A few weeks ago, my friend Lilli dropped off a piece of this savory tart in a “quarantine package” that also contained some of her biscotti — a recipe I posted more than a decade ago in the early days of my blog. It’s my favorite biscotti recipe of all time. Lilli hails from Salerno and is one of the best home cooks I know. Anytime she makes something, it’s always a hit, including this delicious tart. I made it myself over the weekend and my husband and I loved it. I can’t wait to make it for my Italian chit-chat group, when we can once again meet face-to-face for a “chiacchierata.”
The tart is easy to make, especially if you use a packaged pastry as I did. I chose to use puff pastry, but a regular pie pastry would also work just fine. Start by boiling a couple of large potatoes. Peel them, mash them with a fork and add some parmesan cheese and a beaten egg.
Remove the skin from some Italian sausage and fry, then drain of any residual oil.
Crumble the sausage into the unbaked shell. You could choose a round tin, or pie plate if you prefer.
Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Then take the potato mixture and using two teaspoons, place dollops on top of the mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, on the bottom rack of your oven, then turn on the broiler for a couple of minutes until the top is nicely browned.
Slice and serve with a salad for a complete meal. Or cut into smaller slices and serve as an appetizer.
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Hide your bathroom scales if you decide to make this one – it’s loaded with cheese, salami and eggs, but it’s oh so worth it. Just make sure to invite a lot of people over. Even after serving it to my Italian chit-chat group (and there were 16 of us at the table that day), I still had enough left over to share with two different neighbors, and for my own dinner. The recipe comes from my friend Milena, who hails from La Spezia, and who is part of that Italian chit-chat group. You can make it without the meat if you choose, but the salami gives it a nice, spicy accent. I used a mixture of a basic Genoa-type salami, and one that was coated with black pepper. You could skip the salami and use cubed ham instead if you prefer.
Here is the pile of cheeses that went into it – mozzarella, pecorino and parmesan. Milena’s original recipe also called for cheddar cheese, but I don’t think it needs it, so I left it out.
You mix the rice, cheeses and salami with some beaten eggs and milk and press it into a casserole.
Then poke holes all around the casserole and pour in more of the eggs and milk mixture.
Sprinkle some bread crumbs and paprika on top and bake for about 45 minutes.
It’s hard not to keep eating it, but with bathing suit season right around the corner, I had to control myself.
But not for long. Guess what was mid-morning snack the next day?
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To my readers: I’m ceding the Ciao Chow Linda reins this week to my son Michael, a journalist who also knows his way around the kitchen. He’s made this dish several times in the past few years, and with the Super Bowl fast approaching, he agreed to write about it for my readers. It’s an ambitious project no doubt, but gather some friends and work on it together, then sit back and watch the big game on Sunday.
My friend Garrett and I first heard about the timpano when watching the film Big Night, starring Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as two brothers who own a restaurant in the 1950s in New Jersey. The “big night” in question is a magnificent dinner prepared in anticipation of Louis Prima, the main course of which is the timpano.
We watched with amazement as the two brothers unveiled this showstopper of a dish, a large “drum” of pasta filled with ziti, meatballs, provolone, mozzarella, hardboiled eggs, salami, and tomato sauce. It’s not a dish for the faint of heart. Literally.
After seeing it on screen, we knew we had to recreate it in person. Garrett found the recipe in Stanley Tucci’s cookbook, which we then adapted a bit. You can add in meats and cheeses as you see fit.
The timpano is baked inside a large ceramic or metal pot; when it’s time to serve, you flip the pot over so that the timpano slides out, much like an upside-down cake. When it works, it’s impressive. When it doesn’t, it’s disastrous. If any sticks to the pot, the whole thing will disintegrate, leaving you with a delicious mess.
Another word of warning: A full-size timpano is enough to feed an army. We made one for the Super Bowl, and even with 20 people over (and helping themselves to seconds), we still had half of it left by the time the Eagles beat the Patriots last year.
This recipe calls for a bowl that’s about 6-8 inches deep and about 12 – 14 inches in diameter. Obviously, if you use a smaller or a larger bowl, the amount of stuff you’ll need to fill it will change. You could conceivably use a casserole dish, too.
While this recipe isn’t overly complicated, it involves a number of steps, so it will take some time.
You’ll need a large table or pasta board for rolling out the dough. This pasta board belonged to my paternal grandmother, and is probably at least 75 years old. The wide strips of dough are pinched together to make one large piece of dough that becomes the outer shell of the timpano.
Be sure to have all the ingredients ready to go before you start assembling the timpano.
The ziti is tossed with tomato sauce and placed into the dough-lined bowl. Be sure to undercook the ziti, since it will bake more in the oven.
