Reminiscing Ramen

I have a new favorite soup.  This brings back crazy memories of Top Ramen dinner days—when that was about all there was left in the cupboard, because payday hadn’t arrived yet.  If we were really lucky maybe we would add a few sliced mushroom, frozen peas, green onion, or an egg. It was a meal; easy, hot and filling—salt and all.Ramen table

With images of PureWow’s inventive Ramen Soup dancing in my head, earlier in the day I had made a chicken stock from the carcass of a roasted chicken.  I headed out to my local grocery store in search of dried ramen noodles and drifted from the international section where they had bags of all sort of noodles, to the soup section, where I was confounded by the daunting range of instant ramen noodle soups.  I guess I haven’t been paying attention because now there are choices like curried noodle and kim chee ramen.

Completely befuddled, I decide to keep it simple and stay with what I knew: the original Chicken Top Ramen.  I could use the noodles from 2 packages of Maruchan Roast Chicken Ramen at .17 each; a far cry from $1.88 for a large package of noodles.  Crazy.

And the instructions haven’t changed much either: boil the water, add the noodles and let it stand for 3 minutes, then stir in the seasoning packet.  It doesn’t get any easier than that.  I am a great reader of nutrition labels, and on this day I opt to just let it go.  Forget about it, ignorance is bliss.  I have lofty plans ahead.

Although a simple vegetable stock was certainly a possibility, I was well ahead of the game with my homemade chicken stock chilling, well-skimmed of excess fat.

Ready for dinner, I heat up the soup pot and quickly sauté green onion, garlic, coriander, curry, fresh minced ginger and garlic in sesame oil.  A bit of Sriracha is squirted in to taste, then the lovely chicken stock.  For extra flavor I throw in ½ cup of soaked dry shiitake mushrooms, plus their strained liquid.  Within 15 minutes, this melange transforms my simple stock into something complex and intriguing.  Actually, these flavors are so powerful, I’m not sure I’d even mess with my precious homemade stock in the future.  Perhaps a quick vegetable broth would do the same trick, after all—still light years away from ramen’s requisite seasoning packet.

The noodles are added to the simmering stock and burble away for 5 minutes or so.  What fun – they visibly puff into a curly mass.  While this is happening, I assemble the toppings. I sauté red pepper strips in coconut oil and poach the eggs to perfection.  I pull out a bag of spinach and arugula salad and pick off any errant stems, and quickly chop some green onion and cilantro.  A bit of leftover roasted chicken is sliced into strips.

ramen finalFinally!  Noodles are piled into bowls along with big ladles full of the shockingly good soup broth.  The toppings are available and added to taste.  Ah, sweet memories!  Not exactly instant, but better than ever!

Easy Ramenramen closeup
Adapted from PureWow ‘s Easy Ramen 

Ingredients
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
½-inch piece ginger, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons Sriracha, or more to taste
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup dried Shiitake mushrooms rehydrated plus drained liquid (soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes)
12 ounces dried ramen noodles (I used noodles from 2 pkgs Top Ramen Noodles)
1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil
1 pint cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups, if not using dried Shiitake)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
5 cups raw spinach and arugula, stemmed
4 eggs, poached (see How to Poach an Egg)
½ cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add half the scallions, the garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coriander, curry powder and Sriracha, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add the chicken stock or vegetable broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer covered, for 15 minutes, or until the broth develops good flavor.
  3. Remove the cover from the pot, add the noodles and cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. If the noodles begin to absorb too much of the broth, add water to keep the noodles fully submerged.
  4. In a large sauté pan, heat the vegetable or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the fresh mushrooms and bell peppers, and sauté until very tender, 6 to 7 minutes.
  5. To serve, ladle the soup into four bowls and garnish each portion with 2 tablespoons mushrooms, 2 tablespoons peppers, ¼ cup spinach, 3 tablespoons scallions and 1 poached egg. Serves 4.

Crespelle Redux

More on my previous manicotti post with crespelle, those endearing Italian crepes.

