Timpano Recipe: 5 Tips for a Fabulous Feast

Catherine Boeckmann

Ever hosted a big group for a special occasion (other than the holidays) and wondered: Now what should I cook? 

Recently, grandparents, aunts, and uncles visited from out of town for a family event—and I wanted to think of a dish worthy of the occasion. I decided it was time to go “all out” and make a “big” dish that I’ve been wanting to make for a long time: “TIMPANO!”

Timpano” is an Italian baked pasta dish that’s a meal in itself—a giant bowl of crust stuffed with delicious ingredients—pasta, meatballs, cheeses, salami, and more. The word timpano means “drum” in Italian. (If you’ve ever watched the movie Big Night, then you may have seen Timpano—the dish that stole the show.)

Now, Timpano is a big undertaking. Let me make sure I’m upfront about that. It’s one crazy Italian dish that is meant for a party—and it really helps if you have some guests in the kitchen.

I used the Timpano recipe from The New York Times (click this link for recipe); it easily served eight portions.  The recipe page, however, is missing some important information, and there’s just, well, a bit of nuance that comes with making Timpano. Here are my 5 Timpano tips:

5 Timpano Tips

1. Use the best pan: Traditionally, Timpano is baked in an enamel metal bowl (literally, a wash basin). My neighbor happened to own several! (In a fix, I wonder if a dutch oven or stoneware baker might work?) Some recipes call for the traditional “drum” size, which holds about 6 quarts of food. I picked a smaller bowl size to fit my recipe—about 4 inches tall and 14 inches in diameter. The crust needs to hang over the pan so that after you fill the pan with ingredients, you can then fold the crust completely over the filling so it’s all sealed in.

2. Call your pizza parlor: You can make the dough yourself, but be aware that it takes a good amount of work to get dough rolled into a consisently thin sheet that is 26 inches in diameter. I have an amazing brick oven pizza parlor in town named Grappelli’s Pizza and Stephen Faccidomo, the owner, sells his wonderful dough. When I told him I was making Timpano (a few days in advance), Steve offered to roll it out! I picked up a 24-inch sheet (close enough) at lunchtime and covered it in plastic when I got home.

3. Prepare ingredients in advance: I advise making the meatballs and sauce and cooking the pasta before baking day so that you’re not overwhelmed. At Grapelli’s, Steve said, “Next time, just ask us for the sauce and I’ll get the meatballs for you, too.”  He gave me a sauce sample—and I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted better. Two more time-savers if you need them! 

4. Create an assembly line: Before filling the Timpano, you need to set out individual bowls with ALL of your chopped cheese, salami, and eggs (we omitted yolks due to a no-yolk guest), plus your pasta and sauce. I mean it! You must have everything ready to go pronto on the counter because you need to layer in all the ingredients before the dough dries out. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

As you layer the ingredients (not too thick!), feel free to shake the pan so that they settle; you want a firm Timpano. In the picture below, my husband is pressing down to make more room! Fill up the pan until the ingredients are even with the edge. Then, cover with dough and seal it with a little olive oil.

5. Make sure the Timpano rests for at least 30 minutes after baking! This is CRITICAL and a tip missing from the recipe page. Don’t lose your Timpano! Here is what you do:

  • After the Timpano is finished baking and rests for 5 minutes, set a platter or cutting board on the top of the timpano pan. Then … DRUM ROLL … flip it over! My brother did the honors.
  • Keep the hot enamel dish with the Timpano sitting on top of the platter for those 30 minutes so it settles, firms up, and does not fall apart. We waited 45 minutes.  Then, the Timpano will gently release from the pan and you can lift the pan off for the “reveal!”







Cut the Timpano into wedges and serve with a bit of red sauce. A big green salad and a nice bottle of red wine is all you need to add, since Timpano is a meal unto itself.

The result ? Bellissimo! The entire family was sated—and is still talking about the meal.

Dessert? I kept it very light for those who like to end on a sweet note—biscotti, a scoop of gelato, and vin santo (dessert wine).

