I was visiting my sister in Portland when I spotted The Tucci Cookbook on one of her shelves. This was particularly hilarious to me because a few days prior we were watching Fortitude Season 1, which stars Stanley Tucci, and she asked, what’s his name again? Richard Tucci? To which I cracked up and corrected her. So when I saw this cookbook I had to ask why she had a Stanley Tucci cookbook when she didn’t even know who he was. Turns out she had gotten it at book sale at her local library.
In flipping through the cookbook I found a bunch of recipes I wanted to try. And it seemed serendipitous that I found it because my friend Angie, who is mostly Italian, was scheduled to visit for Easter and I thought an Italian Easter feast would be the perfect welcome-to-town festa.
For the center of my fiesta I chose the Timpano. What’s a Timpano? According to thefreedictionary.com it’s “a deep-dish Italian pie consisting of a pastry shell filled with layers of pasta, salami, cheese, meatballs, hardboiled eggs, tomato sauce, and other ingredients that is covered with a crust and baked.” Sounds amazing, right? If it doesn’t, the pictures in The Tucci Cookbook sell the recipe. I was having four people over for an Easter meal which was about the best time I could think of to attempt making the Timpano.
While the pictures make this dish look pretty good, there was tons of swearing and cursing Stanley Tucci while I was making it. I was positive it was not going to turn out for several reasons.
One, I had waaaaayy more ingredients than what could fit in the dish in which I chose to bake it, a concave, glass pyrex bowl that I knew was more than 4 quarts but wasn’t quite certain it was 6, which is what the Tucci recipe claims to make. (I am guessing it was 4.5 quarts at least, 5 quarts at best.)
Two, I made the boiled eggs in two different batches. My friend and I took 8 boiled eggs on a road trip with us before Easter, 7 returned. I made 5 more the night before assembling the Timpano but they were too soft when I cracked into them and not usable. I figured this was OK since my baking dish was smaller.
Three and four, because my baking dish was smaller, I could only fit in two layers of ingredients. I probably should have stopped at one layer. After one layer there was about 1-inch of room left from the top of the dish, which is where you are supposed to stop layering. I had to have at least two layers so I persevered. This resulted in my ingredients mounding up on top the bowl. When I poured the egg over the dish it spilled right out onto my table. I fixed this by lifting up the part of the pastry where I was pouring and the egg slid right down.
Five, sealing the pastry dough over the ingredients was a lot harder than one would imagine. You’re not supposed to let the dough overlap which is essentially impossible unless you cut out parts of the dough so they don’t overlap. But then you have to add some patches of dough to make sure it’s sealed completely. I know that I had overlapping dough for my Timpano. And it looked like a child patched it together.
Six, when I pulled the Timpano from the oven it looked nothing like Tucci’s Timpano in his cookbook. And it’s not just because of the dish I used which was different from the ones they used to take pictures but the same as the one they normally use to make this dish. It’s because my dough turned out anemic-looking, barely browned. And of course it was also puffed up on top. Even though I literally measured the dough to make sure it was 1/16-inch thick, I’m positive the dough shrunk when I folded it and placed it in the bowl. Tucci’s Timpano looked perfectly browned and perhaps like it was brushed with an egg or milk wash before cooking.
The recipe below is not the exact Tucci recipe; you’ll have to buy the cookbook for that! It is, however, a gentle adaptation of the original recipe.
- 4 c. all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 T. olive oil
- 1/2 c. water
- butter/olive oil
- 4 c. Genoa salami cut into bite-sized pieces
- 4 c. sharp provolone cheese cubes (bite-sized)
- 8 to 12 hard boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
- 4 c. small meatballs (I used store-bought)
- 8 c. marinara sauce (I used store-bought)
- 3 lbs ziti (about 18 c.), cooked half the time recommended on the package (I found this was waaaaaayy too much; I think 1.5 lbs would have been fine)
- 1 c. finely grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 6 large eggs, beaten
- olive oil
- Place the flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a dough hook, add 3 tablespoons of water and mix. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Use the dough hook to knead the dough at low speed for about 10 minutes. Or you can turn out the dough onto a pastry board or other flat surface and knead with your hands. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes. If you’re making this the day before baking, wrap up in plastic wrap or throw in a ziplock bag and refrigerate.
- When ready to roll out make sure your filling ingredients are at room temperature before assembling and start cooking your pasta. You can cook the pasta while you’re rolling out the dough. When the pasta is finished, drain and toss with some olive oil and allow it to cool a bit.
- Flatten the dough on a lightly floured work surface. I used a 16×20-inch marble pastry board and it was not large enough. You need plenty of room to roll this out. Dust the top of the dough with a bit of flour and roll the dough out from the center toward the edges going side to side and top to bottom. Flip the dough over a few times and continue to dust with flour to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your surface. Roll out to 1/16-inch thickness. Use a measuring tape to ensure thickness is correct.
- Grease the baking pan generously with butter or olive oil (I used butter) so the dish is well lubricated. Make sure you’re using an oven-safe dish. I wasn’t sure if my Pyrex dish was oven safe so I researched and then hoped on a wing and a prayer that my dish would not crack.
- Fold the dough in half and then in half again forming a triangle and place it in the pan.
- Center and gently pat the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Drape extra dough down the outside of the dish.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Toss the cooled pasta with 2 cups of marinara sauce. (I thought more sauce could be used at this step – the pasta seemed a bit dry.)
- Put 4 generous cups of pasta in the bottom of the bowl. Top with 1 cup of salami, 1 cup of provolone, 2 or 3 of the boiled eggs, 1 cup of meatballs and 1/3 cup of the grated Romano (or Parmesan) cheese.
- Repeat this process until the ingredients come to within 1 inch of the top of the dish ending with 2 cups of marinara sauce. Pour the beaten eggs over the filling. Fold the dough over the filling to completely seal without creating any double layers of dough. Use scissors to cut the dough where necessary. If you notice any gaps in the dough, take a small amount of the dough you’ve trimmed and adhere it across the gaps using water to ensure the dough sticks.
- Bake until lightly browned, about 1 hour and then cover with tin foil and continue baking until the Timpano is cooked through and golden brown, about 30 minutes. The inside temperature should be 120 degrees.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the dish for at least 30 minutes, longer is desirable. You want the dish to cool and contract. Then turn the Timpano out onto a serving dish and allow to cool for 30 more minutes. (Mine cracked at this point which is not desirable.)
- Using a long, serrated knife, slice the Timpano like you would a pie into individual slices. At this point the cut pieces should hold together without much of the ingredients falling out.
I made this a Timpano a bit easier by buying marinara sauce and meatballs instead of making them. It drastically cuts down the preparation time for this recipe.
While everyone ooh’d and aah’d at the results and while the taste was pretty darn amazing, I was a bit annoyed by the everything that went so awry while making this dish. That being said, it is an awesome and impressive dish to serve at large gathering. I would recommending doing a trial run to get the recipe down pat — the recipe will vary largely in relation to the the dish you’re using. The recommended dish to use was an 8 quart dish even though the recipe is supposed to be for a 6 quart recipe. Using an 8 quart container should solve most of the issues I encountered while assembling.