Last night about 7PM I started thinking about dinner possibilities.  I had previously pulled a small stack of crespelle  out of the freezer from my crepe making binge, and left them to defrost on the counter.  I was impressed, even stacked together they separated and were in perfect condition to go another round.

Peeking around the fridge, I spotted a cup or more of the delicious ricotta-Hatch pepper manicotti filling  plus just enough Bolognaise Sauce for a few more manicotti.  I quickly filled and rolled the pasta-like sheets, covered them with sauce, and sprinkled a bit of grated Parmesan on the top.  In no time, dinner was ready to be heated up.  But I was hungry, and the idea of waiting for this to bake another 20-30 minutes in the oven, was a non-starter.

manicotti reduxInstead, I covered the platter loosely, placed it in the microwave on reduced power (6), and gave it a couple of spins at 3 minutes each.  While that happened I tossed together a quick salad and had “fresh” manicotti on the table within minutes.

Yes, I was certainly hungry, but everything tasted better than the last time!  These simple crepes are brilliant:  they require no pasta machine,  no messy rolling of dough—or boiling water to finish them.  They are extremely forgiving, have a mild flavor of their own, and share the distinct tender/chewiness of pasta.

Hands down:  crespelle beat all pasta sheets and cylinders by a long shot.

Yup, Hatch Pepper Manicotti

It is Hatch Chile Pepper season in Texas. Hatch pepper

Over in Austin, the air hangs ripe with celebration infused with the low hanging haze of roasting chiles.  In case anyone missed the memo, local markets have their roasters prominently situated to further entice errant shoppers.

It’s not just a party, it is a mania for the legion that has been previously bitten by the Hatch pepper bug.  Typically this variety is not very hot—as peppers go in Texas—their flavor is sweet, mild, and earthy.  Granted, they have a fairly short growing season, so if you are going to indulge, you best get with the program while they are here.

I was one such person.  As I dashed to the market to pick up a bunch of fresh spinach for manicotti, my course was immediately diverted by the aroma of roasting peppers.  Forget the spinach.  I was in the mood for peppers and it looked like it would surely be Manicotti stuffed with Hatch Chile Peppers.

CrespelleThis all started out as a vehicle to test a crespelle recipe that I had been working on.  Crespelle is the Italian version of the French crepe.  I wanted to maintain the integrity of pasta and to reduce the richness of the French crepe version, which is usually made with plenty of eggs, milk and butter.  As with pasta, I stayed with a flour, egg and water base.  I reduced the all-purpose flour and cut it with semolina flour, which lends incredible elasticity and a corn-like flavor; plus I added just enough egg for binding and to take advantage of the egg’s supple flavor profile.  In the end, I retained a smidgen of butter since it definitely enhances the overall quality of the crepe.

Manicotti BiteAnd so it goes.

The manicotti morphed into a trans-national renegade.  For the most part I stayed with my original filling concept.  I also had a bit of béchamel sauce on hand which I smeared in the bottom of pan, and then spread the rest across the top of the manicotti; but it was an unnecessary step. For future seasons I would stay with plenty of cheese and let the Hatch peppers really shine.

Hatch Chile Pepper Manicotti

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe 10” Crespelle, see below

Filling

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 – 3 medium Hatch or Ortega peppers, roasted, and chopped
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped oregano or ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, drained if loose
  • ½ cup mozzarella or queso asadero, melting cheese
  • ¼ cup Parmesan
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

Topping

  • 1 cup shredded queso asadero or other melting cheese
  • Green onions or chives, for garnish

Directions 

  1. Cut the large crespelle in half to form 2 uniform square or rectangular “sheets”, about 4 inches wide.  Set aside the trimmings, they are delicious ;).
  2. For the filling roast the peppers and remove skin and seeds; chop well. In a small skillet, sauté garlic in oil and add the peppers and oregano, tossing to combine flavors. Cool briefly.  In medium mixing bowl, combine the cheeses, add the pepper mixture then stir in the bread crumbs, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the surface of a 7×11” pan with olive oil.
  3. To assemble the manicotti: on work surface lay out a cut sheet with widest side facing.  Spread about 1 Tbsp of the filling along the bottom 1/3 of the crepe.  Roll up the crespelle and place seam side down in the baking pan.  Repeat, allow a bit of space between the manicotti.  Sprinkle the tops with grated cheese.
  4. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes; remove foil and continue until bubbly and top is toasted. Serves 4.

