Truly, the Timpano, Timballo or Timbale as it is sometimes called, is a labor of love. It’s one of those utterly spectacular, show-stopping dishes that leaves your guests in awe. Be not mistaken, this is one of those dishes that does take commitment, no getting around it. The individual steps can be many, not necessarily difficult; but the result will be a work of art, loved by all.
I don’t often make them, simply for that reason. I pretty much am constantly working. If I’m not functioning as a personal chef for my two very special families, I am teaching cooking classes, catering dinner parties and writing and recipe testing for this blog. I rarely have a random three hours to devote to making one dish (yes, it can take that much time!) and when I do I try to catch up on a little reading.
I guess you’re probably wondering why I decided to write about it this week? Generally my posts are about ingredients you find at the farmers market and easy ways to use them. Indeed I did pick up a few things this weekend to use: parsnip, leeks, shallots and squash. This particular dish became part of pop culture after being prominently featured in the movie Big Night written by Stan Tucci and Campbell Scott. Stan, a wonderful actor and SUNY Purchase grad (like myself), has a new cookbook on the stands. A previous cookbook has the now famous timpano recipe from the movie. If you’ve never seen the movie, here is a funny clip on You Tube that highlights the dish.
So what exactly is a timpano? It’s a baked dish that hails from Italy. The filling and the shell are entirely regional. For instance, the outside layer, that holds all the lovely deliciousness inside, can range from pastry, to rice, to pasta or even a vegetable. The inside can be any creation you can think of but traditionally has a bit of pasta, a sauce and some kind of protein. Given the shape you generally see the layers when it’s cut, so the more you have, the more interesting and beautiful it becomes. I presently have four versions under my chef belt to date, that I would like to share with you.
Read more about the timpano after the jump ….
This one was my first attempt, and not too bad I think! It was my slightly adapted version of Giada de Laurentiis’ version of Eggplant Timbale.
I then attempted to make a pasta enclosed version using meatballs, beschamella and marinara sauce. I probably gave myself a B+ at best. I thought the pasta was a little thick. However, this one also got good reviews from the kids, so I was pretty pleased in the end.
My next attempt was a completely vegetable version. This one literally took me 4 hours to do. It was for a small dinner party I catered in the Spring. The outside was grilled zucchini and the inside had several different grilled veggie layers: yellow squash, eggplant, asparagus, red onion, mushroom and peas. Bringing it all together was a velouté sauce and pecorino. I had no recipe for this one, only my imagination.
So what could I do this time to really stretch myself and get out the box, so to speak? I decided first that my outside layer would be a crespelle, or crepe, a traditional way to do this in Abruzzo. The filling came together in my my mind pretty quickly after my farmers market run this weekend.
Fall is definitely here and the colors are just so vibrant. After picking up kale, parsnip, butternut squash, leek and shallot and I was off and running. I knew immediately that one layer would be the root veggies roasted and another would be the kale sautéed.
I wanted to have a pasta layer, so what better than this relatively new veggie pasta from Barilla. With the flavor of squash and carrot how could I go wrong?
I wanted to lighten the whole dish up, but still wanted to have a protein, so ground chicken seemed logical to me. To that I added mushroom and leeks.
Once I had my layers prepared I need to work on my outer layer, the crespelle.
The batter is pretty close to a crepe batter. You make it and set in the ‘fridge for 30 minutes to rest. Then using my 2 ounce ladle I made my crespelles. You will need about 9 to do this dish so as you are making them set aside the prettiest ones.
Here is an example of how you want to have them slightly overlap.
Now you start building. First the roasted veggies then the kale.
Next comes the pasta with a sprinkle of cheese, and the last layer is the meat, with another sprinkle of cheese.
Fold in the crespelle that is hanging over and cover with foil. Bake for about 25 minutes, remove and cool. I like to make this ahead and then rewarm it to serve. It makes it easier to slice.
So here is is unmolded. (See how pretty the top is!)
There you have it! This is a perfect make-ahead dish for a dinner party. I guarantee you will knock the socks off your guests! Yes, the recipe below is long and probably a little scary looking … but once you start making it you will get into the groove and it goes fast. Everything can be made pretty much simultaneously if you follow the order. The steps are not difficult, but the key is to prep all your veggies before starting to cook. That will make the flow easier.
This is a fun dish to make your own. Your only limitation is your imagination!