How does it look to you? And do you have your own “big” night dinner ideas? I would love to hear about your experiences for a new food adventure.

Buon appetito!


Beautiful photos! It looks

Beautiful photos!
It looks like a lot of fun--can't wait until we can have our own "Big Night!"

What a great idea....love

What a great idea....love Italian food and how everyone can help to make the dinner. What kind of wine do you suggest having with it?

Thank you. A basic Chianti

Thank you. A basic Chianti Classico (Antinori) is always a good choice! If you have a bigger budget, consider a Barolo. The trick is to pause for a sip of wine as you're making the Timpano!

Being Italian, I'm anxious to

Being Italian, I'm anxious to make this dish for my next dinner party. I definitely will get the dough from a neighbor pizza place. looks delicious!

Thanks for the how-to photos.

Thanks for the how-to photos. It's almost like being there!



"Timpano Recipe: 5 Tips for a Fabulous Feast” by Catherine Boeckmann is a brilliant piece of writing end photography. I can already see myself sitting down for a meal of Timpano. I’m still salivating. Coming from an Italian family and having lived in Rome for eleven years, I fancy myself to be a connoisseur of Italian culinary art. In her description Catherine Boeckmann makes you smell the aroma of the Timpano and contemplate the magnificent colors of the proud ingredients chosen to go into it. How do I get invited to a Timpano party?

It is so wonderful to see

It is so wonderful to see these comments from Italian food lovers! For a Timpano party, my suggest is to first find 6 to 8 like-minded souls who wish to engage on this adventure. Break out the ingredients and steps--so that one person brings the prepared pasta and another the meatballs and another the sauce and so on! You'll still have fun putting it all together--and play a game of pinochle while it bakes!

I am a northern Italian and

I am a northern Italian and have never heard of TIMPANO. What a wonderful dinner this would make! Catherine Boeckmann makes you feel like you're right there cooking along with her. I can see why helpers would be needed to make this tasty dish, but it would be all worth the effort. Maybe someday, I'll have a TIMPANO party where all guests can assist. Can someone tell me what region of Italy claims this dish? Not only did Catherine Boeckmann make this dish, but she took time and effort to explain each step and provided photos. Thank you.

Grazie! If your family is

Grazie! If your family is from Italy, you really should see the movie I mention--BIG NIGHT! You can rent it. The story is about two brothers from Italy who come to American and it's very funny. Anyone who loves food (whether Italian or not) would enjoy the film. I believe the Timpano tradition is from Calabria, Italy, a region from souther Italy; the ingredients, however, are "classic" Italian--pasta, meatballs, salami, etc.

I was the lucky recipient of

I was the lucky recipient of a slice of Catherine's marvelous Timpano. It was super impressive and magnifico!

I am impressed and now hungry

I am impressed and now hungry for something Italian and spicy!!!! I make a pretty good Chicken Tetrazzini, but it is nothing like your Timpano!! Your directions and pictures were fabulous and very helpful if I ever get up the energy to make your recipe!!!

Timpano sounds like a

Timpano sounds like a party...both to create and then to enjoy! What a great way spend time with friends and family! Love it. Thanks!

M-m-m-m! Looks good! I even

M-m-m-m! Looks good! I even clicked on Grappelli's Pizza--worth a visit!

This recipe makes me hungry

This recipe makes me hungry for pasta and it is only 6am! What a wonderful Italian dish.

What a great recipe I can't

What a great recipe I can't wait to try it. Thanks for "showing" me how to do it. A picture is worth a thousand words!!!
Love the one dish meal for entertaining too. More time to spend with guests! Keep them coming!

My in-laws were immigrants

My in-laws were immigrants from Calabria, Italy and I have had many delicious and unusual Italian dishes but "Timpano" was not one of them. Where the hostess and guests all join in and prepare this dish is a great idea.

Woooow. I am definitely going

Woooow. I am definitely going to try this! I couldn't believe as I started to read this, that you mention Grappelli's! I grew up in the area and know the Faccidomo family. I might just have to get some dough next time I am in town.