 Crespelle, Italian Crepes 

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, room temp.
  • 1 cup water, room temp.
  • 1 cup flour, or a combination of ½ cup fine semolina flour and ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter

Directions 

  1. In blender, place all and blend until well combined.    Allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour or chill for up to 2 days and bring to room temperature before proceeding.  By hand:  In medium bowl sift the dry ingredients, beat the eggs, butter, and water together and slowly add to the dry, whisking until smooth.  Proceed as above.
  2. Heat a 10” crepe pan or skillet over medium heat to medium-high heat, depending on unit. Brush the surface with butter, or wipe with coated toweling.  Stir down the batter and thin with a bit of water if it has thickened beyond the thickness of heavy cream.  Pour about ¼ cup of batter into pan and swirl in to reach entire surface.  Pour any excess back into bowl.  Trim any messy edges as it cooks.  When bubbles begin to form, in about 1 minute, carefully turn with spatula or wood spoon and cook second side for 30 seconds to one minute.
  3. Remove the crepe to a holding plate, wipe the pan if necessary with more butter and repeat, stacking the crepes with second side up. Yield: about 10 large crespelle.
  4. If made in advance, wrap the crepes in plastic wrap or foil. Can be made ahead 2 days, stored in refrigerator.

Denver-Asian Strip Salad

A couple of posts back I shared an entertaining YouTube video from Eugenie Kitchen on How to Make Tamagoyaki, the Japanese omelette roll.  Turns out, it was the perfect intro and segue into a full-on version of an Asian salad I have been working on which incorporates the julienne omelette concept.

You could say this crazy ham-and-egg strip salad is a cross between the Denver Omelette, sans cheese, and an Asian soba noodle salad.

Soba 1 redux

I’ve taken the mighty Denver Omelette’s leading players of robust ham, pepper and onions and finessed them with exotic elements of ginger, baby bok choy, Thai basil and soba noodles, then draped them all in shimmering ginger-sesame vinaigrette.

The omelette theme is reintroduced via the tamagoyaki style egg strips studded with green onion and cilantro. Showcasing the egg strips as a stunning topper also serves to maintain their delicate integrity since excessive handling can break these beauties up unnecessarily.

 

soba salad with forkNow, that would be a crying shame.

Ham and Egg Strip Salad

Ingredients

Ham and Vegetables

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, flattened
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup ham, julienned (Canadian bacon is good)
  • 1 cup white onion, peeled and julienned
  • 1 cup red pepper, seeded and julienned
  • 1 cup poblano pepper, seeded and julienned (or other pepper with a bit of heat)

Noodle/Vegetables

  • 8 oz. Soba noodles or other noodle of preference
  • 2 heads baby bok choy, washed, cut into lengthwise pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shaved into thin strips

Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce or dash tabasco
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar or Chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Omelette Strips

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, total
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 1 tbsp green onion, minced

2 tbsp Thai basil, minced plus garnish, 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Directions

