Timballo Genovese (Timpano)

February 18, 2022
6 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham, prop styling by Alya Hameedi, food styling by Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

I truly believe an adventurous cook needs to make timballo at least once in his or her life. A recipe made famous by the one and only Stanley Tucci in Big Night, this timballo (or timpano, where it's called in southern Italy and where Tucci's family is from) recipe is the definition of a labor of love. Homemade Italian tomato sauce, meatballs, and sausages simmer while the eggs boil, the dough is kneaded, and the pasta is cooked.

As an Italian, watching Big Night for the first time many years ago is a very special memory for me. Not really ever seeing Italian Americans portrayed on the big screen without mobsters or gangsters with horrible Italian accents as the main characters, this movie made me proud. Proud because it portrayed Italians as I have always known them to be: passionate about family and food. Once the movie was over, one thing was clear: My family was going to make timballo. We made it and enjoyed it, feeling proud of our roots and the magnificent food brought here to the United States by Italians.

This recipe includes my mother’s delicious tomato sauce and meatballs that simmer to cook up to perfection and are delicious all on their own! You can find these recipes in the Heirloom Kitchen cookbook. I also decided to veer a bit and create a pastry crust instead of a pasta liner for the dish as I didn’t want a pasta crust for the pasta dish. (Traditionally the crust is homemade lasagna sheets.)

So roll up your sleeves, set aside a Sunday morning, and make timballo. I also suggest playing some Louie Prima records while you do. Not necessary, but highly recommended! —Anna Francese Gass

What You'll Need
  • Sauce & Meatballs:
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 1/2 pound (227 grams) ground chuck beef (85% lean)
  • 1/2 pound (227 grams) ground pork
  • 1/2 pound (227 grams) ground veal
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably Italian-seasoned
  • 1 cup (100 grams) grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 sweet Italian sausages
  • Pate Brisee & Assembly:
  • 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for the surface
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 pounds ziti or ziti rigate, cooked for half of the time according to the package directions
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella
  1. Sauce & Meatballs:
  2. Infuse the Oil: Tear 5 of the basil leaves in half; reserve the remaining leaves for the sauce. In a small pan over very low heat, cook the torn basil, oil, garlic, and red pepper, if using, allowing the basil and garlic to “steep” in the oil for 10 to 15 minutes. The oil will become fragrant and rich with flavor—be careful to not let the garlic burn or go beyond a medium-brown color. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the solids.
  3. Form the Meatballs: While the oil infuses, in a large bowl, mix the beef, pork, veal, breadcrumbs, cheese, milk, eggs, parsley, 1 tablespoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper with your hands. (This prevents overmixing.) The mixture will be very soft, but resist the urge to add more breadcrumbs; you’re making tender, melt-in-your-mouth meatballs.
  4. Wet your hands, pinch off a piece of the meat mixture (about 2 tablespoons; 30 grams), and roll it into a ball. Place each mini meatball on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining mixture (you should have about 35); set the meatballs aside.
  5. Cook the Sauce: In a large pot, combine the tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Add the tomato paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Pour in the infused oil and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Add the sausages and meatballs to the sauce. Partially cover the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the meatballs and sausages are cooked through (now is the perfect time to make the dough).
  6. Transfer the sausages to a cutting board and slice into ¼-inch coins. Set the meatballs, sausages, and sauce aside until ready to assemble. Chop the remaining basil leaves and stir into the cooked sauce.
  7. Do Ahead: The sauce and meatballs can be made 7 days ahead. Transfer to an airtight container and chill.
  1. Pate Brisee & Assembly:
  2. Make the Dough: In a large food processor, pulse the flour and butter just until beginning to combine and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the sugar and salt and pulse to combine. With the motor running, add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to come together (this will take 5 to 6 tablespoons of water).
  3. As soon as a ball begins to form, turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead into a large, smooth ball.
  4. Cut off about one-third of the dough and form both pieces into discs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24.
  5. Time to Assemble! Heat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 6-quart round Dutch oven with butter or cooking spray.
  6. On a large piece of lightly floured parchment, roll out the larger piece of dough (make sure it’s right out the fridge and cold) to about 18 inches in diameter. Cut the dough in half down the middle. Place one piece in the pot and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pot, leaving some overhang. Repeat with the remaining piece, pinching to seal together.
  7. Pour about 2 cups of the sauce into the undercooked pasta and mix to combine. Cover the bottom of the pot with one-quarter of the pasta (about 3 cups). Arrange one-third of the egg slices over the pasta. Arrange one-third of the sausage coins over the eggs. Arrange one-third of the meatballs over the sausage. Drizzle some more sauce over the meatballs. Sprinkle one-third of the Pecorino Romano and mozzarella over the meatballs.
  8. Repeat two more times until you reach the top of the pot, then cover with the remaining pasta (reserve any remaining sauce for serving). Press down with clean hands to even out and remove any air pockets.
  9. Roll out the small piece of dough, using the lid as a guide, to 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Lay on top of the pot and smooth to create a cover for the timballo. Seal the top and the bottom crust together away from the lip so that it will not stick when it’s time to flip. Cut 4 slits into the top of the dough. Bake for 1 hour until the top is a light golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  10. Run a thin knife or spatula around the edge of the pot. Using a large cutting board, cover the top of the pot and flip the timballo.
  11. Slice (keep in mind the first piece is always a bit messy) and serve immediately with warmed sauce and Pecorino Romano as a garnish.

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Cookbook Author. Heirloom Kitchen.Food52 contributing editor & Recipe Tester.

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