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.