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.
THE TIMPANO RECIPE
(or a bunch of recipes Kerry found and put together to create “The Big Night”)
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.)
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
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
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:
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?
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.