AMAZING Timpano or Baked Pasta Cake!

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

This Timpano pasta bake cake or Timballo di Pasta is something special. It is made of simple ingredients presented in a spectacular way. Anelli or small ring pasta is cooked with a ragu and baked in a bundt or round tin to create a delicious baked pasta cake. This is also a great birthday cake idea for those that love savoury! This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

Timballo di pasta or Timpano is a Sicilian pasta dish that actually started as a way to use up leftover pasta bolognese. My friend Carm Ruggeri who is Sicilian explains Timballo di Pasta as "poor man's food" where all of the leftovers are baked into a cake form. Carm explains "Some people do it alla norma with eggplant, some people add pancetta. Every recipe varies from town to town." Carm suggested making it with an outer layer of roasted eggplant which looks spectacular. "We used to call it 'Ncasciata' at the restaurant which translates to encased." Indeed, it is different all over Italy and really depends on the region.

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

Timballo entered pop culture through the 1996 film "Big Night" where they called it a Timpano made with meatballs, salami, boiled eggs, penne and ragu encased in a thin egg dough. Tony Shalhoub plays Primo, the chef and Stanley Tucci plays his brother Secondo the restaurant manager. The brothers are from Abruzzo in Southern Italy and have a restaurant called Paradise on the New Jersey shore. Primo explains that it is called a Timpano after the drum and they set about making it for the restaurant guests for an important night. When it comes out of the oven they lovingly caress the timpano and kiss it for luck. Primo worries that the pasta cake is too hot to serve to guests but they bring it out anyway and slice it at the table. One of the guests loves it so much that he slams his hand on the table and approaches Primo silently and says, "This is so f$%^ng good I should kill you" before kissing him on the cheeks.

This is a simpler version but really you can make your timballo based on what you have. If you don't have anelli pasta you can use other pastas - I've also seen this done with spaghetti too. It looks fantastic with rigatoni pasta and you can also use rice instead of pasta. It's the ultimate leftover meal. You don't need a bundt tin for this as you can also use a springform tin or loaf tin and layer all of the ingredients. You can use eggs or cheese to bind it (in my case I used cheese because I love cheese). Some put breadcrumbs and cheese on the outside (which is something I'm more likely to do next time over a dough). I can only imagine the crunchy delicious crust on the outside.

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

What prompted me to make this was a lovely package that I received from my friend Valentina. She knows how much I love pasta shapes and sent me a box of her home grown citrus, Portuguese olive oil and some bags of pasta. These Anelli or Anelletti were part of it. Anelli means small rings and I asked Monica what to do with them. She pointed me towards Timballo and I asked Carm about it. I always ask Monica about Northern Italian food and Carm about Southern and Sicilian food. This timballo makes 8 generous slices and are great as leftovers over a few days. We ate this over the past weekend and really enjoyed it.

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

Today is Monday the 11th of October and restrictions are easing across NSW and we can now go out to eat and have people over. I'm excited to go out to eat but I don't have anything booked for a while as we were working towards the 18th of October as a reopening date. That doesn't bother me as I have really loved doing my series on small food businesses and highlighting what they do. A lot of the bigger restaurants have PR agencies to help them spread the word but smaller businesses don't often have the budget for it. PR agencies are helpful because they are the go between between the chefs / owners and the writer.

I wasn't sure how it would be dealing directly with the small businesses. Would I have to hassle them to get back to me? Would they give me one word answers?

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

95% of them were AMAZING. Not just good but absolutely wonderful. They were passionate individuals who own businesses and were more than happy to share their story. Now as things wind down with deliveries and chefs remove take away options in preparation for opening pickings are slimmer and I asked for some suggestions from readers on Instagram because I want to continue this series.

One reader recommended a place that sounded fun and I put in an order. But then things turned a bit odd and she was a bit strict. She told me that I would receive two messages, one when the order was out for delivery, and one when it was there. Then I had to come down and get it myself.

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

That wasn't possible for me at the ready to run down with such a wide delivery window. On the day I would be podcasting, cooking, shooting and writing. I also would have to make sure that I was home to get it at that time. I asked her if she could leave it by my door. "That is not our policy," she said, telling me that everyone has the same delivery process and that I had to "Come down and eat your food straight away". Sadly I had to cancel my order because I just couldn't be sure that I would be there to get it at that exact time which was a shame, both for me and her!

So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever made a Timballo? Have you seen the movie Big Night? And if you have any cool small food business recommendations in Sydney please send them through!

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

Timballo di Pasta

Did you make this recipe? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

Serves: 6-8

  • Olive oil for frying and basting
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 sticky celery, diced
  • 500g/1.1lbs pork and veal mince
  • 3 cups/750ml/25.4flozs. beef stock
  • 1/2 cup/125ml/4flozs. red wine
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 400g/14ozs diced or crushed tinned tomatoes
  • 3 dried chillies (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3x400g/3x14oz eggplants
  • Salt and pepper
  • 400g/14ozs anelli or anelletti pasta
  • 2 cups/240g/8ozs. provolone or caciocavallo cheese (or mozzarella)
  • 1.5 cups/135g/4.7ozs. parmesan cheese, grated

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

Step 1 - Sauté the onions, carrots and celery in a large cast iron pot. Add the mince and brown and break up with a wooden spoon. Then add the beef stock, red wine, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and chillies and place the lid on and bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt and sugar and add the peas and cook for another 5 minutes. You still want sauce so don't let it dry out (leaving the lid on should prevent this).

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

Step 2 - While it is cooking roast the eggplant. Preheat oven to 180C/350F cut the top off the eggplants and cut them into 1cm/0.4inch slices. Place eggplant slices on parchment lined trays and brush generously with oil on both sides. Roast for 20 minutes and then turn over and roast for another 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

Step 3 - Cook the pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water for 2 minutes under what the packet says (around 6-7 minutes). Drain and add to the pot with the sauce along with the two cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake
Laying out the eggplant slices

Step 4 - Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Spray a 10 cup bundt tin with oil and lay out the eggplant slices overlapping them. Spoon in the pasta and sauce and press down firmly. Place on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30-60 minutes. Then place a plate on the base and upturn and gently remove the tin to reveal the pasta cake!

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake
Scooping the pasta in and flattening the top

Timpano Timballo di Pasta Bake Cake

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