again into a thin layer, and drape over the top and seal the edges with your fingers to form a “lid”.  It doesn’t have to look pretty, guys: this whole thing’s literally going upside down later.  Don’t freak.

Bake this mother for 1 ½ hours until golden brown. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.  This whole resting process is gonna get annoying, but the reason we do it is so when we invert the thing, everything doesn’t fall apart into a hot liquid lava mess. That would be super embarrassing.

Grab a Kerry (friend) to help you do this next part: get ahold of the pan firmly and flip the timpano upside down and invert it onto a serving platter. DO NOT REMOVE THE PAN. Let it rest upside down in its dish for another 30 minutes. Patience is key—can you imagine losing this thing after all the hard work you’ve done because you couldn’t wait?  Go have another glass of vino.

Now slowly and gently remove the pan and let the timpano rest out in the open for yet another 20 goddamn minutes.

Look at this beast!

Using a long sharp knife, cut a circle about 2-3 inches in diameter in the center of the timpano, making sure to cut all the way to the bottom.  Cut the timpano like you would a pie into individual portions, leaving the center circle as a support for the remaining pieces. Transfer the pieces with the help of a spatula onto plates.  Behold its glory.  Eat.  Then go lie down.

Serves about a million people.  Seriously, there were 9 of us, and we barely got through half, with seconds.

36 Comments Add yours

  1. Kenner says:

    Wow, this looks incredible. I loved that movie and have always wanted to try this. Thanks for the recipe and photos!

  2. diane says:

    Uh – six QUART bowl?! The mind boggles. I’m half Sicilian and have never heard of this. Hmmm, I’m moving in a few months, and this would make an awesome thank you dinner for the friends who are helping!

  3. Well, I think I know what I’ll be making for dinner this weekend! Thanks, looks incredible & can’t wait to try it out! 😀

  4. Steve Z says:

    Oh my good good god.

  5. Cherish says:

    OMG that looks just evil and delicious… I think I gained 5lbs just reading that. Better make it before the hubby gets the gastric bypass surgery. I don’t think he could have any of it! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Love that movie. I also like the opening scene where the woman wants spaghetti with her risotto. I’ve made a timbale, but never one of these. I love the recipe and your photos and the step by step.

  7. Diziet Sma says:

    I have to try this, thanks for the recipe!

  8. Dave Fellner says:

    That looks amazing! I remember seeing Big Night when I was going to school in Santa Cruz and hearing that a local Italian restaurant was doing the full Big Night meal with the local theater, the people would see the movie and then go to the restaurant. Sounded awesome, wish I had done it 🙂

  9. Rob Ritchie says:

    After all that resting, was it cold?

  10. M Burton says:

    I have been tempted to make this for years (decades?) but never had the coglioni. Brava.

  11. Phil says:

    That looks insane and insanely delicious! I got full just looking at the picture!!

  12. Michael says:

    I hope after eating that, one of your guests walked up to you, grabbed your cheeks and said “That was so fucking good I should kill you” to complete the Big Night experience. That would be nice though if making a Timpano caused Ian Holm to materialize. Wait, he wasn’t one of of your guests, was he?

  13. Tara says:

    Found ‘Big Night’ was already in my Netflix queue… moved it to the top. Can’t wait to give this recipe a try – sounds like an all-day proposition, but has plenty of wine breaks, so… yeah, I’m in!

  14. Mmmm. Meatball egg pasta cheese pie thing…. reminds me of that SNL Taco Town commercial…

    “Well, it’s not a Taco Town taco until we roll it up in a blueberry pancake, dip it in batter and deep-fry it until it’s golden brown. Then we serve it in all commemorative tote bag filled with spicy vegetarian chili… TACO TOWN!”

    Now I want a taco. Damn.

  15. wosushi says:

    Wow. I may have to invest in a basin.