How neat! I am going to send

How neat! I am going to send the family the link to this blog today. They were very kind in offering to help me with the dough. I hope that they see your comment, too!

Lovely! but how many servings

Lovely! but how many servings did it provide?? It's important to know this. Thank you :)

Thanks for your compliment.

Thanks for your compliment. It says that the recipe easily serves 8 servings in the text of this blog. If you click on the recipe, it says 6 to 8 servings.

Yum! Thanks for the tip about

Yum! Thanks for the tip about checking with a pizza parlor. I wouldn't have the nerve to try to make the dough.

I don't eat meat - will the

I don't eat meat - will the recipe work as well with a substitute or extra veggies?

I read about a cook who

I read about a cook who substituted the meat with soy meatballs and soy Italian Sausage. For an all-veggie timpano, you could try eggplant (yum!). Here's a recipe that looks very good: http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2008/04/eggplant-timpano.html

In your photos, what's in the

In your photos, what's in the Pyrex measuring cup? A cheese? What kind?

The cup has grated

The cup has grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmigiano cheese.
The recipe I used is here: http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/5668/Big-Night-Timpano.html
This recipe just lists one pound mozzerla cut into one-inch cubes. However, I adapted my recipe to include a second cheese.
One good recipe I read about uses 2/3 cup Parmigiano and 2 cups sharp Provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
You can see the recipe is flexible. Throw it all in there!

Not sure when the movie Big

Not sure when the movie Big Night was released but saw it for the first time last night.

My father was from Sicily but I don't recall ever hearing of this fabulous dish! he passed on four years ago, my mother passed just his month so I have no one to ask :(

That certainly won't stand in my way. After seeing the movie I really want to make this and since I already make my own dough, sauce and meatballs it won't be a chore for me(cooking never is).

Really want to make this for Sunday dinner but would have to omit the sliced egg, hubby doesn't like having egg in this type of dish. has anyone tried it without the egg? I kinda feel like it would amount to another version of lasagna, just more time consuming to make.

Thank you for posting the additional tips.

I wonder how many of the

I wonder how many of the commenters have actually read the recipe closely and made it? The reason I say this is that there are some obvious errors either in Catherine's notes or in the recipe:
1. Catherine says she used a pan which is 14" wide by 4" deep. This would require a 36" diameter round of pasta dough!!!!! Clearly she either used a smaller pan or forgot to mention that you need twice as much (by area) dough than the recipe calls for.
2. The NY Times recipe link specifies a 3 quart pan. Catherine's pan at 14"x4" is over 6 quarts, so either she used a smaller pan or doubled the NYT recipe.
3. The NYT recipe specifies 6-8 cups of sauce. This is WAY too much for a 3 quart pan and would make a soupy mess which would probably soak and ruin the dough shell. I suspect that the NYT adapted their recipe from the traditional timpano recipe which requires a 6 quart pan and 7-8 cups of sauce. But they forgot to halve the sauce quantity.

No doubt Catherine made adjustments to the NYT recipe as she went along to fix these errors. Would be nice if she provided these adjustments in the tips, or linked to a recipe which was actually correct.

Hi, readers, If it helps,

Hi, readers, If it helps, please note that the pan was indeed 14 x 4. Frankly, it's just the dish size I had available! (It would be fun to make a really huge drum-size Timpano.) The pizza dough that the Italian pizza parlor owner gave me started out at 26 inches in diameter but also he did me the kindness of stretching it even further and then folding it into a pizza box. And I recall we stretched it further at home. However, it's a fair point to say that it would be better to get a 36-inch diameter dough if you could. In terms of the NYT recipe, my mother (also Italian) and I just keep adding layers of meat and cheese and whatever until the dish was full. Sure, we had leftovers (yum)! This is a very flexible dish. It's a Timpano, not a chemistry experiment. Simply layer in the ingredients that you like the most and make it the way you want it! Buon appetito!

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