If you’ve seen the food movie Big Night, you’re probably still craving Timpano. I know I am. That’s why I created this recipe that can bring a little bit of this Italian masterpiece into your home.
These are individual-sized versions of the crowning glory served at the Big Night feast.
Make these miniature Timpanos in advance, and pop them into the oven as the movie starts, and by the time Rosemary Clooney starts belting out Mambo, you’ll be ready to mangia like the characters on the screen.
If you don’t just want to do Timpano but you really want to make a whole evening of it, check out my plan for a Big Night. There you’ll find my suggestions for turning this film into an entire romantic evening, including, of course, the Timpano!
For the dough:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup water
For the meatballs:
- 1 1/2 cups day-old bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2-3 tbsp milk
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
- 3/4 lb lean ground beef¼ cup finely chopped onion
For the sauce:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 28- oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
For the timpano:
- 8 oz fusili or ziti pasta cooked to very firm al dente and drained
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 15-oz container whole milk ricotta
- 2 cup hard-cooked eggs cut into ½ -inch cubes1fresh mozzarella, cut into ½ -inch cubes
- Place the flour, eggs, salt, and olive oil in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. (A large capacity food processor may also be used.)
- Add 3 tablespoons of the water and process.
- Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together and forms a ball.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to make sure it is well mixed. Divide into 8 equal portions and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
- Flatten each dough portion out on a lightly floured work surface: Dust the top with flour and roll it out, dusting with flour and flipping the dough over from time to time, until it is about 1/16 inch thick and is approximately 8-inches in diameter.
- Spray 8 compartments of a 4-inch muffin pan (designed for jumbo muffins) with non-stick cooking spray.
- Line each muffin compartment with dough, gently pressing it against the bottom and the sides, draping the extra dough over the sides. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium mixing bowl.
- Pour 2 tablespoons milk over the bread and let stand for 10 minutes for bread to absorb milk.
- Squeeze bread with your fingers; if it feels dry, add another tablespoon of milk.
- In a separate bowl, combine egg whites, grated cheese, parsley, salt, garlic powder and pepper.
- Add ground beef, onions and egg mixture to the bowl with the bread. Mix ingredients well with hands but don't over-mix, as this will create dry, tough meatballs.
- Dip your hands in a bowl of cold water to prevent sticking. Portion the meatball mixture into 24 walnut-size balls. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes, until firm.
- Heat a heavy 6-quart pot over medium heat.
- Add olive oil and heat to a shimmer. Add onions and sauté until they become translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add garlic and oregano, sautéing for 1 minute and stirring often.
- Add pureed tomatoes, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes, until thickened. Stir in parsley.
Assemble the timpanos:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Stir 1 cup of sauce together with strained pasta and 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese until pasta is coated.
- Place ½-ounce of pasta in the bottom of each muffin compartment.
- Spread a scant ounce of ricotta cheese on top of the pasta, and 3 meatballs on top of the ricotta.
- Fill in the spaces with cooked egg and mozzarella, evenly distributed into each muffin compartment. Press down to compact.
- Spoon in a generous tablespoon of tomato sauce over the mixture and sprinkle each muffin tin with a teaspoon of Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with the remaining pasta and press again to compact the ingredients. Fold remaining dough over the top, trimming away any excess or double fold.
- Put muffin pan in oven and bake until timpano dough is golden brown on top, for about 20-30 minutes.
- Transfer muffin pan to a cooling rack and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Invert muffin pan on to the cooling rack and release the timpanos from the pan.
- Cut each timpano in half and open slightly to show layers.
- Serve on a plate upright with remaining tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Diane Brown is author of The Seduction Cookbook: Culinary Creations For Lovers
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