A Big Birthday Night Feast

Timpano... a la " Big Night"

I was looking on YouTube for the scene from the Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub movie  Big Night the other day. When I finally did come across it, there was a comment that this scene was basically food porn. I had to laugh at that, because yes, the scene makes you ooh and aah, drool and pant, 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 will usually let me know the day after her birthday what she wants me to make for her dinner next year.  So I thought I’d be making pizza once again for her this year.  But then we watched  Big Night a few weeks before her birthday, and she want CRAZY wanting the timpano from the movie.

After scouting around on 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 made.  It would be perfect for making the full recipe.   But honestly?  Unless you were planning on having a large party, or half the neighborhood over for dinner, I’d plan on cutting the recipe in half.

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!

mixing the meat sauce with the ziti

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.

into the oven

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.  Then you let it cool out of the oven 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 can hardly wait!  But she still has to wait another 30 minutes, so 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!

She’s sooooooooooo anxious to eat it!!

Buon appetit Birthday Girl!

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 makes 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.

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


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