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With timballo, any night is big

For drama, the Italian classic rivals a souffle. But the truth is, the gloriously rich and savory creation couldn't be easier to make.

January 11, 2006|Regina Schrambling | Special to The Times

GIVEN Italy's short history as a unified country, different regions naturally use different ingredients. Rice is more common in Emilia-Romagna, for instance, where the bomba usually is baked with a filling of pigeon or other game birds as well as peas and local cheese. In the base is dried pasta; in Abruzzo, it can be crepes. Some regions even use ravioli or gnocchi.

Anna del Conte's "Gastronomy of Italy" says that bechamel is one ingredient that is included most consistently in timballos, although they can also be blanketed with mushroom sauce or fonduta, the obscenely rich Piedmontese cheese soup and sauce.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday January 17, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Timballo -- An article in Wednesday's Food section about \o7timballo said the dish was featured in the movie "The Big Night." The pasta creation commonly known as a \o7timballo was referred to as a \o7timpano in the film.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 18, 2006 Home Edition Food Part F Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Timballo -- An article in Wednesday's Food section about \o7timballo said the dish was featured in the movie "Big Night." The pasta creation commonly known as a \o7timballo is referred to as a \o7timpano in the film.

That idea, and her mention of potato timballos, inspired a heart-stopping combination of mashed potatoes thickened with eggs, flavored with shiitakes and sauced with fonduta. A small sliver in a pool of the eggy-cheesy sauce makes an excellent first course but could be dinner. Call it "Big Night" translated as "Italian for Beginners."

*

Tomato-mozzarella tagliatelle timballo

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes plus about 20 minutes cooling

Servings: 8 to 10

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can whole Italian plum tomatoes in puree

1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 anchovies, drained and chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound dried tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta

3 tablespoons butter, divided

1 cup pitted and roughly chopped kalamata olives

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided

2 tablespoons panko or fine dry bread crumbs

12 ounces smoked mozzarella, grated

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Finely crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the pan along with the puree. Stir in the tomato paste, anchovies and hot red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, 20 minutes.

2. While the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a rolling boil. Add the tagliatelle and cook according to package directions until not quite al dente. Drain well and turn into a large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the butter to keep the noodles from sticking together.

3. Add the tomato sauce, olives and one-half cup Parmigiano-Reggiano to the pasta and mix well to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Set aside until cooled.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Use the remaining butter to thickly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Dust with the panko, turning to coat the bottom and sides of the pan, shaking off the excess.

5. Add the mozzarella to the tagliatelle and again mix very well to distribute the cheese. Scrape the pasta into the prepared pan, pressing to compact it and smoothing the top. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.

6. Bake 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Run a thin spatula around the inside of the rim of the pan to loosen, then remove the spring form. (If any noodles pop out, just gently press them back into the timballo.) Using a very sharp knife, cut into wedges to serve.

Each of 10 servings: 395 calories; 14 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 19 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 43 mg. cholesterol; 352 mg. sodium.

**

Rice timballo with prosciutto and peas

Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes plus 40 minutes cooling and resting

Servings: 8 to 10

Note: To make a vegetarian version, substitute roasted or sauteed shiitakes for the prosciutto.

11 tablespoons butter, divided

1 large onion, minced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

Coarse sea salt or kosher salt

4 1/2 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice

4 tablespoons panko, divided

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup whole milk

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch cayenne

2 cups freshly grated pecorino Romano, divided

2 cups frozen peas, thawed

4 ounces prosciutto, small dice

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Place the stock in a separate saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the rice to the saucepan with the butter-onion mixture and stir to coat. Add 1 cup of the stock, increase the heat and cook, stirring, until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat, adding the remaining stock one cup at a time, and cook until the rice is tender but not soft, about 15 to 18 minutes. Spoon into a large bowl and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the panko, turning the pan to coat the bottom and sides with the crumbs, shaking off the excess.

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