Top with half of the eggs, meatballs, mozzarella, salami and provolone. Add sauce on top, then more pasta and repeat with the other ingredients, finishing up with sauce. Pour the beaten eggs over everything.
Cover the bowl with the pasta that’s hanging off the side, making sure the timpano is completely sealed. Trim the excess dough and place in the oven, following the directions below.
After letting it rest for 30 minutes, flip it out of the bowl and you’re ready for the reward. All you need is a good glass of wine and a salad and you have enough to feed an entire football team.
A huge pasta and meat filled extravaganza fit for a crowd.
Serves: feeds multitudes
FOR THE FILLING:
2 cups genoa salami, cut into ¼-inch to ½-inch cubes
2 cups sharp provolone cheese, cut into ¼-inch to ½-inch cubes
8-10 hard-boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise, then
cut in half
About two dozen little meatballs ½ inch in diameter
8 cups spaghetti sauce (not too thick)
3 lbs ziti pasta, cooked very al dente (you’ll probably end up with plenty of extra ziti)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2⁄3 cup pecorino romano cheese, finely grated
8 large eggs, beaten
FOR THE DOUGH:
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 cup water
THE DAY BEFORE:
Make about two dozen meatballs; they should each be the size of a grape tomato.
Have the tomato sauce ready.
It should be room temperature.
Make the hardboiled eggs.
THE DAY OF:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Boil the ziti.
It should be on the harder side of al dente, as it will cook more in the oven.
Thoroughly grease the inside of the bowl you plan to use for the timpano.
While the ziti is cooking, roll out the pasta dough to the thinnest possible setting.
Take the strips and lay them next to each other lengthwise so that their edges are touching, and seal them together to make one large sheet. You’ll want it to be big enough so that it not only completely lines the bowl, but that there’s enough overhang to completely cover the middle of the bowl.
Carefully take the sheet of pasta and line the bowl. There should be a lot of overhang.
Toss the drained pasta with two cups of sauce.
Pour about 6-7 cups of pasta into the bottom of the timpano.
Top with half of the salami, provolone, eggs, meatballs, and cheese.
Pour another two cups of sauce on top.
Pour in another 6 cups of the pasta.
Add the rest of the salami, cheese, meatballs, and eggs.
Top all that with the remaining sauce and pasta, so that it comes to nearly the top of the bowl.
Pour the beaten eggs into the bowl, making sure to distribute them evenly.
Fold over the dough and seal it completely.
Trim away any excess dough.
Bake for about 1 hour until the top is lightly browned.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake another 30 minutes or so until the internal temperature is 120 degrees.
Remove from the oven and let rest 30 minutes.
At this point, the timpano should be able to move freely; try shaking the bowl clockwise and counterclockwise gently to see if it moves.
Now the fun part: Get a large pan or dish (one that covers the entire diameter of the bowl), and place it on top of the bowl. Holding the two tightly together, flip the bowl upside down.
Carefully lift the bowl. The timpano should come out cleanly.
Let the timpano rest for another 30 minutes, then use a long thin knife to slice it like a cake.
It’s been the summer of eggplants for us, with the purple vegetable growing in abundance in our garden.
We’ve been enjoying grilled eggplants as a side dish for dinner, and have taken them to take to parties in the last month too. They’re delicious hot off the grill or at room temperature.
Start by slicing the eggplants, then salting them and letting them sweat on a paper towel for an hour or so. It removes the bitterness and gets rid of some of the water too. I pat them dry, then toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and an herb – usually mint, but thyme is nice here too. Grill them until they’re browned on one side, then flip and brown on the other side.
We usually have more than we need for one dinner, so I gave some of them new life by making eggplant Napoleons.
Just take a slice of the grilled eggplant, smear a little tomato sauce on top (I had fresh tomato sauce thanks to my dad’s and my niece’s gardens). Then place a slice of some fresh mozzarella over that and continue with two more eggplant slices until you finish with eggplant and sauce on top. Place it back on the grill for just a minute to melt the cheese, (with the lid closed) – or place it in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.
They make a great meal all by themselves, but they’re nice alongside a piece of salmon and some garden fresh green beans too.
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To grill the eggplants, slice each eggplant about 1/2 ” thick, then place on paper towels and salt both sides with table salt. Let the slices sit about an hour. Pat dry, then toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped mint (or thyme).
Place on the grill and grill until each side has browned. Then in a heatproof pan, or aluminum foil pan, place a slice of eggplant, a slathering of tomato sauce, and a slice of fresh mozzarellla. Top with another slice of eggplant, more sauce and another slice of mozzarella. Finish with a final slice of eggplant and more tomato sauce. Place the Napoleons back on the grill (put them on a tin-foil pan first), close the lid and cook until the cheese melts – another five minutes or less. Alternately, put the Napoleons in a 350 degree oven for about five minutes.