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!


Everytime I see that you've posted I want to applaud because I'm so happy.

Once again you've outdone yourself. You made a timbale! You're my hero!!! It looks wonderful and thank you for sharing the recipe.

Isn't Big Night one of the best movies!

By the way, in case I don't get in touch with you via e-mail before the weekend ... Buona Pasqua!
Hi Ivonne,

I had planned to take a photo of the inside of the timbale, but once I cut it, it was gone in a matter of minutes!

People really love this.

It's different, it's gorgeous to look at, and yummy!

Buona Pasqua!
this one looks great!
Hi Isabella.

What a beautiful timbale. I've never had the courage to make one, but your courage has inspired me!

Now I've got to see "Big Night," too.
looks great! between you and mr. a., i am now really humgry!
Wow, Isabella; this is seriously gorgeous. I'd never heard of it before now.

I hope you're having/had a great Easter. I'm sure there'll be post about it in the near future...right?

While this is not about food, it seems a better place to post this than at your political blog.
On June 20, 1949 LIFE magazine published a photograph taken at the 3rd Sculpture International Exhibition in Philadelphia that included something like 70 of the 250 sculptors who showed at that event. I am trying to figure out who the sculptors are in the picture and am hoping that you might be able to recognize Peter Abate, your former teacher, who exhibited a plaster piece entitled "Spiritual Symphysis".

I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have and can send you a copy of the picture if you wish. Of course, you might already have one up in the archives, or in the attic or basement or somewhere, but if not, I'll send one as an attachment ASAP. There is also a very annotated list of the other artists who exhibited, some of whom are in the picture, that I can send along. There is always the possibility that you, or someone that you are inspired to show the photograph and list to, will recognize someone.

Life is supposed to be interesting.

Einar Einarsson Kvaran
art historian without portfolio
Dixon NM
PS - I notice that you have NOT spent much time in New Mexico. Artists seem to love it here. eek
The timbale sounds like it would taste and look very good. I love your blog. If you have a chance check my food blog out at http://cheftami.blogspot.com/
Thi is the first time I have ever heard of timbale. it sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe.
last year i made a timbale recipe which i found on line (i did not print it and my computer went kaput). i cannot find it anywhere now. it had a wonderful pastry which you put in a springform pan, a ragu sauce with ribs which were used for anouther purpose, meatbals, chicken which was flambeed, a bechamel, cheese, macaroni an some other things. various meats were cooked in liquors. i would ike to make it for my husband's birthday this week end. can you help?
last year i tried a timbale recipe i found on line (I failed to print it and my computer has since gone kaput). I can no longer find thid recipe. it had a wonderful pastry which you put in a spring form pan, a ragu sauce made with ribs which were used at another time, meatballs, chicken which was sauteed and flambeed. as you can tell it was an nvolved recipe, but my son and i would like to do it for my husband's irthday this weekend. can you help?
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