A symphony of pasta encased in culinary artistry

Timballo, the name itself evokes a sense of grandeur, and the dish lives up to it. Imagine a golden dome of crusted pasta, encasing a symphony of flavors within. Picture layers of savory ragù, creamy béchamel, gooey mozzarella, and plump pasta spirals, all singing in perfect harmony. That's timballo, a masterpiece of Italian cuisine.

The term "timballo" comes from the French word for "timbale," which refers to a kettledrum. Just like the drum's rounded form, the classic timballo takes shape in a springform pan, resembling a golden dome. Its origins can be traced back to the 18th century in Naples, Italy, where resourceful cooks used leftover pasta and ingredients to create this ingenious dish.

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Timballo has garnered fame beyond culinary circles. In the Oscar-nominated film "Big Night," Stanley Tucci's character passionately declares, "Timpano...is a pasta with a special crust, shaped like a drum…and inside are…all the most important things in the world." This scene perfectly captures the essence of timballo – a labor of love, a showstopper at any feast, and a dish brimming with warmth and family tradition.

Making timballo is an artful process. The crust can be crafted from various options: a buttery pastry dough, a savory parmesan crust, or even fried eggplant slices. The filling is where the magic happens – a rich ragù with meat or vegetables, creamy béchamel sauce, and layers of pasta, often intertwined with melty mozzarella cheese. The assembled timballo is then baked until the crust becomes golden brown and the filling bubbles with molten deliciousness.

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Here is a recipe to try:


For the crust:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup ice water
For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground meat (beef, pork, or turkey)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup béchamel sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounces cooked pasta (rigatoni, macaroni, or penne work well)

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Prepare the crust: In a bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add ice water, mixing until dough just comes together. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the filling: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in ground meat and cook until browned. Drain any excess fat.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, red wine, oregano, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Assemble the timballo: Grease a springform pan. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and line the bottom and sides of the pan. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce on the bottom, followed by a layer of pasta. Top with the meat sauce, then another layer of pasta and béchamel. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Fold the remaining dough over the filling to enclose it completely. Pinch the edges to seal. Brush the top with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

  • Get creative with the filling! Timballo is a versatile dish that can be adapted to your preferences. Add vegetables like peas, mushrooms, or spinach. Experiment with different cheeses or even seafood fillings.
  • Don't be afraid of the crust! While making the crust from scratch adds to the experience, feel free to use store-bought puff pastry or even phyllo dough for a simpler version.
  • Embrace the drama! Timballo is meant to be a showstopper. Unmold it onto a platter and let your guests marvel at its golden dome before slicing into its flavorful heart.