TIP 1 > If you need a basic Bolognese or Pomodoro sauce, look one up on
www.epicurious.com or www.foodtv.com.
TIP 2 > If you need a basic béchamel or pesto sauce, look one up on www.epicurious.com or www.foodnetwork.com.
TIP 3 > IFor extra flavor, add any or all of the following to the ragú before filling the crust:
- Some chopped basil or parsley
- Teaspoon of anchovy paste (or one cooked smashed anchovy)
- Red pepper flakes to the ragú before filling the crust.
TIP 4 > For extra texture, add a couple spoons of toasted pine nuts to the béchamel/pesto pasta before filling.
TIP 5 > For a large crowd, you can double the recipe and use a larger bowl, and make all three colors of pasta. In that case, you’ll have room for inserting meatballs between the colored layers of pasta, which looks great. You can even add hard-cooked eggs, although I don’t think it’s authentic (although how authentic can an Italian recipe be when written by a Chinese cook?).
A timpano is a spectacular way to serve pasta at a dinner party — it’s two different pastas encased in a rich pastry. It never fails to elicit oohs and ahhs, and you never have to tell your guests that it’s an easy way to serve hot pasta to a lot of people without having to cook it all at the last minute. You can make the pasta and crust the day before, encase and refrigerate it, and then bake it for an hour or so before serving.
I got the inspiration to do this after watching “Big Night,” a wonderful movie about two Italian brothers who hope to save their failing restaurant with this dish. With a young Stanley Tucci and a young Tony Shalhoub, it’s a well-acted, funny, and sweet movie. Perhaps combine it with this dish for a dinner-and-movie night for your friends?
One caveat: This is one of only a few recipes that is untested by any of my recipe testers because I didn’t write it up in time for them to test. It takes a while, but the steps are simple, and the results are delicious. I hope that you will try it and like it.
Make the Pastry
1½ cups bread crumbs + about 3 tablespoons soft butter
3 cups flour
8 ounces frozen butter, cut into pieces
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon regular salt
A few teaspoons ice water, depending on weather, size
of eggs, etc.
1 Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.
2 Pulse in the frozen butter pieces until the mixture is sandy in texture.
3 Add the egg yolks and pulse. Add one teaspoon of water at a time until the dough comes together.
4 Roll out the crust to ¼” thick and refrigerate for an hour (so that the flour can hydrate and rest).
5 Butter a 1.5 liter (6 cup) glass or metal bowl and dust generously with the bread crumbs.
6 Lay the crust gently in the middle of the bowl and trim off the edges, leaving 1½” overlapping the edge and set aside. You might have to fold the excess crust that gathers inside the bowl (into thin triangles) and trim them off with kitchen scissors to prevent them from becoming a thick lining — you want the crust to be fairly even thickness all around the bowl.
7 Roll the remaining dough out to a circle with diameter slightly smaller than the bowl, ¼” thick, and set aside; this is for covering the filling in the bowl.
8 Refrigerate both doughs while cooking the pastas.
Make the Red Pasta
1 Make your favorite ragú recipe, enough for about 1½ to 2 cups; or it can be Bolognese, Pomodoro, etc. You can also buy a jar of Ragú at the store, but don’t let anyone know.
2 Cook about ¼ pound of pasta (you might have extra for another use). My favorite type for this dish is penne, mini-penne, radiatori, elbow, etc., but use any pasta that is small and compactable (not thin like spaghetti or linguine, nor fat like bucatini).
3 If it’s really wet or saucy, add ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese to make it thick and sticky so that it will hold together when you cut into it later. Add ¼ to ½ pound of cooked Italian sausage (either sweet or hot) to the pasta for extra flavor.
4 Let cool.
Make the White or Green Pasta
1 Make your favorite béchamel or pesto sauce with ¼ pound pasta. (Béchamel is just your basic mac and cheese sauce, without the cheese.)
2 If it’s really wet or saucy, add ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese to make it thick and sticky so that it will hold together when you cut into it later.
3 Let cool.
Assemble the Timpano
1 Preheat the oven to 370°F if cooking right away.
2 Fill the bottom half of the crust-lined bowl with the cooled white or green pasta, and press down to compact it so that it will slice better later.
3 Fill the bowl the rest of the way with the red pasta and compact that, too.
4 Cut the flat dough to fit over the red pasta and wet the outer circumference with a little water (this makes the top dough adhere to it).
5 Bring the overlapped edge of the bottom dough over the circle of dough and press together to seal.
6 Cover the open top with foil.
a Place in preheated oven to bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until hot.
b If baking the next day, refrigerate overnight, remove from the fridge an hour before baking, and cook it for 85-90 minutes or until hot (at least 160°F internally).
8 Remove from oven, remove foil, place a large serving platter over the bowl, and invert.
9 Allow to rest 5 minutes before carefully loosening the pasta by shaking it gently and knocking the bottom of the bowl (which is now the top) with knuckles to loosen the crust away from the bowl.
10 Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano on the side. To serve, cut like a cake.