I bought this Saveur cookbook over two years ago. This was the first thing that I saw that made me dog ear the page. A timbale, named for the drum, or tummala, tumala, it’s got a few names… An Italian casserole. It looked amazing, but way too overwhelming to take from the page to the kitchen table. And so I looked at it, sometimes becoming angry because I didn’t know if I could handle making this. Things with long lag times scare me. My attention span can be, you know, iffy… at times. But this weekend, I took it on!
Step One (make rice)
2 cups arborio rice
2 large eggs
1 cup pecorino romano cheese (grated)
In a medium-large pot, boil some salted water. Cook rice for 15 minutes (al dente), drain, let cool to room temperature (this takes a while…) place in a 2.5 quart bowl, mix with eggs (lightly beaten) and pecorino romano cheese. Set, lightly covered (I just used the cover for my pyrex bowl, cause I feared for it’s life in the fridge overnight – that thing is packed recently.
The rice is supposed to sit for at least 6 hours. I let it sit overnight, because if I’d waited the 6 hours it would’ve been around 2 AM that the rest of this would have been put together. While I used to be able to hang at that hour, I cannot at all these days. I hoped it wouldn’t suffer while waiting for me to get some sleep!
I actually slept in this Sunday! It was magical. It wasn’t really sleeping, if we are getting technical… It was tossing and turning and refusal to get up and start the day. So technically, it was “laying in” I guess. Whatever. It felt somewhat essential. We had an early Sunday Supper plan to head up to the Aunties’ so as soon as I dragged myself out of bed, threw a tizzy until I had my coffee in hand, I started to finish this meal so it would be ready to hit the road when we were.
Step Two (cook your pasta)
1/2 lb ziti, or similar shape pasta that holds sauce well
cook til al dente in well salted water, drain, set aside.
Step Three (make sauce)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 fresh garlic clove, diced
5-7″ of garlic scape stem, diced
1 28oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh parsley (flat), sliced
2-3 sprigs fresh basil, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil (med heat) and add garlic and scapes. Cook until light brown – about 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes, crush them as you add them (try not to cover the entire kitchen in tomato juice and seeds while doing this… it’s hard not to in my experience…) bring the sauce to a boil, stirring frequently, cook down the liquids for 5 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Turn down to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add herbs and cook for another 15 minutes. Make sure the sauce is thick enough, otherwise the tumala might not stand up the way you want it to when you put it all together…
Mix all of the above into the pasta.
Start by preheating the oven to 400F, with the shelf in the middle of the oven space.
Take another 2.5 quart pyrex bowl, cover it with olive oil, and then much like you grease and flour a cake pan, you will shake about 1/4-1/2 cup of breadcrumbs so that there are two types of nonstick action going on up in this bowl. Take your rice, wet your hands otherwise the rice will stick to you, and not the bowl at all. Press all around the bowl in 1/4″ thickness, you will have a decent amount left to top it with, don’t freak out.
This is how much I had left over, which didn’t seem like it was enough to cover the bottom (or eventual bottom…) but it ended up JUST being enough. Pack in the pasta mixture, so that you have just enough space to evenly cover with rice. When the rice is packed on top, brush a beaten egg on the rice to meld the bottom together nicely. Bake for an hour, no longer, cause it will get very dried out!
Let it cool for 10 minutes, at least. If you aren’t in a rush, like I was, or not going to eat immediately feel free to let it sit longer. Take a butter knife to loosen the tumala from the bowl.
Turn over onto a platter (or cake carrier, if you are gonna rush to the car right away like I did) and tap the bottom of the bowl a few times, and the bowl should be easily lifted off. It was very hot to the touch though. Sheezus. I really should have remembered that I cooked it for an HOUR at 400 degrees before trying to just lift it off by grabbing the bottom of the bowl with my bare hands…
We then jumped in the car, luckily remembering to pack up and bring the remaining sauce to eat it with!
Success! It tasted good, it looked good (and dare I say, an awful lot like the picture in the cookbook…?) and the sauce was a nice addition. It stayed warm for a good long time too!
I will be making this a few more times, and next time I plan to make it in a few different sized bowls, play with the filling a little bit, and cook times so that it might be a little more moist, and maybe have a few different fillings…? Who knows. The possibilities are endless with this one. It’s headed straight into the rotation!