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A Stanek writes: In the recent movie, "Big Night," a beautiful and
innovative dish is served called "Tympani" or drum pasta. It is a huge
baked pasta made in the shape of a large drum and stuffed with eggs,
sausage, other pastas like ravioli, olives, sauce and dozens of other
things. Maybe this dish is a creation of the imaginations of the movie
makers because I can't find it in archives or Italian cook books. But my
native Italian friend swears that it is real. Any have a recipe for it to
share? Thanks >>

The timballo di maccheroni (that's what it's called in Tuscany and Emilia
Romagna) is actually an extremely traditional dish, and was much more
common a century ago than it is today. I've never encountered it, and I
have lived in Florence for more than 20 years. However, Pellegrino Artusi
does mention if in his now classic cookbook, La Scienza in Cucina e L'arte
di Mangiar Bene (it was the first really successful Italian cookbook aimed
at non-professionals, in 1891, and the 10th edition, from 1910, is still
selling briskly). The recipe that follows is from my translation, which
has just come out from Random House, as The Art of Eating Well. The tone
of the recipe is absolutely typical, and helps to explain the books
continued popularity. If you want to find out more about Artusi, and
sample a few more recipes, visit
http://www.firenze.net/events/commercial/artusi1.htm Roast game birds, in
particular gives a fascinating view of turn-of-the-century Italy. Last
thing: Artusi was a 19th century cook writing for compatriots familiar
with ingredients, techniques and proportions: he takes much for granted.
Where necessary I have fleshed things out out; the bechamel recipe shows
how.

Here Goes:

Pasticcio di Maccheroni
Maccheroni pie

The cooks of Emilia Romagna are usually very good at making this difficult
and expensive dish, which is excellent when well made, a thing thats
easier said than done. Maccheroni pie is a Mardigras dish, and during that
period of year there isnt a luncheon or dinner in Romagna that doesnt
begin with it. I once met a Romagnan of legendary appetite who arrived
unexpectedly at a party as the guests were setting down in front of a
magnificent pie fit for a dozen. "What!" he said. "Just that pie I could
eat all by my self for all of you?" "If you can eat it, well pay for it,"
they replied. The good man didnt wait to be asked twice, and did. "Hes
going to croak by morning," the astounded spectators said to each other
after the performance. Luckily, the mans condition wasnt serious, though
his belly did swell till the skin was as tight as a drum and he groaned,
writhed, and cried out as if he was in labor. A man armed with a rolling
pin hurried to his aid, and, kneading his stomach as if it were dough,
cleared the way for who knows how many other pies. Gluttons and parasites
of this type are rarer in our time than they used to be, for two reasons,
I think. First, the human constitution has become frailer, and second,
spiritual pleasures, a benefit of civilization, have eclipsed the
pleasures of the flesh.

I find long Neapolitan maccheroni with fine holes and sturdy walls to be
best for this, because they absorb the sauce and dont overcook. This will
feed 12 people; you can modify it as you wish.

3/4 pound pasta, either bucatini or perciatelli
3 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano
6 oz sweetbreads
5 tablespoons butter
3 oz truffles (optional)
1 oz prosciutto
A handful of dried porcini
The giblets of 3-4 chickens. If you have the combs, wattles, and unborn eggs,
so much the better.
Nutmeg to taste

Dont be frightened by this hodgepodge; it will disappear under the pie
crust. Cook the maccheroni half way in salted water, drain them, and
simmer them over a very low flame with the meat sauce of recipe number 2
until they have absorbed the sauce and are al dente.