  1. For the Vegetables  In a medium skillet heat the oil and garlic clove over medium heat and allow to become aromatic, for extra heat crushed red pepper flakes.  Add the ham and allow it to take on some color; remove the garlic.  Add the onion and peppers cooking briefly to soften the vegetables.  Set aside until needed.
  2. For the Noodle/Vegetables   Cook noodles according to package directions.  About 1 minute before being al dente, add the carrot strips and the bok choy to pot only long enough to shock the leaves and blanch the carrots.   Drain all and rinse with cool water.  Toss with a little vegetable oil if sticky.  Set aside until needed.
  3. For Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette  Combine the ginger, soy, sriracha and vinegar, whisk in the sesame and vegetable oil and adjust seasoning.  Make ahead at least 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
  4. For the Omelette Strips   Beat the eggs with water, add the salt, pepper, cilantro and green onion. Heat a 10” skillet brushed or sprayed with oil over medium-low heat.  Evenly pour about 1/3 cup of egg mixture into the pan, swirling to make a thin, even layer. When the edges begin to separate from pan, carefully lift with wide spatula and turn briefly to the other side.  Remove to flat surface, allow to cool briefly and firmly roll up.  Repeat process until all egg mixture is used up. When cool, slice the rolls into ½” or thinner spirals and unfurl into strips.  Set aside.
  5. To assemble  the Salad  In a large bowl, lightly toss the noodle mixture, and ham/vegetables with about half of the the vinaigrette and part of the minced Thai basil.  Toss with additional dressing if needed.    Arrange the salad on a large platter or individual bowls or dishes.  Top with the omelette strips, garnish with remainder of the basil leaves and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Pasta Frolla and the Very Berry Pie

searchNot too long ago I was asked to bake a Razzleberry Pie for a  birthday celebration.

“What’s that?” I puzzled.

“It’s a fantastic pie with raspberries and other berries,” was the reply.

I later learned that Razzleberry Pie, made famous by Marie Callender’s Restaurant, is a combination of raspberries and marionberries.  No wonder it’s so good.  Here in Texas we have the usual berries—not that exquisite, rarified berry grown and bred in Oregon.  A friend suggested I just go to the supermarket and get a ready-made pie out of the freezer section and bake it, or go to Marie Callender’s and buy one.

Good advice.  Had I known the investment in berries that would lie ahead, that surely would have been worth considering.  But it was a birthday request and I felt duty bound to honor it.  Moreover, I was thrilled to have a chance to take a crack at pasta frolla—an amazing Italian shortcrust pastry that I have been waiting for an excuse to make.  I’ve danced around it and made many variations; now it was time to tackle it straight on.

Unlike many pie crusts which can be temperamental, pasta frolla is Pie Lattice IMG_0268known for its near foolproof qualities and its versatility. This soft, tender dough incorporates eggs and a bit more sugar than usual into a highly malleable and forgiving product.  So versatile, it is the basis of many tarts, crostatas, cookies, and it is surprisingly good with both sweet and savory fillings.  It can be pre-baked without weights and does not shrink.  What’s not to like?

Yes, working with this dough is a dream.  I can only caution that the less it is manipulated, the happier it is.  As with many pastries, the butter needs to stay cold and not over-stimulated.  Here, the food processor makes assembly a breeze: only a few pulses are necessary to mix the dry ingredients, a few more whirls to incorporate the butter, a few more spins to combine the eggs—and it is done.  Turn it out onto plastic wrap, form a disc, wrap the dough tight, and allow it to chill up to 3 days.

Pasta frolla practically rolls itself out.  Remember to remove it from the refrigerator a good 30 minutes before using.  Divide it in two with one larger than the other.  The smaller will be used for any lattice work or decorative topping.   The easiest way to roll the dough out is between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment.  Roll out the larger into a 12” round, flip it onto a pie plate or tart pan, and press it in.  If it tears simply press it back together again.  Trim the edges, cut any lattice strips for the top, place them on a tray, and chill all while making the filling.  It is that easy!

 Pasta Frolla  (Tender Dough)Pie Dough IMG_0246

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter (4 oz., cut into 1/8’s)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and optional lemon zest into the work bowl of a food processor with metal blade. Pulse a few times to mix ingredients.
  2. Add the butter and pulse briefly to cut it in. With machine running, add the eggs and process just until dough comes together.
  3. Remove the dough from processor and form into a smooth disc.  Wrap the dough in plastic and chill well; it can be made up to 3 days ahead.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before using.  May be frozen; thaw in refrigerator.  Yield:  enough for a 9” lattice-topped pie.

