March 4, 2020

Timpano “Ala Big Night”

Timpano “Ala Big Night”

Timpano “Ala Big Night”

Adapted from “The Tucci Cookbook” Stanley Tucci

Ok, this is a cool dish but first let me tell you how much I love the movie The Big Night. If you are food lover, you need to see this film.  And I don’t know about you, but I am crazy for Stanley Tucci – he’s an amazing actor and his cookbook is fantastic.

In the movie The Big Night – there is a show-stopper moment when a labor of absolute love, the handmade Timpano is revealed. It’s a stunner.  

It’s been a while since I made this beast, but it is really fun to assemble. Just takes a little planning and holy cow will your guests be amazed!

Here we go let’s break this into parts:

Part One – The Sauce – This is my sauce but if you buy the Tucci cookbook, you will use his Ragu which I often do -it’s a great one too.

(you could make this and freeze it, thaw overnight when ready to use)

Brooklyn Bolognese

Serves 12

Bolognese is a thick, full-bodied meat sauce enhanced with red wine. Easy.  But, that’s kind of like saying Cake is flower, sugar and butter.  Sort of.  There’s a lot of finesse that goes into a sauce like this.  Every family has their own version.   My family is not Italian, so I just took the best components from a few friends’ recipes and put them together to make mine. Enjoy!

Again, enough for an army but this is big-pot cooking.  Sunday dinner with a family of 12 kind of cooking.  Cut the recipe in half or make the full batch and freeze some sauce for an easy crock-pot dinner down the road.

1 4-5 pound shoulder of veal, cubed

3 pounds ground Italian sausage (casings removed)

1-pound top round, or London broil, cubed

4 yellow onions, diced

2 heads garlic, peeled, and coarsely chopped

4 large sprigs fresh oregano

2 8-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

1 8-ounce can whole tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

3 tablespoons anchovy paste

2 cups Chianti

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

olive oil


salt and pepper (coarsely ground black pepper)


In a large Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium high.

Season a few cups of flour with salt and pepper.  Toss cubed veal in seasoned flour and shake off excess (you can put the dusted veal in a colander and give it a good shake).

Fry veal in Dutch oven, browning every side, for about 10 minutes (you will probably do this in batches, don’t rush it, get a bar stool and a glass of wine, hang out by the stove turning the meat when it’s nice and brown).

While veal is browning, dust beef in seasoned flour and shake off excess.

Remove veal with a slotted spoon to a platter.

In same pot, add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil, and brown beef just like veal. Remove with a spoon to same platter with the veal.

In same pot, add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil and brown Italian sausage.  Remove to the meat platter leaving all the fat and juices in the pan.

Add onion and garlic to pot and cook, stirring and breaking up brown bits on bottom of pan, until onions are soft, about 4 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring to coat all the onions, and gently toasting the tomato paste, about 2 -3 minutes.

Add wine, vinegar and brown sugar and scrape up all the brown bits on bottom of pan.

Add tomatoes and stir, gently breaking up the whole tomatoes.  Add sprigs of oregano to pot, along with all the meat from the platter.  Bring to simmer, reduce to low and cover.

Let cook on low, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.  Taste for salt and pepper, season as needed and cover, cooking for 2 hours more or until veal and beef are falling-apart tender.

Remove oregano sprigs.

Whisk in anchovy paste and taste – add more if needing more salt or depth.  Serve warm over pasta.

Part Two – The Meatballs

Use any recipe you love for meatballs but shape them a bit smaller than you probably normally do, bite size.  Cook just as you would for eating, and either store in fridge overnight or, you can make your meatballs, cook, cool and freeze. Thaw overnight to use in your Timpano. Our “three-meat meat balls” are great in this (just make the meat balls don’t worry about the tomato sauce part of that recipe if using in Timpano).

Three-Meat Meatballs (great for pasta or subs)

Makes 28 to 30

1-pound ground pork
1-pound ground chuck
1-pound ground Italian sausage spicy or mild, up to you.
1 cup breadcrumbs

1 cup loosely packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1½ teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup whole milk
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
handful of fresh basil leaves
block of good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
best-quality olive oil for finishing

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with olive oil.

In a large bowl, combine the pork, chuck, sausage, breadcrumbs, parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, oregano, fennel seeds and chile flakes and mix with your hands just until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and milk just enough to break up any large curds of ricotta. Add the ricotta mixture to the ground meat mixture and mix lightly with your hands just until incorporated. The mixture should feel wet and tacky. Pinch off a small piece, flatten it into a disk, and cook it in a small sauté pan. Taste and adjust the mixture’s seasoning with salt, if needed.

Form the mixture into 1½ inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 30 meatballs.

Brown meat balls in a large skillet in batches being careful not to crowd, so they all brown evenly.

Move browned meatballs to a casserole or baking dish and cover with can of sauce, and a good grading of parmesan cheese and bake, 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and tear basil leaves over for service.  Great on rolls or on pasta. Or just on their own!

Part Three – The Timpano Dough

Ok, this part of the deal needs to happen the day you make the Timpano. You could wrap in saran wrap and let rest for about 2 hours before rolling thin and lining the Timpano pan.

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup water

In a stand mixer, combine 3 cups flour, the eggs, salt and oil and with a dough hook, begin to mix adding remaining cup of flour and then water, 3 tablespoons at a time until the mix comes together to form a ball.

Lightly flour a surface and turn dough out and knead until smooth, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover with saran wrap and let rest five minutes.

Begin gently rolling dough out, flouring as needed, and resting as needed, until it is about 1/16th of an inch thick and large enough in diameter to fit into your timpano vessel.

Part Four - The Timpano Filling

4 cups genoa salami pieces cut into “sticks” about ¼ by ½ inch
4 cups sharp provolone cut into dice
12 hardboiled eggs, shell off
4 cups prepared meatballs of choice
8 cups Tucci Ragu sauce
3 pounds ziti, cooked for ½ the time listed on the package, rinsed and drained, tossed generously with 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grated pecorino cheese
6 large eggs, beaten
2 sticks butter, room temperature (for buttering the inside of the Timpano dish)

Part Five - Assemble the Timpano

Using an enamel-ware basin or, a 6-quart, oven proof, enameled casserole, butter the insides liberally with room temperature butter. Now, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, spreading over the butter.

Fold your dough in half, then in half again which forms a triangle, and set in the pan, then unfold and bring up the sides.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Start layering the Timpano by adding pasta to the bottom of the dish, then salami, provolone, several meat balls and eggs* and ½ of the pecorino, onto the pasta. Add sauce. Repeat. Finish with sauce.  Pour in the beaten eggs and fold edges of dough to cover and seal.  Trim away and discard any double thick areas.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, cover with foil and continue to bake until it is golden brown, and a thermometer reads 130 (about 30 minutes more).

Remove and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Shake the pan a bit to see that the Timpano is lose and moving around, if not, use a sharp knife to release it from anywhere it might be sticking.  

Let rest for about 30 minutes then, carefully turn out onto a large cutting board and let rest another 20-30 minutes before slicing and eating! Serve with extra sauce if you like!

*I like to use whole eggs and I set them in lengthwise in a ring – then when we go to slice the timpano we get nice cross-cut pieces of egg.  Stanley cuts his eggs before adding so do what you prefer.

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March 2020