Meanwhile, set the porcini to steep in boiling water, make a bechamel
sauce using half the ingredients listed in recipe below, and saute the
giblets and sweetbreads in butter, seasoning them with salt and pepper;
when theyve browned lightly, sprinkle them with meat sauce and simmer them
until done. Cut the giblets and sweetbreads into pieces the size of hazel
nuts, cut the prosciutto into thin strips, finely slice the truffles and
the porcini, and mix everything together, seasoning the mixture with a
pinch of nutmeg. I assume you will already have prepared a pie crust
using the ingredients listed in recipe for shortbread , plus a little bit of
grated
lemon zest, as it needs to sit for several hours. Now that you have
assembled all the ingredients, you can put your pie together. There are
several techniques for this; I prefer the one followed in Romagna, where
they use specially made, well tinned copper pie pans. Take one of a size
proportionate to the volume of your ingredients and butter it. Drain the
maccheroni and lay down an initial layer. Sprinkle it with grated cheese,
dot it with bits of butter, and spread some of the giblet mixture over it.
Lay down another layer of noodles and repeat the process, continuing till
all the ingredients are used up and the pan is full. Roll the dough out
with a smooth rolling pin till its as thin as a coin, roll it once with a
ribbed rolling pin to pattern the surface, and cover the pie. Roll out two
more strips and lay them down in the shape of a cross to reinforce the
crust, then crimp down a strip around the border of the pie, and, if you
are good at shaping pastry ornaments, use the remaining dough for that
purpose, not forgetting to place a pretty bow in the center of the pie.
Brush the pie with egg yolk and bake it [at 450 F for ten minutes, then
reduce the heat to 350 F and bake it for 30 minutes more]. Serve it hot,
to those eagerly waiting to do it justice.

BALSAMELLA Bechamel sauce

This is equivalent to the bechamel sauce of the French, except that theirs
is more complicated. Set a pot with a tablespoon of flour and a piece of
butter the size of an egg on the fire. Use a spoon to stir the butter and
flour, and when the mixture has turned golden brown, slowly add two cups
of the best milk, stirring constantly, until the liquid appears to be a
milk-like cream. This is a bechamel. If it comes out too stiff, add more
milk; should it be too liquid return it to the fire and add another piece
of butter rolled in flour. This recipe makes a substantial amount, but you
can vary the quantities according to your needs. A good bechamel sauce and
a properly cooked meat sauce are the principal secrets of refined cooking.
[Making a bechamel sauce isn't as easy as Artusi suggests, at least not on
the first attempt. Once you've heated the butter and flour, add the milk
very slowly, while stirring. The flour will bubble and expand; stir
vigorously to keep lumps from forming. Should they form anyway, reduce the
flow of milk to a trickle until you've stirred them out. Once you've added
all the milk, stir the sauce slowly over a moderate flame until it
thickens. Depending upon what you plan to use it for, you may wish to
season it with salt and pepper to taste. Making bechamel sauce in a
microwave oven is much easier and faster than making it over the stove.
Melt the butter and stir in the flour, then stir in the milk and, if you
wish, salt and pepper. Heat the sauce on high power for 1 minute and stir
it briskly till most of the lumps are gone. Heat it for five more minutes
at medium power, stirring every minute or so. Let it sit for a couple of
minutes, and it's ready. Crema Pasticcera (Pastry cream) can also be made
this way.]

PASTA FROLLA Shortbread

Recipe A

5 2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar [since this is not to be used in a dessert, you may want to
reduce this quantity somewhat]
7/8 cup butter
3/8 cup lard [though the texture will suffer, you can use solid butter (1 1/8
cups)
2 eggs plus one yolk

If you want to roll out the shortbread without any trouble, grind the
sugar very fine (I use powdered sugar [If you choose to follow Artusi's
lead, keep in mind that you will have to double the volume of sugar listed
here.]) and mix it with the flour; if the butter is stiff, moisten your
hand and cream it on your work surface. Make a dough with all the
ingredients, handling it as little as possible, because otherwise it will,
as cooks say, burn*; to avoid this you will be best off using a knife
blade or a pastry blender to do the mixing. If it^Rs more convenient for
you to make the dough a day ahead, do so, for it won^Rt come to harm; it
also improves with age after it is baked because it becomes steadily
flakier. To use it for crostate**, pastries, or whatever, roll it out
with a smooth rolling pin, and then, for appearances sake, roll the upper
side with a patterned rolling pin and brush it with egg yolk.


* The air will be driven out of the dough and gluten will form, resulting in
a heavy, non flaky shortbread

** A crostata is a pastry made with a layer of shortbread, covered with
either jam, custard or fresh fruit. Crostate are one of the traditional
Tuscan desserts, and Artusi describes several.

Enjoy!
Kyle

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