 Very Berry PieBerry Pie IMG_0274

For the filling I settled on raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and a few strawberries; absolutely no one complained.

 Ingredients

1 recipe Pasta Frolla

Very Berry Filling

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup strawberries (optional)
  • 2/3 cup or more granulated sugar (depending on fruit sweetness)
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut in small pieces

Instructions

  1. Prepare the pie dough and chill well.  Divide it into 2 portions, one larger for the bottom and the remainder for the latticework on top.  Keep the smaller chilled.   Roll out the larger to about 12”, large enough to fit into a 9” pie plate or tart pan with removable bottom.  Gently transfer the dough, and press it up the bottom of sides of the dish.  If there are tears, press the edges together and continue.   Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
  2. Roll out the second portion of dough into about a 13” round. With a pastry wheel or knife, cut 12 –  ¾” strips.  Place them on a parchment lined tray and chill while preparing the filling.
  3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4.  Rinse and drain the berries.  In a small bowl combine the suga,r cornstarch, lemon juice, and zest.  In a large bowl, place the berries, add the sugar mixture and toss gently to combine.
  5. Fill the pastry with the berry filling and evenly distribute berries. Dot the top with pieces of butter.   For lattice, lay 6 of the strips evenly across the top the pie.  One at a time, evenly distribute the strips and weave the remaining strips over and under diagonally across the first 6.  Trims the ends even with the top and pinch the edges to seal.
  6.  Bake the Pie for 35 to 40 minutes or until the berries are bubbly and the crust is golden.  If it browns too fast cover the edges with foil.
  7.  Allow the pie to cool and set for several hours.  Serve with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.

 

Best of Bistro Food: Pasta Carbonara

When I’m thinking quick off-the-cuff meals, one of the first that comes to mind is Pasta Carbonara.  This is the best of bistro cuisine:  simple, unpretentious and delicious.

For that particular reason, I like to stock a package of good bacon in the freezer so I can pull it out on a moment’s notice, slice a little off, and return the rest, still frozen.   If you happen to have a bit of guanciale or pancetta knocking around, this would be the time to pull that out instead.

Carbonara

This superb dish would just not be the same without the miracle of eggs and their ability to create an effortless sauce by a quick toss at the last minute with a batch of steaming hot pasta—off of the heat.

The residual heat of the pasta is just enough to bind the eggs into a glorious, creamy-cheesy, garlic-bacon infused sauce.  With too much heat, the eggs run the risk of becoming a scrambled mess.  Not pretty.

In the spirit of streamlining meals, it’s also easy to add more vegetables to your Carbonara. 

IMG_0165

Recently, I used not only spinach, but also threw in a few stray mushrooms as well as a small bunch of curly kale.  

When I do this, I need to remind myself that it will also extend the outcome substantially.  Instead of serving four, there was easily enough for six! 

Now, that is a win-win situation… since the leftovers are just as good the next day.

Pasta Carbonara Florentine

  • 10 slices bacon, cut into match stick lengths
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch baby spinach, rinsed well and trimmed of stems, lightly chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 12 oz. linguine or fettuccine, cooked al dente
  • 3 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until lightly browned; set it aside on toweling to drain.  Remove all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.  Return the pan and bacon fat to moderate heat, add the onion and sauté to soften; add the garlic and toss briefly.  Remove pan from heat. Place the spinach on top of the vegetables and allow it to wilt slightly while cooking the pasta.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and reserve 1 cup pot liquid.  Slowly whisk ½ cup of the hot liquid into the eggs to temper them, stir in the cheese and freshly ground pepper.

Over moderate heat, re-heat the vegetable bacon mixture, toss in the pasta, add the bacon and remove from heat when steaming hot.

