Timballo - the one dish wonder!

By Ms.Gourmet on December 17, 2009 10:10 PM
Now that you all know that my name is Nanette I thought for the sake of ease I would no longer refer to the father of my children as Huxley, but instead use his real name - Stephen.  I'm going to continue to refer to the children as Hoover and Fussy because Hoover still inhales her food and Fussy, well he is still pernickety.

So now that we have attended to that little bit of housekeeping and are all on the same page I'll thought I'd let you know what I made the other week for Stephen's birthday dinner.

Unfortunately Stephen was going to be in America for his birthday, as he had to go to Chicago for work. I was not too thrilled about the situation and the children were rather upset at the prospect of not being able to 'help papa blow out his birthday candles'. So at the very last minute I invited Jacqueline and Andrew and their two gorgeous girls over for a lovely impromptu birthday dinner for Stephen - minus the birthday cake.

Why no birthday cake? Well to cut a rather long story short, I accidently broke Stephen's chocolate and ricotta cake while I tried to remove it from the springform pan before it had cooled completely. It was an irredeemable mess and no amount of ganache or cream was going to mask my ridiculous impatience. Thankfully I always have a packet of savoiardi biscuits in the pantry so I was able to quickly whip up a tiramisu. Later that night, Hoover and Fussy were none the wiser as I gently shoved a couple of token candles into their papa's birthday tiramisu.

After the birthday cake palaver I decided to make something simple for dinner so I set about making a huge timballo, which is a basically a baked pasta pie. I love one dish wonders as it gives me more time to sit and relax around the dinner table with a glass of wine, rather than fuss in the kitchen while everyone is drinking all the good wine!

Hence, these elaborate baked pasta pies or pasticci are said to date back to Renaissance Italy. Apparently, the French soon discovered how deliciously simple these pies were and embraced them into their cuisine and renamed them timbales. Of course two centuries later the Italian's reclaimed the timbales and thus christened it the timballo.



I used my Spanakopita pie dish for the Timballo which is approximately 30cm in diameter and about 6cm high. The original recipe does not suggest that you cover the pie with zita pasta, but I did, as I didn't want the pie to dry out.

Recipe adapted from The Food of Italy 2000


1 onion, finely chopped

2 fresh bay leaves

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

Olive oil

1 400g tin of San Marzano tomatoes

700g of organic chicken thigh fillets

A glug of dry white wine

A handful of fresh thyme, finely chopped

A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

300g mushrooms, sliced

100ml thick cream

4 organic eggs

200g provolone cheese, grated

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

500g zita pasta, boiled and drained



1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4

2. Sauté the onion, garlic and bay leaf in some olive oil until soft. Add the tinned tomatoes and cook for five minutes over a low heat. Add the chicken thigh fillets, thyme and white wine and cover the pan and cook over a moderate heat for about 20 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms to the saucepan and cook for another 10 minutes, turning the chicken once or twice until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the saucepan and continue to cook the sauce until it has reduced and thickened. Remove the bay leaves and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.

4. Shred the meat and return it to the sauce. Stir in the eggs, provolone cheese, cream and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Grease a baking dish and lightly dust it with some fine semolina.

5. Meanwhile cook the ziti in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet. When the pasta is al dente drain well and place in the dish one by one, in a single layer, starting in the middle and spiraling outwards to cover the base and the sides ensuring that there are no gaps. Fill the centre with the chicken sauce and repeat the process again until the top of the pie is covered with pasta.

6. Bake for an hour or until the top of the pie is golden and crisp. Allow the timballo to rest for a few minutes, then invert onto the plate to serve. Hence, after the birthday cake fiasco I decided to serve the timballo as is as opposed to inverting it onto a plate!

For more timballo photos please click here.

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Recent Comments

  • deeba: Ooh I remember this beauty! You ROCK!! I hope you read more
  • Ms.Gourmet: Thanks bella! It is pretty impressive, if I do say read more
  • Ms.Gourmet: Thank you dear and do let me know when you read more
  • Ms.Gourmet: You really need a long tubular pasta Deeba, as thinner read more
  • Ms.Gourmet: Kat I used De Cecco 'Zita' long pasta tubes --> read more
  • Ms.Gourmet: Thank you Joan! read more
  • Ms.Gourmet: Can't wait to see your version Jamie! read more
  • Ms.Gourmet: Lee Ann I used De Cecco 'Zita' long pasta tubes read more
  • Lee Ann: What brand of pasta did you use? It looks amazing! read more
  • Laura Flowers: That is so pretty! Almost too pretty to eat. Almost read more