I became obsessed with making a timballo after I saw the movie Big Night, in which the pasta-, meat-, and cheese-stuffed baked “drum” is featured practically as a leading character. Two days after seeing the film I gave birth to my first child, so I was a little busy. Still, I was determined to make this amazing concoction, so I set about doing it in stages-making and freezing the dough for the crust, making and freezing the ragù sauce, frantically roiling and frying tiny meatballs while my poor infant son walled in his carriage not five feet away. Naturally I have no memory of what that first endeavor looked or tasted like, and it was some years before I decided to tackle a timballo again. Now that my once-colicky baby is a good-natured 12-year-old boy, it’s a lot easier. I still make it in stages, but now I have fun doing it, and even more fun serving it. This is a show stopper.
The pastry dough may be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated or up to 1 month ahead and frozen. Bring it to room temperature before rolling it out. The ragù may be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated or up to 3 months ahead and frozen. The meatballs may be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated or up to 1 month ahead and frozen. If frozen, bring them to room temperature before using.
Makes8 to 10 servings
Cooking Methodbaking, frying, sauteeing, stewing
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturecheesy, meaty, rich, savory
Type of Dishsavory/pot pie
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- ¼ cup whole milk, heated to a simmer
- ¼ pound ground beef
- ¼ pound ground pork
- ¼ pound ground veal
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 garlic cove, pressed
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino-Romano
- 1½ tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- ½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Vegetable or olive oil (not Extra Virgin) for frying
- ¾ pound (12 ounces) dry Rigatoni or Penne Rigate pasta
- 1½ quarts Pork Ragù for a Crowd, heated to a gentle simmer
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup diced Cacio dl Roma
- 1 cup diced Fresh Mozzarella or Smoked Mozzarella
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 batch Savory Pastry Dough with White Wine, at room temperature
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
To Make the Meatballs:
Line a large baking sheet or platter with waxed paper. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze out any excess milk and discard. Put all of the meats in a medium bowl and add the moistened bread crumbs, egg, garlic, cheeses, parsley, salt, and several grindings of pepper. Mix everything together with your hands or a wooden spoon. Dampen your hands with cold water, pinch off a small piece (about 2 teaspoons) of the meatball mixture, and roll it into a ball. Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Continue to form the meatballs until you have used all the mixture. Keep your hands moistened with cold water to prevent the mixture from sticking to them. You should end up with about 45 meatballs.
Pour enough vegetable oil into a large skillet or sauté pan to reach a ¼-inch depth. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and heat it to 375°F. To test, pinch off a tiny piece of meatball mixture and drop it into the hot oil. It should sizzle upon hitting the oil. Carefully lower 8 to 10 meatballs into the oil, taking care not to crowd the skillet. Fry them for about 2 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Gently roll them over with a fork and fry for another 2 minutes. Use a large slotted spoon or a skimmer to remove the meatballs to a paper-towel-lined platter or a large brown paper bag placed near the stove. Continue to fry the meatballs until you have fried them all.
To assemble and bake the Timballo:
Heat the oven to 375°F.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is very al dente; that is, slightly underdone. Drain the pasta in a colander placed in the sink and transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Toss the pasta with 1 quart (4 cups) of the ragù, This may seem like a lot of sauce, but the pasta and other ingredients will absorb it while the timballo bakes. Add the reserved meatballs, the hard-boiled eggs, and the cheeses. Fold everything together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the pastry dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Rewrap the smaller piece and set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the larger piece into a disk large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 10-by-3-inch round springform pan with some overhang. Trim the overhang to about ¾ inch. The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick. Place your rolling pin on the edge of the dough closest to you and gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin. Lift the dough over the pan and carefully unroll it, gently pressing it into the pan. Spoon half of the pasta filling into the pastry-lined pan. Spread 1 cup of the remaining ragù over the filling. Spoon the remaining filling on top of the sauce, pressing down gently to pack in the filling. Top with the remaining cup of sauce.
Roll the smaller portion of the pastry dough into a disk large enough to cover the top of the timballo with a little overhang. Place your rolling pin on the edge of the dough closest to you and gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin. Lift the dough over the pan and carefully unroll it to cover the filling. Gently press the overhanging edges of the top and bottom crusts together. Use a little water to moisten the dough to help seal it if necessary. Using your fingers, roll the crust in toward the pan to create a rolled seam. Continue to roll along the circumference of the pan until you have fully sealed the crust.
Brush the top of the torte with the egg wash. With a sharp paring knife, cut three 2-inch slits across the top of the timballo.
Bake the timballo for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the timballo from the oven and let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the springform ring from around the timballo. Slide an angled metal spatula between the bottom of the timballo and the bottom of the cake pan to loosen it. Gently slide the timballo onto a large serving platter and bring it to the table. Use a large serrated knife to cut the timballo into wedges.
2008 Domenica Marchetti