Off the heat, stir the egg mixture into pasta and toss lightly to coat.  If dry, add a bit more of the reserved liquid.  Add sea salt if needed and more freshly ground pepper. Place in a large serving bowl, sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired and serve immediately with additional cheese.  Yield:  4 servings

Variations 
Mushroom:  Sauté 12 sliced crimini mushroom caps in 1 tsp olive oil to soften, add 1 clove crushed garlic, cook to distribute flavors and set aside.  Add to other vegetables prior to combining with pasta.

Curly kale:  Trim kale of tough core and stems; then chop the leaves lightly.  Add to pasta pot 4 to 5 minutes before pasta is al dente and stir to distribute.  When cooked, drain all and proceed.

Timpano Weekend

51DY0ZGXDVL._SY300_[1]It was a timpano weekend; just a few relaxed days and a nice meal with visiting friends.

For those who have missed Stanley Tucci’s movie, The Big Night, the glorious timpano could be considered one of the cast of colorful characters in this heartfelt food tale.  Two brothers go all out with one final feast in a last ditch effort to save their failing Italian restaurant.

The timpano, a traditional Italian dish revered back in the brothers’ hometown, is a mammoth “pie” of sorts named after the large drum-like pan it is assembled and baked in.  The outer crust is a layer of pasta which bakes into a tender-crisp envelope that seals layers of ziti bound with ragu along with cubes of Genoa salami and sharp Provolone cheese, wedges of hard-cooked egg, small savory meatballs and a dusting of grated pecorino Romano.

???????????????????????????????The idea of using pasta dough for a  crust was a bit daunting at first, but once launched, we found it definitely inspired.

The dough is easy to work, quite malleable, and certainly the right agent to stand-up to the task of holding an enormous quantity of food without falling apart or becoming soggy.  Bread or pie dough would have been  unnecessary additions in this mélange of rich and robust heavyweights.

Tucci offers the entire recipe in his cookbook, The Tucci Cookbook, and it is well worth checking out.  The ragu is not to be missed and surely the backbone of this monument.  Tomatoes simmer with chunks of beef and country-style spareribs into a flavorful sauce that creates the essential component upon which all other ingredients will later support and complement.  At service, the meats and remaining sauce are served on the side as an additional accompaniment.

We broke this project down into a set of specific tasks.  A couple of days ahead, we started the sauce, allowed it to cool, and then refrigerated it.  The meatballs and hard-cooked eggs were made the following day.  Cubing and grating were done prior as well.

When it came to pulling it all together, we mixed the dough in our standing mixer and proceeded to roll it out.  Instead of one huge timpano, we opted to use two smaller 13” metal mixing bowls for our pans.  We agreed it made the challenge of assembling the humungous timpano far more manageable.

Given our best efforts, one timpano was far more than 7 of us could possibly polish off in one sitting.  We didn’t even cut into the second one, and froze it for a later time.

Timpano view reduxIn the movie The Big Night, the timpano is featured as part of an amazing series of courses including a stuffed pig―which leaves everyone literally gasping for air.

For our big night, we were utterly undone by a light antipasto, plenty of fresh bread, a lightly dressed green salad, and the glorious timpano.

Quite the culinary distraction.

 Timpano, alla  ‘Big Night’

Inspired by Stanley Tucci’s version from The Tucci Cookbook 

Ragu Sauce

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. stewing beef, trimmed, rinsed, patted dry, cut into pieces
  • 1 lb. country-style spareribs, cut in half, trimmed of fat, rinsed at patted dry
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups warm water, divided
  • 8 cups whole plum tomatoes, or 2 – 35 oz. cans, passed through food mill
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp. fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
  1. Warm the olive oil in a stew pot set over medium-high heat.  Sear beef 10 minutes until brown on all sides and set aside.  Add spareribs to pot, sear 10 minutes till brown on all sides, remove and add to beef.
  2. Stir in onions and garlic; reduce heat and cook 5 minutes until softened.  Stir in wine and scrape bottom of pot.  Add tomato paste.  Pour ½ cup water into can to rinse and pour into the pot.  Cook  2 minutes to warm through.  Add tomatoes along 1 cup warm water.  Stir in basil and oregano.  Cook with lid slightly ajar and simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Return meat to pot, along with juices; loosely cover with lid and simmer 2 hours until meat is tender and tomatoes are cooked; stir occasionally.  If too thick, add warm water as needed to sauce.

