Tuesday, April 11, 2006



I made this beautiful timbale for a special friend. He had seen the movie “Big Night” and asked if I could make the show-stopping pasta pie (timbale) for him for his 40th birthday. Not only did I make him one; I made him two. And we had plenty of help eating it as they were the center pieces for his party. That was four years ago. He requested that I make it agains for him, and I did this past Sunday.

I adapted a recipe I found in “The Italian Country Table,” Lynn Rossetto Kasper, published by Scribner, 1999. She describes the dish as a “…pasta extravaganza Italy’s old nobility showed off on its banquet tables. Over the centuries, recipes…filtered down to landowners, farmers and peasants. These families always saved them for celebrating great occasions.”

Use your imagination for the stuffing that goes into this very rich pastry (it’s made with ¾ lb. of butter, flour, eggs, sugar, and white wine for the liquid).

I somewhat followed the recipe given by Kasper, but made adjustments. One thing that should not change is the shape of the pasta used for the inside of the timbale. It should be either a rotelle, fusilli, penne, or other such tubular pasta, since it makes a beautiful presentation when sliced and served.

Essentially the timbale I made was filled with approximately ¾ lb. of cooked rotelle that had been dressed in a savory bechamel sauce, to which I added artichoke hearts, peas sauted in onions and garlic, and layered with toasted pignole nuts and currents, chunks of mozzarella cheese, grated parmesean cheese, and topped with a homemade plum tomato and basil marinara sauce.

That makes for a vegetarian timbale, but you could fill it with pasta dressed in any delicate red sauce or even pesto sauce, layered with salami, mortadella, hard cheeses, veggies, such as eggplant, zucchini, chunks of tomatoes. The choice is endless.

I used a springform angelfood cake pan for baking the timbale.

Here’s the recipe from Kasper’s book for the pastry (bechamel sauce recipe follows):

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
3 sticks (12 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 large eggs, beaten
9 Tablespoons cold dry white wine

Two egg yolks for glazing pie crust

Combine the dry ingredients in large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or use your fingertips, until the butter is the size of peas. Add the eggs and 8 tablespoons of the wine. Toss with a fork only until the dough starts to gather in clumps. Add up to 1 tablespoon more wine if it seems dry. Gather into a ball, wrap, and chill 30 minutes to 3 days.

Bechamel sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
½ tablespoon, scant, coarsely ground peppercorns
4 whole cloves, cracked
3 large bay leaves, broken
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
4 ½ tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
4 ½ vupd milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Set a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter, onion, pepper, cloves, bay, and garlic and saute and stir 4 minutes, or until very aromatic. Blend in the flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes, or until frothy. Gradually stir in the milk until smooth and keep stirring until it boils. Lower the heat so the sauce simmers and cook, uncovered, 8 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon.

Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, stirring and pressing on the ingedients to extract every bit of flavor. Stir in the cream and thyme. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface of the sauce. Cool, cover, and refrigerate up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before assembling the timbale.

When ready to line the springform pan, take dough out of refrigerator. Cut 1/3 off and set aside. Roll out dough in a circle so that it will fit the inside of the springform pan. Place dough over the center pole of the pan and let it pierce the dough. Working quickly, press the dough to fit the bottom and sides of the pan. If it gets too soft, place in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up again. After the dough has been fitted to the inside of the pan, fill, in layers, with pasta that has been dressed in a sauce of your choice: bechamel, light tomato sauce, pesto sauce. Alternate with meats of your choice: sausages, meatballs, salami, mortadella, cheeses and what you think would make this heavenly dish even more heavenly. Roll out remaining piece of dough and cover the pasta and veggie/meat mixture. Pinch it closed as you would a two-crust pie. Decorate the top with extra cut-outs of dough.

Separate the eggs and stir the yolks. Brush over the top of the timbale sealing the areas that have been seamed together.

Place in a 400 degree, preheated oven on the bottom rack. Bake for 40 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 20 minutes until the timbale takes on a deep golden color.

Remove from oven and let cool for at least 40 minutes before slicing.

Pass any extra sauce. Serve.

A simple salad is a nice addition and maybe fresh fruit for dessert.

Buon Appetito a tutti!

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