  16. eden says:

    Holy Toledo. That’s quite the undertaking. Thanks for the step by step instructions… including the commands to sample a meatball and drink lots of wine. 🙂

  17. Steve Blake says:

    WoW! I would pay real money to watch you make that on PPV. (Double if we got Adam Richman of “Man vs Food” to try eating it so he could die happy) I’m going shopping at Pennmac.com right now for the cheese and oil! I can’t wait to make this!!!

  18. Evin Cooper says:

    So yum! I Love Big Night – such a great movie, and I’ve always wanted to make a Timpano. With all my friends on stupid low-carb diets, I’m not sure who would help me eat it.

  19. Liz says:

    Holy. Cow. Now I want that for dinner, instead of the turkey tacos I had planned. Damn hubs’ high cholesterol!

  20. PM Newton says:

    If wildly difficult and fiddly and delicious is your bag …. you must try Pastilla (B’stilla) Morrocan Pigeon Pie.

    It consists of pigeon (or chicken) in layers with eggy custardy almondy sugary cinnamony goodness wrapped in light filo-stye pastry and baked.



  21. So did this lead to food twins or triplets?

  22. Sûlien says:

    Holy. Buckets. I may have to see about starting a dinner/cooking club in my small town in order to make that beast, because I don’t know enough people within an easy drive to invite over to eat that.

    Thanks for this incredible recipe and the great step-by-step directions & photos!

  23. Jim Kuddes says:

    My first thought, I could feed all of my friends. My second thought, I don’t have that many friends. My final thought, I will if I make this.

  24. Sweet mother of Mary…That looks delicious! Unfortunately, there’s not enough wine in the world to make me as patient as I would need to be to make this….maybe one day

  25. JamieAnne says:

    Wow. Just wow. Great recipe, I think I gained a pound or two just reading it. 😉

  26. Imogen says:

    Wow! Haven’t seen the film but am definitely going to try this dish.

  27. fojoy says:

    I mean…DAMN!
    If it tastes even half as good as it looks/sounds, count me in.
    It does look like a lot of work, but the hardest part would definitely be the resting (and I’m usually pretty good at that).

  28. Provolone, Romano, Genoa Salami, AND pasta, I’ll have to try it someday. Wowza!

  29. Nan C says:

    Ohhh, my GAWWWD!

    And none of the ingredients are so “out there” that I couldn’t find ’em even in Missouri.

    Waitaminnit – SOFT-boiled eggs?

    Huh. Still, gonna have to try this one sometime. Soon.

  30. Lisa says:

    Oh. Dear. Lord. That is heaven in a (gigantic, enormous, delicious) bowl.

  31. Tallulah says:

    Wow! I shall keep this filed in my brainpan for a spectacular feast idea one day…

  32. AJ says:

    Do want! It looks like all sorts of things I’d like. If I make this it’ll be when I’ve got company though. Good idea about the bison. I haven’t had bison in a while, even though it’s at my local store and I prefer it over beef.
    By the by, any suggestions on what red wine to cook with? I’ve heard Côtes du Rhône is the way to go, but I doubt I could pick it out of a wine-lineup (wineup?).

  33. Lauren says:

    Holy Hell Jewel. Are you trying to kill all of your fans?
    That said, I must make this.

  34. Warren says:

    I made this a few months after the movie was originally released, so I’m dating myself. It turned out great but I think it can’t be said enough…enough food for ten people, maybe more. I had four friends over and we only finished about half.

    Great dish for a large party. Particularly if you screen the movie.

  35. Attempting this on family day….I have to ask my mom for a bowl this big! SHe never heard of it either and she is from Italy. Maybe I was saying it wrong though? Wonder if it is from North or South Italy? Take care, Franco

  36. DrKoob says:

    OK Jewel, I have to say thank you. After looking everywhere for this recipe, yours was not only the most fun but it looked like it might actually be done by a normal human being. So tonight I made it. And it worked great! My adult kids loved it and I think I really surprised my son who is a huge Big Night fan. This is probably the ultimate Italian dish and your recipe for it was amazing. Took me two total days. One of things I really love is all your hilarious comments. Well done! And again thanks. I wish I could post a pic here so I could show you how it looked when we cut it.

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