Timpano…

I ordered a timpano pan today (and a ravioli maker from FG Pizza, some really cool cooking tools)and will be trying this recipe… if it is good, my food group will watch the movie “Big Night” and have this for dinner.

The recent success of the movie, The Big Night has created a kind of mania over Timpano, or Timballo di Maccheroni. Perhaps rightly so: the dish takes several hours to prepare, combines three or four recipes that are delicious in their own right, and creates an instant feast when brought to the table.But Italians have been enjoying Timpano–if only once or twice per year–in one form or another since the Renaissance. Nearly every region of Italy includes some kind of savory pie in their cuisine; from Torta Pasqualina in Emilia-Romagna, to Capelli d’Angeli al Forno in Tuscany, to Timballo di Maccheroni in Abruzzi and Calabria.

The key to success with this dish will be your organization. Be sure to have all ingredients on hand, and allow enough time to get everything but the assembly done in advance. Your reward could be canonization, nomination for the Nobel Prize, or–at a minimum–a hearty round of applause when you bring the Timpano to the table.

As I said, this dish breaks down to be three or four excellent recipes, and you can cook 90 % of it in advance. When you’ve started the sauce–which will take three to four hours–you can complete the rest of the preparation at your lesiure and simply assemble the dish about one and a half hours before you plan to serve

INGREDIENTS: SKIP’S RAGU` ALLA NAPOLETANA:1 Medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 Stalk celery, washed and roughly chopped
1 Medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
4 Cloves garlic, peeled
2 oz. pancetta
4 Tbs. flat-leaf Italian parsley
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Lb. “Country-style” pork spare ribs
3 Cups dry red wine
1 4 Oz. Can tomato paste
1 28 Oz. Can Italian plum tomatoes
4 Sweet Italian sausages

LAURIE’S SAVORY PASTRY CRUST:

I must give credit where credit is due. And I must confess that I don’t bake. My record for creating disaster out of pastry crust remains unblemished from the early nineteen-seventies. So I depend on Laurie, who is a genius-level baker, for this part of the recipe. (A reviewer said to double this)

2 Cups All-purpose flour
1/2 Cup (2 sticks) frozen, unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbs. pieces
pinch (scant 1/4 tsp.) salt
2 Large eggs

SKIP’S MEATBALLS:

If you grew up in an Italian-American household, as I did, you’ll very likely recognize this recipe for meatballs. But if you have a “secret recipe” of your own, by all means use it here.

1/2 Lb. ground beef
1 Large egg
1/2 Cup bread crumbs
1 Clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 Tbs. flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/4 Cup freshly grated Parmigiano
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

SKIP’S CHICKEN LIVERS:

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
4 chicken livers, all visible fat removed
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. cognac

SKIP’S SAUTE`ED CHICKEN BREASTS:

2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 chicken breasts, skin removed
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Cup dry white wine
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 Tbs. flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped

THE REST OF THE STUFF:

1 Lb. penne rigate or ziti
1 Cup frozen baby peas
2 Large eggs, hardboiled and quartered lengthwise
1/2 Lb. fresh Mozzarella, cut into irregular 1/4 inch slices
Freshly grated Parmigiano
4 Tbs. flat-leaf Italian Parsley, finely chopped

THE RAGU:
Put the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, pancetta and parsley in a food processor and pulse about ten times for one second each pulse. Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, then the chopped vegetables. Lower the heat and saute the mixture– known as a batutto–for ten or fifteen minutes or until they soften and brown very lightly.

Add the pork ribs, cover the pot and cook over low heat for one hour. At the end of the hour, uncover the pot, raise the heat to high and add the wine. Allow the wine to boil for a minute or two in order to burn off the alcohol. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer gently for about an hour, or until the wine has reduced to about 1 cup. Remove the ribs and reserve them for another purpose, like spuntature e fagioli, pork ribs and beans.

Whisk in the tomato paste, then add the plum tomatoes. Stir, breaking up the tomatoes, to combine with the wine reduction and tomato paste. Add the sausages, cover the pot and cook over low heat for one more hour. At the end of the hour, remove the sausages, cool, cut them in fourths and reserve.

