Timpano Di Maccheroni (The Mythic Pasta Dome)

This is my last installment from our birthday bash (yes, no more birthday bash recipes, sigh of relief, right?!).  I was actually very nervous about making this, but my little nephew loves spaghetti and meatballs, but we’re also celebrating 2 more birthdays so I wanted to have a little twist to it.  Well, as it turned out, it was a “big” twist”.  If you type in “Timpano Di Maccheroni” in the search engine, you’ll see various images and recipes.  As any sites will tell you many people will remember this dish from Stanley Tucci’s movie “Big Night” where the 2 brothers desperate to save their restaurant serves their rendition of Timpano Di Maccheroni.  

My recipe came from renowned Italian-American chef, Mario Batali (and to be honest, I like Mario 1. because he is a good chef, but most of all 2. Anthony Bourdain really likes Mario!!  Don’t call me lame, it’s just a fact. 


This dish is not your everyday dish.  You need to prepare in advance because it involves several recipes.  You have the dough that becomes the encasement dome, besciamella (white) sauce, meatballs, and Neapolitan meat ragu).  You can always use your own version of white sauce, ragu, and meatballs (or if you don’t have time, use the store bought ones), but I personally think these recipes are superb!  You can always make them 1 or 2 days in advance and marry them up on the day of your big event. 

Once again, I will give you an advance warning:  this is a very lengthy post due to having several recipes!!!  Let me give you the recipes for all the sauces and meatballs, and I’ll have the recipe for the actual dome. 

Ragu Napoletano (Neapolitan Meat Ragu)

· 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
· 1/2 lb boneless veal shoulder, cut into chunks
· 1/2 lb boneless beef chuck, cut into chunks
· kosher salt
· fresh ground black pepper
· 1 onion, finely chopped
· 3/4 cup dry red wine
· 2 (28 ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes, with juice,passed through a food mill ( you can use canned crushed tomatoes too)
· 1/2 lb italian sweet sausage (I used hot) I didn’t use this
· 1 pinch hot red pepper flakes

In a large pasta pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil until smoking
Season the veal and beef with salt and pepper to taste and sear 5 or 6 pieces at a time over medium heat, until dark golden brown.
Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining meat chunks (if using ground chuck, be sure to drain any excess grease from pan).
Add the onion to the pan and sauté, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits.
Cook until the onions are golden brown and very soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the wine, browned meat chunks, tomatoes, sausages, and pepper flakes and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 2 ½-3 hours, stirring occasionally and skimming off the fat as necessary.
Remove from the heat and remove meat and sausages from sauce.
Cover well and save for another meal. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and allow to cool
** This ragu reminded me of my old landlady in grad school.  She was 80 something, first generation Sicilian-American; she was always cooking and she constantly wanted to feed me.

Polpette Alla Napoletana (Neapolitan Meatballs)

· 3 cups day old bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
· 1 1/4 lbs ground beef
· 3 eggs, beaten
· 3 cloves garlic, minced
· 3/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
· 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
· 1/4 cup pine nuts, baked for 8 minutes in a 400 degree oven (I omitted this due to allergy issues)
· 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
· 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a shallow bowl, soak the bread cubes in water to cover for a minute or two.
Drain the bread cubes and squeeze with your fingers to press out the excess moisture (make sure you do this well).
In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper, and mix with your hands to incorporate.
With wet hands, form the mixture into 12-15 meatballs, each smaller than a tennis ball, but larger than a golf ball. (I made mine a bit smaller)
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the meatballs and working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, cook until deep golden brown on all side, about 10 minutes.  (If it makes it easier, just bake the meatballs in a 400F oven.  Just line them up neatly on a cookie sheet.  This is what I did and worked very well).
(If you have any leftovers you can always add them to the ragu later and eat with pasta).
**Make sure to use good quality Pecorino cheese.  Makes all the difference with taste!!

Besciamella Sauce
· 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
· 3 cups whole milk
· 2 teaspoons kosher salt
· 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Heat butter in a medium saucepan until melted.
Add flour, stirring until smooth.
Cook gently over medium heat until light golden brown, 6-7 minutes.
· Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until almost boiling.
Add milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth.
If lumps begin to form, you need to adjust the heat up a bit higher.
Bring to a boil, and cook for 30 seconds, continuing to stir. (You may have to stir for more than 30 seconds, just make sure until the sauce begins to coat the back of the spoon).
· Remove from the heat and season with salt and nutmeg.

  • Timpano Di Maccheroni

  • Dough
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 6 ounces lard or 6 ounces butter or 6 ounces vegetable shortening
    • 4 egg yolks
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (end of dough ingredients)
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups toasted breadcrumbs (4 ounces)
    • 2 lbs rigatoni pasta or 2 lbs ziti pasta
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 quart metal mixing bowl
    For the assembly
    • 2 1/2 cups ragu napoletano
    • 2 cups freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
    • 1 -1 1/2 cup besciamella sauce
    • 1/2 lb prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch dice
    • 3 gratings nutmeg
    • 12 polpette alla napoletana

    To make the dough :  Place the flour on a wooden work surface (any clean kitchen counter will be fine), make a well in the top (I just did this part in a large stainless steel bowl).

    Cut the butter or shortening into 1/4 inch pieces and place in the center of the well with the yolks, salt and a teaspoon of ice water. 

    Mix well with the tips of your fingers to form a lumpy mass (you may have to add more ice water depending on how dry the dough is). 

    Bring together as a dough and knead for 4-5 minutes.  (it helps to have a clean counter space to do this kneading process). 


    Wrap in plastic and set aside in the fridge for about 30 minutes. 

    Roll out the dough to a large circle 1/4 inch thick.

    Butter the metal bowl and dust thickly with the toasted bread crumbs. 


    Line the buttered bowl completely with the sheet of dough, with a 1-1/2 inch edge overhang.  (It helps to roll the dough with the roller to transfer to the bowl).


    Boil 6 quarts of water in a large pot, then add 2 Tablespoons salt.  Cook the rigatoni/ziti in the boiling water, 3 minutes less than the package instructions state.  Drain and refresh under cold running water – until cold, 2-3 minutes.  Toss with olive oil, and set aside.

    Mix half of the cooked rigatoni/ziti with half of the Besciamella, 1/4 cup of Parmigiano, the prosciutto, and nutmeg.  Fill the dome with this mixture.


    Mix the remaining cooked rigatoni/ziti with 2-1/2 cups meat sauce and 1/2 cup Parmiagiano, mix in the meatballs (about 12-14) and fill the dome.  Sprinkle with some of the grated Parmiagiano.  (Make sure you gently press down so that there won’t be empty pockets while this bakes in the oven). 


    Fold the extra pasta over the whole thing, and press gently to seal. 


    Cover the open top with foil and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes in a preheated 375F oven. 

    Remove from the oven, remove the foil, and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  Invert onto a large serving platter, without removing the bowl.  Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes, then carefully loosen the dough around the sides with a knife, and knock with your knuckles to release the bowl (Mine came out just fine without doing all these).  Let it sit without the bowl for additional 15-20 minutes. 

    Serve with remaining Parmigiano on the side and extra sauce. 


    My opinion:  First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!! if you read this far!!!  After making this, I felt like I could do anything!!  I won’t lie to you.  This was a big feat.  The amount of preparation it took was time consuming, but once again, you can save yourself some time and use the store bought stuff.  I do not have any regrets making this dish.  In my personal opinion, it was very very very worth it!!  The marriage between the dome crust, besciamella sauce, meat ragu and meatballs turned out great;  just make sure to add extra ragu when you eat!!

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