Citizens, there are any number of movies where amazing food is a central thematic element to the plot: “Tampopo”, “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman”, “Babette’s Feast”, “Goodfellas” – and who could leave out “Big Night” by the unmatched actor, director and foodie Stanley Tucci?
In this superb film, the entire last 30 minutes is devoted to one unmatched meal, of which the centerpiece dish is the legendary “Il Timpano” from their native Italian village.
As noted by The New York Times:
The movie clip sums it all up:
Timballo featured prominently in the 1996 film Big Night, although the dish there is referred to as timpano (a regional or family term). Timballo is an Italian baked dish consisting of pasta, rice, or potatoes, with one or more other ingredients (cheese, meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit) included.
The name comes from the French word for kettledrum (timbale). Varieties of Timballo differ from region to region, and it is sometimes known as a bomba, tortino, sartu (a Neapolitan interpretation) or pasticcio (which is used more commonly to refer to a similar dish baked in a pastry crust). It is also known as timpano and Timbale (food). It is similar to a casserole and is sometimes referred to in English as a pie or savory cake.
The dish is prepared in a dome or springform pan and eggs or cheese are used as a binder. Rice is commonly used as an ingredient in Emilia-Romagna, where the dish is referred to as a bomba and baked with a filling of pigeon or other game bird, peas, local cheese and a base of dried pasta. Crêpes are used as a base in Abruzzo, and other regions use ravioli or gnocchi. In Sicily, it’s typically made with pasta and eggplant.
Mushroom sauce or fonduta, a rich Piedmontese cheese soup and sauce, are sometimes used, and Anna Del Conte wrote that Béchamel is the most consistently used ingredient in timballos.
Citizens, to make this dish properly as Stanley Tucci’s family did is an exercise in patience and skill. You’ll also need a proper Timpano pan – preferably of enameled steel. The dish is best made over two days with helpers and includes a genuine Italian meat sauce and proper meatballs that would bring a tear to any Italian-American eye. My take on it is resolutely traditional and I hope you enjoy this unique dish!
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