This Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake (with Cherry Tomatoes and Chilli) is a ridiculously easy family meal, that can be put together with store cupboard ingredients if needs be.
This is a vegetarian dish that should satisfy most meat eaters. I tend to have meat or seafood with every dinner, but find that iron rich spinach is one ingredient I prefer in vegetarian dishes only (such as Spinach & Feta pie and Fiorintina Pizza).
The key to a good pasta bake is to undercook the pasta prior to baking in the oven, where it will finish cooking.
Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake Recipe
400g pasta (large tubes such as Rigatoni work best)
250ml tub of ricotta cheese
500g frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
Grating of nutmeg
1 tbsp Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
500-700ml sieved tomatoes (Passata)
1 tsp chili flakes, or finely chopped red chilli
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp rosemary (finely chopped)
250g Cherry Tomatoes
Parmesan (to taste)
Breadcrumbs (from a slice or two)
Salt & pepper
In a large saucepan, cook the pasta to 2 mins less than al dente – usually about 4 mins under packet instructions.
Mix in Riccotta, spinach, and nutmeg, then add the cherry tomatoes.
At the same time, in a medium pan on a medium heat, fry the garlic and chilli in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes.
Add the Passata and herbs, stir in, and keep on the lowest heat.
Place the pasta mixture in a baking dish, and then spoon over the tomato sauce to completely cover.
Top with breadcrumbs and grated parmesan.
Bake at 180c/350F for 25-35 mins.
Remove from oven, and leave to settle for a few minutes. The pasta will absorb more flavour and liquid, and will lead to a firmer texture of pasta bake.
You’re a foodie and a film fan who’s seen Big Night. You were wowed by the Timpano. You’ve wanted to make it ever since but find the idea of recreating Stanley Tucci’s Timpano recipe daunting. Intimidating.
Don’t be silly.
The Big Night Timpano is just a pasta bake. The ultimate pasta bake. I had wanted to make this since I had seen the movie in the late 90’s.
As my daughter’s 1st birthday party was fast approaching, an event intended as more of a gathering for adults celebrating our first year of parenting, this seemed as special occasion as any to finally get round to making this.
Also known as a Timballo, this Big Night Timpano recipe is based on a family recipe of the movie’s co-star, co-writer, and co-director Stanley Tucci.
It is a dish that any foodie and/or film fan should make at least once in their life. Everything you need is likely available from your local butcher, deli, or supermarket – except, the 14″ Timpano Bowl. It’s the best thing for baking this in.
Take your time with this dish. To get it right, I would give yourself two days.
Analyse this Stanley Tucci Timpano recipe. Spend a long afternoon shopping for ingredients. Make the sauce ahead of time. Prepare the eggs, cheese, and salami a day before. Early morning, boil the pasta and cool it ready for assembly.
After assembling, then baking it – let it rest. And rest.
A good hour will allow this settle nicely and let the treasure trove of flavours be absorbed by pasta inside. But don’t leave it to rest in the kitchen. Have it on display to your guests. Let the anticipation build about what delights await inside.
This is a dish that deserves to be eagerly anticipated, not least because of the effort you’ve put into it.
NB: As this ‘Big Night’ Timpano was adapted from Tucci’s American recipe, I’ve updated the imperial measurements to metric (sorry America, but you had a revolution – why are you still using imperial measurements!)
450 g stewing beef, trimmed of fat and cut into pieces
450 g spareribs (pref. meaty shoulder ribs), trimmed of fat and cut in half
Onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
20 ml red wine
170 g can tomato paste
2 x 1kg can plum tomatoes, sieved or blitzed in processor OR 2ltr passata (much easier!)
3 fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
Brown beef until coloured on all sides, about 10 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.
Add spareribs to pot and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside in bowl with beef. (If your pot is big enough to hold all the meat in a single layer, it can be cooked at the same time.)
Stir onions and garlic into pot. Reduce heat to low and cook until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Stir in wine, scraping bottom of the pot clean.
Add tomato paste and 125ml cup warm water into tomato paste can to loosen any residual paste and then pour into pot. Cook to warm the paste through, about 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes along with additional 250ml warm water. Stir in basil and oregano. Cover with lid partially on and simmer about 30 minutes.
Return meat to pot, along with any juices that accumulated in bowl. Cover partially with lid and simmer, stirring frequently, until meat is very tender and tomatoes are cooked, about 2 hours. Warm water may be added to sauce, in 125ml portions, if it becomes too thick.
450 gram 00 flour, more for dusting
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for greasing bowl Butter (for greasing bowl)
Mix flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in mixer bowl with a dough hook.
Add 3 tbsp water and mix – add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture comes together and forms a ball.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to make sure it is well mixed, about 10 minutes.
Set aside to rest for 5 minutes (the dough may be made in advance and refrigerated overnight; return to room temperature before rolling out).
Flatten dough on a lightly floured work surface. Dust top with flour and roll it out, dusting with flour and flipping the dough over from time to time, until it is about 1/16-inch thick and is the desired diameter (to calculate the diameter for the dough round, add the diameter of the bottom of your timpano basin the diameter of the top of the pan and twice the height of the pan).
Grease the baking pan generously with butter and olive oil. Fold dough in half and then in half again, to form a triangle, and place in pan. Open dough and arrange it in the pan, gently pressing it against the bottom and the sides, draping extra dough over the sides. Set aside.
450 g thick Genoa salami pieces, cut into small squares
450 g sharp provolone cheese, evenly diced
12 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered lengthwise, each quarter cut in half
450 g small meatballs
1.8 l Ragu sauce (meat removed and reserved for another use)
1.4 kg ziti or similar pasta, cooked very al dente (about half the time recommended on the package)
2 tbsp olive oil
115 gram finely grated Pecorino Romano
6 large eggs, beaten
1. Heat oven to 180c. Have salami, provolone, hard-boiled eggs, meatballs and ragù sauce at room temperature. Stir 125ml water into sauce to thin it. Toss pasta with olive oil and allow to cool slightly before tossing with 500ml sauce.
2. Layering the filling: Distribute 4 generous cups of pasta on bottom of timpano. Top with 1 cup salami, 1 cup provolone, 3 eggs, 1 cup meatballs and 1/3 cup Romano cheese. Pour 2 cups sauce over ingredients.
Repeat process to create additional layers….
…until filling comes within 1 inch of the top of the pan. End with 2 cups sauce and pour beaten eggs over the filling.
3. Fold pasta dough over filling to seal completely. Trim away and discard any double layers of dough. Make sure timpano is tightly sealed. If you notice any small openings cut a piece of trimmed dough to fit over opening. Use a small amount of water to moisten these scraps of dough to ensure that a tight seal has been made.
4. Bake until lightly browned, about 1 hour. Cover with foil and continue baking until the timpano is cooked through and the dough is golden brown (and reaches an internal temperature of 120c), about 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to rest for 30 or more minutes to allow timpano to cool and contract before attempting to remove from pan. The baked timpano should not stick to the pan.
To test, gently shake pan to the left and then to the right. It should slightly spin in the pan. If any part is still attached, carefully detach with a knife.
5. To remove timpano from pan:
Place a baking sheet or thin cutting board that covers the entire diameter on the pan on top of the timpano.
Grasp the baking sheet or cutting board and the rim of the pan firmly and invert timpano.
Remove pan and allow timpano to cool for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 mins, use a long, sharp knife to cut a circle about 8cm in diameter in the center of the timpano, making sure to cut all the way through to the bottom.
Then slice timpano as you would a pie into individual portions, leaving the center circle as a support for the remaining pieces.
The cut pieces should hold together, revealing the layers of filling you built up earlier.