Friday, October 2, 2015

Eggplant Timpano

Eggplant Timpano

Eggplant timpano is quintessentially one of the most impressive looking dishes you can make.  It’s simply perfect for a special occasion meal.  

If you’ve seen the film “Big Night” then you know exactly what I’m talking about. My version combines the flavors of eggplant parmigiana and baked penne in one fantastically festive dish.    

This masterpiece is served as the pasta course during an elaborate meal.  I think you’d agree that it’s far more spectacular looking than the lasagna we might usually throw together on a special occasion.

Timpano means drum so the name is indeed fitting.  

An eggplant timpano encases the other delectable ingredients in pan fried eggplant slices that have a mellower almost sweet flavor characteristically developed during the slow roasting process. 

I’ve seen timpani encased in pasta dough, zucchini, oven roasted plum tomato halves and a number of other ingredients.  The filling usually contains pasta, several kinds of cheese, meatballs, sausage, salami, hard boiled eggs and any number of other special ingredients that would make the dish uniquely your own.

The version I made here was scaled down a little since I didn’t have any salami in the house.  I also skipped the hard boiled eggs since my daughter protested loudly.

Ahh the things we do for our children.

As a world of caution, even with the video tutorial and all the tips I provided along the way, this dish is particularly difficult to execute perfectly the first time.  I’d suggest practicing it once or twice before actually trying to serve this at holiday meal.  

And even so, if you are responsible for preparing the entire holiday feast then this dish might be too difficult to fit into the menu plan.

Instead save this timpano recipe for a holiday meal where someone else is doing most of the work and you are just contributing one impressive masterpiece.  Which dish do you think everyone will remember for years to come?

It’s definitely worth the work.

Eggplant Timpano
Prep time: 2-3 hours  
Cook time: 1 hour
Servings: 10

  • 2 large eggplants, washed and dried
  • olive oil, salt and pepper (enough to pan fry the eggplant)
  • 2 dozen small meatballs (baked under a broiler the day before)
  • 2 Italian sausage links, (pan fried and sliced into ¼ inch half-moons the day before)
  • 1 pound gluten free penne
  • 4 cups marinara sauce (1 ½ cups reserved for serving)
  • ¼ cup pecorino Romano
  • 1 ½ cups ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella (divided 4 oz & 4 oz)

Video Tutorial: 

  1. To prepare the eggplant, first slice off the stem then slice off a ¼ inch round slice that will be used as the center of the design. Next slice the eggplant lengthwise into ¼ inch planks trying to get them as even as possible.  Repeat with the second eggplant skipping the round slice.
  2. Pan fry the eggplant in a large nonstick skillet over a medium high heat, add a few teaspoons of olive oil then season each slice of eggplant with a little salt and pepper and pan fry each slice, adding oil as necessary, for about 3 minutes per side or until they’re slightly golden and become softer and more pliable. 
  3. Continue to fry the eggplant in batches until they are all done then group the nicest slices together to be used first in the bottom design.  Refrigerate the slices while you prep the other ingredients to make them easier to work with.
  4. Combine the ricotta, egg, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste and mix until the egg is well combined and the mixture is smooth then set aside. 
  5. Cook the penne 2 minutes shy of the package instructions then mix it with just under 2 cups of marinara.
  6. To that same penne add ¼ cup of grated pecorino Romano and a cup of grated mozzarella then stir until just combined.
  7. To construct the timpani, in a 10 inch spring-form, lined with a circle of parchment sprayed with non-stick spray, lay the circular piece of eggplant directly in the center of the pan.
  8. First slice each of the large plank slices in half lengthwise then begin to lay the slices with the short end closest to the center circle and aloe thte ends to flop over the edge of the pan.  As the next overlapping slice is laid down it’s important to cover the black skin edge with the cut edge of the next piece for a nicer finished design when it’s turned upside down later.
  9. Continue to work your way around the pan until you get to the end of the circle then tuck the last slice under the first.
  10. Spoon in half the pasta mixture being extremely careful not to disturb the pattern.
  11. Evenly scatter over the cut sausages then tuck them down into the pasta. 
  12. Evenly scatter over another cup of grated mozzarella and ladle over about ¾ of a cup of marinara.
  13. Evenly scatter over the meatballs then add the other half of the pasta and try to make sure all the crevices are filled.
  14. Spoon over a little more marinara then lay over more eggplant slices over the top like a mosaic aiming for complete coverage. 
  15. Fold in any edges that are hanging over the edges then clean up the sides of the pan with a wet paper towel before baking.
  16. I also like to place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the timpano at this stage and apply some even handed pressure to insure that everything is packed together well.
  17. Remove the plastic then place the Timpano onto a foil lined baking sheet to catch anything that might leak out during the baking process then cover with foil sprayed with nonstick spray and bake for 1 hour in an oven preheated to 350ºF or 175ºC.
  18. When it comes out let it rest for 5-10 minutes then carefully run a thin knife around all of the edges to make sure nothing sticks then rest it on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes to set up.
  19. To unmold, place a serving plate on top of the Timpano then quickly but carefully invert onto the plate.
  20. After waiting another 10-15 minutes remove the spring-form pan. 
  21. I like to wait an additional 10-15 minutes before slicing just to ensure that everything has set and won’t fall apart then serve the slices on plates with a spoonful of heated marinara sauce and an additional drizzle of sauce over the top.

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