Where Faith, Food and Life Converge

A Big Night Birthday Feast – Timpano!

A Big Night Birthday Feast – Timpano!
Timpano… a la ” Big Night”

A couple years ago, I was looking on YouTube for a specific scene from the Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub 1996 movie Big Night. When I finally did come across it, there was a comment that the scene was basically food porn. I had to laugh at that, because yes, this scene (*beware: expletive ahead!!!) makes you ooh and aah, let your jaw drop open and drool, like few other movie food scenes I’ve ever watched.  Everything just looks so fabulous.  You want to be there.  In the movie.  Eating all of that food….  But mostly, you want to eat the piece de resistance – the timpano.

Say it like a real Italian now… tim- PAH – no.  Because, if you make and eat this one-dish feast, you will feel like a real Italian.

Like lots of families I know, we have a tradition at our house that the celebrant gets to choose what meal they want for their birthday dinner.  My daughter used to let me know the day after her birthday what she wanted me to make for her dinner the next year.  So a few years ago, I thought I’d be making pizza once again.  But then we watched Big Night a few weeks before her birthday, and she went CRAZY wanting the timpano from the movie.

After scouring the internet, I discovered that there are several recipes out there.  But there is, in fact, a timpano recipe that’s actually from Stanley Tucci’s family.  So the timpano they made in the movie was probably made from his family’s recipe.   The Tucci family has even published a cookbook with their timpano recipe in it.  But you can just surf the web and find the recipe too.  While it’s just too long to publish in this post, here it is:

THE TIMPANO RECIPE (from the movie Big Night)

Long story short, and with many pictures to follow, we made it for my daughter’s birthday.  While it seems time-consuming and complicated, it wasn’t too bad.  I did a lot of the prep work the day before, and put it all together the day of her birthday.

Bags of pre-cooked and pre-cut eggs, meatballs, sausage, provolone, salami, & shredded parmesan

And I didn’t follow the recipe exactly either.  The Tucci family recipe involves making a ragu (tomato meat sauce) but I had an overabundance of tomatoes in my garden a few weeks ago, and made a simple homemade tomato sauce that I had set aside.   I combined my sauce with some from a jar and some ground beef.  I love the idea of using short ribs, but I was running short on time.  We also halved the recipe.  While the original says it serves 16,  I’m pretty sure the one I made would serve 16 too!  Truly – there’s just that much food.

In fact, I used a stainless steel bowl that was 14″ in diameter.

Greased with butter and olive oil

From what I’ve seen on the internet, it’s best to use an enamel baking pan/bowl for cooking the timpano. I have an enamel bowl, but it’s twice the size of what I ending up making portion-wise.  It would be perfect for making the full recipe.   But honestly?  Unless you were planning on having half the neighborhood over for dinner, I’d plan on cutting the recipe in half.  I ended up using a 14″ diameter stainless steel bowl that despite it being stainless steel, it cooked the timpano perfectly – golden and flaky on the outside; gooey and soft on the inside.

Rolling out the dough

I’ve made homemade pasta before, and this is pretty much a pasta dough.  It’s delightfully crispy when baked though.  A little trick I learned when making pizza, and moving the dough onto a pizza stone, is to fold the dough in half, then in half again.  This helps you move the dough in one piece and not cause any tears while you pick it up.

Lightly form the dough into the bowl so that when you start adding all the pasta, etc..., you don't tear it!
Lightly form the dough into the bowl so that when you start adding all the pasta, etc…, you don’t tear it!
Ready to fill!

By now, all your ingredients should be ready to be layered into the timpano dough.

a little over a pound of cooked ziti

I don’t know how many pounds of everything else there was in this though…  I’m sure I added a few pounds to me!

Now… it’s time to start to add all the fixins’ in to the bowl of timpano dough!  First you add a little bit of the sauced up pasta.  Then, provolone, salami, hard-boiled eggs (I have to say this seemed like a bit of an oddity to me.  I’m not a huge hard-boiled eggs kind of girl, and I thought they would take away from the dish.  I was wrong; they definitely added taste and texture.), sausage, and meatballs.  Sprinkle on a generous helping of Parmesan, and drizzle some lightly beaten eggs over to bind the ingredients together.

putting the 1st layer in
almost finished
Continue layering ingredients in the same way. My bowl had about 3 layers.

After all the ingredients are in, drizzle the remaining beaten eggs over the top.  Fold the dough on top, cutting off any extra pieces.  Birthday girl and I just tore them off and ate them instead!  We mixed a teeny bit of water with what was left of the eggs and brushed it over the folded top.

The full recipe calls for the timpano to cook at 350 for 1 hour uncovered, 1/2 hr. covered with foil, then another 1/2 hr. in the oven with the door open.  After you take it out of the oven, let it cool for 20 minutes or so, flip it, and let it cool another 20 minutes.  Since I halved the recipe, I reduced the oven times by about 10 – 15 minutes, and let it cool just slightly less time.

perfectly and beautifully browned

The birthday girl could hardly wait!  At this point, she still had to wait another 30 minutes so the insides could cool and the juices would set, similar to the principle of letting meat rest after cooking so the juices don’t all escape.  Sweetheart that she is – on her birthday – she helped clean up the kitchen.  And this is mild compared to the mess it was just a few hours earlier!

Anxious to eat it!!

The Boy Scout in the house, who above all, likes to eat, wanted to get in on the fun part – upending the timpano from the baking dish.  The hard part was finding something big enough (and mind you – I halved the recipe!) to flip it onto.  I do have some large serving pieces but nothing that big!  We finally settled on a pizza peel.

…3! Viola!

It came out perfectly!  Birthday Girl mad the first cut into it…

We even brought out the china for THIS!

Does this not look divine?  Boy Scout said it was his best meal ever!  And despite giving away about 1/3 of it, and freezing another 3rd, we still have plenty of leftovers.  The Boy Scout is grown and away in the AF now, and our daughter is living life large on a boat headed to the Florida Keys, But they’ve both told me that whenever they’re home, if I want to make this for them, they’d be more than happy to eat it.  In fact, one of them mentioned it the other day, which prompted me to pull up all the pictures, take in a deep breath or two, and consider creating this puppy again… when they’re home.

Yep, I don’t need to think too much; looking at the pictures has me salivating all over again!

I saw it.  I smelled it.  I tasted it.  I savored it.  Food porn indeed…

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