I watched the turnout of the timpano while holding my breath. Dave removed the lid of the dutch oven, and gently flipped the pot over onto a cutting board. Then he very carefully pulled the pot away from the sides of the timpano pie. And Voila! a perfect pie shaped like a timpani drum! Even though we were both relieved, Dave had still to cut the pie into eight equal slices and serve it. He picked up a serrated knife and slowly sliced it in half, then quarters, then eighths. Voila! beautiful! And the terrific thing is Dave did all the cooking and I just had to join in the eating of it.
The night Dave made timpano was the night we celebrated the New Year. We had champagne, a steamed artichoke and basil mayonnaise appetizer, and a bottle of 2013 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel, which we paired with the timpano pie itself. For dessert, Dave whipped the Hot Chocolate to Die For leftovers (yes- I said leftovers if you can believe it!) into a yummy frozen ice cream dish. As we ate the timpano, we watched Stanley Tucci’s THE BIG NIGHT (1996) which started the timpano journey for us twenty years ago.
Timpano (Timpano di Maccheroni) is an Italian baked dish stuffed with several other yummy recipes such as pasta, meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, and sauce. Some varieties even include fruit! The word timpano is a regional or family term and was made popular by the film THE BIG NIGHT. The term timballo is more common and comes from the French for kettledrum (timbale). Apparently, every region in Italy has their own version of this dish.
The basic recipe as Dave makes it is
Rag alla Napoletana (a ragu or sauce)
Sauteed Chicken Breasts
penne rigate or ziti
The entire recipe takes many hours to make, but if you plan to make everything ahead and assemble it a couple of hours before serving, it takes some of the pressure off. Apparently. I am told.
If you have never seen the film THE BIG NIGHT, I highly recommend it. It stars Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, and Isabella Rossellini. The film is about two Italian immigrant brothers struggling to make a go of the restaruant business on the New Jersey shore in the 1950s. Tucci and Shaloub are incredible as the loving but antagonistic brothers Secondo and Primo. The more successful restaurateur across the street (a wickedly droll Ian Holm) suggests that they should throw a big party to excite people about their classic mother country dishes and says he will bring all his friends including the famous singer Louis Prima. The big night happens with Primo spending many hours cooking an incredible seven-course meal (the timpano is just one course!) followed by much excitement and anguish and truth telling.
I highly recommend you eat before watching the film—or during like we did. Bon appétit!