We have been greatly enjoying Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy and I'm quite certain that we are not the only ones that have been so inspired to try to recreate some of the fabulous food dishes that make appearances on the show.
In the Season One finale in Sicily, Stanley visits the house of a Princess in search of the perfect Timballo. The name Timballo, or the French word timbale, means kettledrum. And when you see the final resulting shape of this dish, you can understand why it may have been given the name. Thankfully, the ingredients tend to be flexible, using some kind of pasta, dough, or rice, and adding cheese, meat, and/or vegetables. The ingredients are layered into a beautiful and delicious casserole.
While on the episode they show three different methods of making the dish, and then there's the Stanley Tucci family original as seen in the movie Big Night, we decided to start with just one recipe and see how things went. And shockingly, much to our astonishment and disbelief, it worked!
2 Large Eggplants
1 pound fresh Cavatelli pasta *
1 pound fresh Mozzarella
1 cup Grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 32-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 bay leaves
Salt & Pepper
Deep Soufflé Baking Dish
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2) Wash and cut the Eggplant into thin slices length-wise (similar to what might look like a lasagna noodle).
3) Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Lightly drizzle each side of the eggplant slice with Olive Oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then line the slices on the tray (you may need to do this multiple times or use multiple trays). Bake for about 20 minutes to soften, then remove to cool.
4) In a large saucepan, heat about 1 Tablespoon of Olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and carrot, and cook for about 5-10 minutes, until softened.
5) Add the garlic cloves and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer until the sauce comes together.
6) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta as directed (less than five minutes for fresh pasta versus 15-20 minutes for dried pasta). Drain, rinse, and set aside.
7) Oil the bottom and sides of the Soufflé dish. Using the Eggplant slices, line the bottom and sides of the dish allowing half of the eggplant slices to hang over the edge as they will fold over ontop of the stuffing (note: once the dish is cooked, you will flip it over to serve, so the bottom will become the top, in case you want to artistically layer the bottom pieces).
8) Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the pasta, Basil, Parmesan, and cut up Mozzarella.
9) Spoon the mixture into the eggplant lined dish and fold the eggplant slices over the mixture to enclose.
10) Place the Timballo into the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove to rest for 5 minutes.
11) Place the serving platter of your choosing ontop of the Timballo and quickly, but carefully, flip over the Soufflé dish!
* Cavatelli pasta is very fun. It has so many nicknames - hot dog buns, seeds, even belly buttons! It's not always easy to find, but it's simple enough to make. Alternatively, you can use any other small pasta, like shells or elbows.