Little Meatballs

  • 10 slices Italian bread, 1” thick, dried
  • 1 lb. ground chuck beef
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tbsp. pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  1. Soak dry bread in warm water to cover for about 5 minutes, until bread softens.
  2. In another bowl, combine beef, parsley, garlic, egg, cheese, salt and pepper; using hands mix well.  Remove and discard any crust from bread; work this into the meat until well combined and mixture holds together in a soft dough.
  3. In large frying pan, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.  Using ½ tsp. scoop, form ½ inch balls and roll between palms to for balls.  As  a test, cook 1 meatball browning on all sides, for about 6 minutes.  Taste, adjust seasoning and proceed cooking in batches until all are cooked, 6 to 8 minutes, and set aside.

The Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  •  4 large eggs
  •  1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Butter and Olive Oil to prepare the pan
  1. For dough, place flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Add 3 tbsps. olive oil, the water, 1 tbsp. at a time, up to ½ cup, until mixture come together and forms a ball.
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to make certain it is well blended and supple.  Allow to rest 5 minutes.
  3. Flatten the dough and dust top with flour and roll it out, flipping and dusting from time to time, until it is 1/16inch thick and it is the desired diameter.
  4. Generously butter and oil the timpano baking pan.
  5.   Fold dough in half, then in half again, to form a triangle, and place it in the pan.  Open the dough and arrange it in the pan, gently pressing it against the bottom and the sides, draping the extra dough over the sides, allowing enough to come together and seal the center.

The Filling

  • 2 cups Genoa salami, cut into 1/4 x 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups sharp Provolone cheese, cut in 1/4 x 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, shelled, quartered lengthwise and then each quarter cut in half to create chunks
  • 2 cups little meatballs about 1″ diameter (see)
  • 3 pounds, ziti, cooked very al dente (about half the time recommended on the package)
  • 2/3 cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 4 large eggs, beaten

To assemble and serve the timpano

  1. Cook the pasta until very al dente, about ½ the normal cooking time; drain it, toss with olive oil and 2 cups ragu.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Have the salami, provolone, hard-boiled eggs, meatballs and thinned ragu at room temperature.
  4. Distribute 6 cups of the pasta on the bottom of the pompano.  Top with 1 cup salami, 1 cup Provolone cheese, 6 hard-boiled eggs, 1 cup meatballs, and 1/3 cup Romano cheese.  Pour 2 cups ragu over these ingredients.
  5. Top with 6 cups pasta.  Top with 1 cup salami, 1 cup provolone, 6 hard-boiled eggs, 1 cup meatballs, and 1/3 cup Romano cheese.  Pour 2 cups ragu over these ingredients. Top with 6 cups pasta (the ingredients should be about 1” below rim of pan).  Spoon 2 cups  ragu over the pasta.  Pour beaten eggs over filling.  Fold pasta dough over filling to seal completely and trim away and discard any double layers of dough.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until lightly browned.  Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes longer, until timpano is golden brown and internal temperature is 120 degrees.  Remove from oven and allow to rest at least 30 minutes.
  7. The baked timpano should not adhere to pan, but if any part is still attached carefully detach with a knife.  Grasp pan firmly and invert timpano onto serving platter.  Remove pan and allow to cool another 20 minutes.
  8. Using a long, sharp knife, cut a circle about 3 inches in diameter in the center of the timpano, making sure to cut all the way through t the bottom (like cutting a wedding cake).  Then slice the timpano as you would a pie into individual portions, leaving the center circle as a support for the remaining pieces.  Makes 16 servings.    Serve remaining ragu and meats on the side.