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timballo

pasta or rice casserole

The name timballo (the name comes from the French timbale, a kettledrum) covers a wide range of oven-baked dishes. It can be a casserole or a pie, usually based on pasta; some recipes use rice or potatoes. Meat sauce or bechamel are often present.

They are most popular in the south. Elaborate timballi were the height of haute cuisine in 18th-19th century Naples. The Sicilian version uses little pasta rings and aubergines; the timballo abruzzese has pasta sheets baked in a mould with chicken livers and lights, veal rissoles and scamorza cheese. The village of Pattada in Sardinia makes a six-layer timballo pattadese with beef, mushrooms, pasta, spinach, salami, provolone and sweet sausage. The fanciest of all is named after one of the Church's worst popes, timballo alla Bonifacio VIII, who is said to have adored it.

This old item of Mezzogiorno soul cooking got some renewed respect with the 1996 film Big Night, which involved the creation of the perfect 'timpano' (Calabrian dialect) in a New Jersey restaurant.

A small one (on a restaurant menu) might be called a timbaletto.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Mark Barrieau, Creative Commons License