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How to Make a Timpano, Big Night-Style

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Once you've perfected basic techniques like frying an egg and cooking rice, it's time to move on to those things that may have initially scared you off. Every other Monday, chef Camille Becerra is going beyond the basics to help us tackle even the scariest cooking techniques.

Today: Spend an afternoon making a Timpano, Big Night-style.

Timpano on Food52

Timpano is the Italian pasta dish made famous in the movie Big Night. It’s sort of a refined ziti, which is encased in a shell of pasta, baked, and then unmolded. 

More: If you love Stanley Tucci, read his Piglet judgment from last year.

Timpano on Food52

This recipe is certainly not for the faint of heart: Your day will be full of tension as you dedicate yourself to making sure your timpano does not get stuck, will not collapse, will look beautiful, and will taste delicious. I hope you will be adventurous, though -- why not have a big night of your own?  

Timpano on Food52

Let's begin with the sauce; you want one that is rich and thick. A runny tomato sauce can ruin a timpano. For a larger timpano, make a double batch. This is how I make mine:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 anchovies (optional)
1/2 cup red wine
5 cloves garlic
One 16-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, blended, then passed through a sieve
3 large, very ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters, blended, then passed through a sieve
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Pinch salt

Sauté the onion and anchovies in olive oil until the onions are translucent. After 10 minutes add the wine, then allow it to reduce by half. Transfer everything to a blender along with the garlic and purée until smooth, then return everything to the pot. Simmer with the tomatoes (both canned and fresh), oregano, and salt for 3 to 4 hours.

Timpano on Food52  Timpano on Food52

While your sauce is going you’ll want to get the rest of the components together. Here's what else you'll need:

1 oven-safe mold (I used a pot that was 6 inches wide and 4 inches high)
1 pound ricotta
1/4 head escarole, grilled (optional)

1 raw egg
Pinch salt
Pinch chili flakes
4 cups dried pasta (such as penne, ziti, or rigatoni), cooked
Enough cooked pasta sheets to cover your mold and top (wide lasagna sheets can also work) 
1 pound meat such as sausage, pancetta, or meatballs, cut into small pieces
3 to 4 medium boiled eggs, halved (a smaller mold may only be able to fit 3 eggs), plus one egg for an egg wash
1/2 pound mozzarella

I thought it would be great to stuff the pasta with a ricotta filling instead of mixing everything together like traditional timpano. I grilled some escarole and minced it finely, then added it to ricotta with an egg and seasoned it with salt and chili. This mixture gets piped into each tube of pasta; I used a pastry bag.

Timpano on Food52  Timpano on Food52

Line your mold with pasta sheets, and then begin layering. I started with the ricotta-stuffed pasta, then added a layer of pasta sauce, and tapped the mold against the table. The fewer pockets of air in the timpano, the better its structure will be. 

Timpano on Food52  Timpano on Food52

Continue to layer your ingredients: Add meat, tap down. Add mozzarella, then more pasta. Tap again. Then sliced eggs, and more sauce. Tap. Finish with one more layer of mozzarella, pasta, and sauce, and tap one last time.

Cover with the remaining pasta sheets and an egg wash, then bake for 45 minutes to an hour. 

Timpano on Food52  Timpano on Food52 

After your timpano cools, take it out of the mold and slice into it. Behold your masterpiece. Then enjoy your big night.

Timpano on Food52


See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Camille Becerra 

Tags: timpano, big night, italian, pasta, pie

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Comments (18)


over 1 year ago Diana Hunt

Just watched the movie for the first time & looked up the recipe here. I can't wait to try my first Timpano!


over 1 year ago Chuck Cinelli

OMG that looks so fantastic. Great pics!! Check out my video. We make those every so often in our restaurant. Again great job


almost 2 years ago Mel Parsons

OMG, this is so extraordinary! Thank you!


almost 2 years ago Ana

This is so pretty, I love it!!!
I am from Brazil, and in my language (Portuguese) "timpano" means "eardrum"! Is there any connection with that to the name of this dish?!


almost 2 years ago Din

Hi Ana,
I thought it was for the timpani drum that they use in orchestras, but it's good to know that it means eardrum in Brazil.


almost 2 years ago Mirjam Leslie-Pringle

Piece of art!!


almost 2 years ago DragonFly

Wow that looks lovely!


almost 2 years ago Oui, Chef

I'm seeing this as part of a special New Year's feast, thank you!


almost 2 years ago Cucinista

I was anxiously waiting to see the timpano cut into -- to see how the layers look when presented on a plate!


almost 2 years ago lisa.alessandro.7

My husband and I had a chance to watch this movie recently and loved it. We are big fans of Tony Shalhoub. Thank you for this recipe!


almost 2 years ago Monica8866

Since seeing the movie, I have dreamed of making this dish! So excited to have a recipe! Cannot wait to try it!


almost 2 years ago dymnyno

This recipe reminds me of the macaroni pie that was part of the feast in Guiseppe Tomasi's The Leopard. (an absolute must read if you travel to Sicily)


almost 2 years ago cucina di mammina

I love this idea... Re ally loved the movie too. We have many baked pasta dishes in my famiglia but this is one I have not attempted yet. Thanks for such a beautiful example to follow, I feel much more adventurous now.


almost 2 years ago amysarah

amysarah is a trusted home cook.

I like how do-able this seems, like a more homespun version of the grandiose Timpano in the wonderful film. Also, how about Stanley Tucci as a 'guest editor'? Lovely, smart guy and his Tucci Cookbook is a beautiful cookbook. Not chef-y, very relatable.


almost 2 years ago ann ladson

that looks amazing and has inspired me to both go back and rematch that movie and try my hand at this…thanks!


almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I never thought I'd actually want to eat timpano until now. This is dumbfoundingly beautiful.


almost 2 years ago ATG117

Seems like the whole is less than the sum of its parts


almost 2 years ago Mike Vella

what are you talking about?