THE PASTRY CRUST:

When you’ve gotten the sauce cooking, turn your attention to the recipe with the next longest preparation time, the pastry crust. While actual preparation is quick, the crust will need to rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Combine the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse about ten times for one second for each pulse. Add the eggs and run the machine steadily until a ball forms and just begins to clean the sides of the bowl.

If the dough seems too soft, add 1 – 2 Tbs. flour and run the machine for five or six seconds to recombine the mixture.

If the dough seems too dry, add 1 – 2 Tbs. ice water and do the same.

Turn the dough ball out onto plastic wrap, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour.

THE MEATBALLS:

Mix togther, the ground beef, egg and bread crumbs, then stir in the garlic, parsley and Parmigiano. Season with a little salt & pepper.

Form the ground beef mixture into balls about the size of golf balls. I usually wind up with seven to nine, depending on how large I make the first few.

Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat, then add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about 1/4 inch. Add the meatballs and saute all over, regulating the heat if necessary to avoid excessive spattering. The meatballs are done when they’re brown all over, and have a slight crust.

Remove, drain on paper towels and reserve.

THE CHICKEN LIVERS:

Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat, then add the butter. When the butter has melted and any foam has subsided, add the shallots and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until they’re wilted; about four or five minutes.

Pat the chicken livers dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper and add to the saute pan. Cook for two or three minutes on each side, or until there’s no trace of pink on the livers, and they’ve browned slightly. Carefully add the cognac, tilt the pan slightly to ignite, or carefully ignite with a match, and cook, swirling the pan from time to time, until the flames have subsided. Remove the chicken livers and reserve with their sauce.

THE CHICKEN BREASTS:

Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat then add the butter. When the butter has melted and any foam has subsided, add the shallots and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until they’re wilted; about four or five minutes (does this sound familiar?).

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and add to the saute pan. Cook, shaking the pan from time to time, until the first side begins to brown, and the edges of the chicken breast begin to whiten. Turn the breasts over and repeat.

Raise the heat to high, add the wine and boil for a minute or two to burn off the alcohol. Reduce the heat to medium, add the lemon juice and parsley, and allow the liquid to bubble until it has reduced to approximately two to three tablespoons. Remove the breasts and reserve with their sauce.

THE PASTRY CRUST AND FINAL ASSEMBLY:

Remove the pastry crust from the refrigerator and divide into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Return the smaller portion to the refrigerator befor proceeding. Lightly flour a board or your countertop, then roll the pastry out into a rough circle, 14 or 15 inches in diameter by 1/4 inch thick.

Thouroughly butter the bottom and sides of a 10 – 12 inch springform pan, and place the dough in the pan, carefully pressing all around to flatten the bottom, and gently pressing the dough up the sides of the pan. Use a paring knife to create an even edge at the top of the pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Remove the second portion of dough from the refrigerator and roll out into a roughly formed circle approximately 10 – 12 inches in diameter. Place on a floured sheetpan, cover loosley with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 f., and bring a large pot of water to the boil for the pasta. Cook the penne (or ziti) until al dente, drain in a collander and reserve. While the pasta is cooking, slice the chicken breasts diagonally into 1/2 – 1 inch strips.

Remove the pastry shell from the refrigerator, and assemble all of the ingredients necessary for the final assembly.

Place a layer of pasta in the bottom of the pastry shell, about 1 inch deep. Ladle about 1 Cup of the Ragù evenly over the pasta, then sprinkle half the peas over that. Arrange half the sausages, meatballs, chicken breasts, chicken livers, hard boiled eggs and mozzarella on top of the pasta, then sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano and freshly chopped Italian parsley.

Repeat the process with the remainder of the pasta, sauce, peas, sausages, meatballs, chicken breasts, chicken livers, hard boiled eggs, mozzarella and Parmigaino. Save just enough sauce, though, for one final coating on the pasta before you attach the top crust to the Timpano. Also, pour any accumulated juices from the chicken breasts and chicken livers over the pasta before sealing with the top crust.

Remove the top crust from the refrigerator, place on top of the springform pan, trim the edges with a paring knife or scissors, then pinch the top and bottom crusts together with your fingers.

Make two or three 1 inch slits in the top crust to vent steam during the cooking process, place in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The pastry should be well browned, all the ingredients should be thouroughly heated, and the cheese melted.

Remove the sides from the springform pan, put the Timpano on a platter and serve at the table. Be gracious when the guests applaud.

Serves twelve.

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