Just a quick note on my next demo: I will be at the John Jay Farm Market this coming Saturday, October 13th. I’m a little wistful about this one. This is one of my favorite markets. I was honored to be asked to demo at the opening in June, and now to close it for the season. It was also the location of my Throwdown Competition with fellow Small Bites blogger JL Fields. I’ll be serving up some tasty small bites (no pun intended!) from 10:30 to Noon, so please stop by, it will surely be a fun send-off to their season!
Roasted Vegetable, Kale and Chicken Timballo
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
Roasted Vegetable Layer
4 cups of butternut squash, cut in 1/2” cubes
1 1/2 cups parsnip, cut in 1/2”cubes
4 medium shallots, peeled and cut lengthwise in 1/4” slices
Good quality thick balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6-8 cups chicken stock, (2) quart containers
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup leeks, sliced thin and rinsed well
1 cup baby bella mushroom caps, sliced thin
1 lb. ground chicken (or turkey)
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
2 cups Barilla Veggie Bow-Tie Pasta
4 cups of kale, tough stems removed and sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 garlic clove minced
Ground Black Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Make the Crespelle: mix all of the ingredients along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a bowl and whisk until blended. Place in the ‘fridge for at least 30 minutes and continue working on the other layers. (Cooks note: Once you finish the chicken layer you can start cooking the crespelles. That will give all your layers time to cool down and make assembly easy.)
Heat a non-stick crepe pan, or 8” saute pan and pour 2 ounce ladles into the pan swirling to get a thin layer. Cook for about 30 seconds and flip. The crespelles should be lightly golden brown. Stack on a platter until you are ready to assemble. You should get at least 9, possibly 10. The first one is always the least prettiest, but don’t toss it! You can use that for the center or the bottom.
Vegetable layer: preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the veggies with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Lay flat on a rimmed sheet tray and roast for 15 minutes. Cool completely and drizzle with a lusciously thick balsamic vinegar. Gently toss and set aside.
Veloute’ sauce: melt the butter over medium heat until it just begins to turn golden brown. Add the flour whisking constantly until the roux gets foamy. Slowly add the stock while constantly whisking. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and bring to a gentle boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Whisk from time to time so the bottom does not stick or burn. The sauce will not be very thick – which is just fine. You’re looking for the consistency of a thin pancake batter. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat. You can continue prepping as this is happening.
Chicken layer: In a large saute pan melt the butter and add the leeks, mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until it all starts to caramelize. Add the chicken and another 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon break up the meat. When the meat is about halfway cooked add the Herbs de Provence and continue cooking until all of the meat is thoroughly cook. Turn off the heat and drain off the fat before placing in a bowl. Add 2 cups of the veloute’ sauce and mix well. Allow to cool.
Pasta layer: While the chicken is cooking put a small pot of water on and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and the pasta. Cook until 1 minute BEFORE the al dente notation on the package. That means if it says cook for 7-10 minutes cook your pasta for 6 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl. Add 2 cups of the veloute’ sauce and mix well. Allow to cool.
Kale layer: in a small saute pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the chili flakes. Add the kale along with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes. You only need to soften the kale slightly. That will help keep the texture for this layer. Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl to cool. (Cooks note: this step can be done while the pasta is cooking.)
Assembly time! Now comes the easy part.
First preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 9” non-stick springform pan with vegetable spray. Lay your crespelles out on the cutting board and pick 6 of the prettiest ones. Lay them upside down in a slightly overlapping design inside the pan, allowing them to hang over the edge. (Remember, by putting the pretty side down that is what you will see that when you flip the pan over later!)
1) The first layer will be your roasted veggies.
2) The next layer is your kale. Try to get it spread all the way to the edges.
3) If you have some spare crespelles cover the kale for a middle divider. Go ahead and cut it up a bit if you need to fill in the spaces. The goal is to completely cover the kale. If you don’t have enough to do this layer no worries, just continue to the next step.
4) The next layer is pasta, spread that out along with any sauce left in the pasta bowl. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of Parmigianno over the pasta.
5) Last layer is the chicken mixture. Scrape that all in too and spread out flatly. Add another 2-3 tablespoons of Parmigianno as well. Place the last crespelle in the center and fold up the edges pressing firmly down.
Cover with foil and place in the oven on a foil lined baking sheet. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. In my experience I’ve found that allowing it to cool and then rewarming slightly before serving gives you a better slice that holds together. Plus it allows the flavors time to mix and mingle.
When you are ready to serve rewarm the timpano and remaining veloute sauce. Spoon 1/4 cup of the sauce on the plate and place your warm slice over it. Drizzle a little more sauce on the top and a sprinkle of Parmigianno. Serve immediately.
Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.