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Big Night's Timpano #MoviesandMunchies


This month, the Movies & Munchies group is watching Big Night. Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm is hosting. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Hands down. We own the DVD and have probably watched it a dozen times.

Big Night tells the tragically realistic truth that you can sell amazing food and still go under. This is the story of two recent Italian immigrants - brothers - who own a restaurant called Paradise. Primo, played by Tony Shalhoub, is the talented chef while Secondo, played by Stanley Tucci, tries to keep their restaurant afloat. But Primo is unapologetic in the way he cooks and serves food.

Early in the movie, a customer orders risotto and, then, is disappointed that it doesn't come with a side of spaghetti. She tries to order the pasta. When Secondo tells Primo who is ordering the spaghetti, he refuses to serve two starches together. He cries, "She's a philistine!" And suggests that maybe she wants mashed potatoes on the other side.

Across the street is another restaurant run by Pascal, played by Ian Holm; that restaurant is wildly successful and when Secondo asks him how he does it, Pascal explains, "A guy works all day, he don't want to look at his plate and ask, 'What the - - - - is this?' He wants to look at his plate, see a steak, and say, 'I like steak!'" He isn't true to Italian cuisine, serves mediocre food, and is thriving.

The movie ends with a feast at Paradise. Primo has prepared a parade of amazing dishes in honor of Italian-American musician Louis Prima. But Louis Prima never shows and though the food is incredible the brothers have spent every last dime on the dinner and their big night is their last night.

Truth be told, I never need an excuse to "cook Italian." Since that's where I learned to cook - Rome, that is - Italian is our usual fare. While we were watching the movie again, passing a bottle of Chianti between us, Jake and I jotted down the dishes we saw or that were mentioned: goat cheese crostini, risotto alla bandiera (flag risotto or red-white-green risotto), seafood risotto, spaghetti without meatballs - "because sometimes spaghetti wants to be alone", timpano, artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, and a whole pig! Oddly, even after the words I Dolci (sweets) crossed the screen, there were no shots of dessert. No sweet treats of any kind. Not even the typical caffè, strong espresso with a hefty amount of sugar. 


After this viewing, I decided I would tackle a timpano, a Italian dish that - as its name indicates - is shaped like a drum. It's one of the dishes that the brothers make. 

This starts with a batch of Homemade, Handrolled Garganelli. Then another batch of pasta dough is wrapped around the pasta, sauce, meatballs, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. It's all baked until it sounds hollow when tapped. Truth be told: after all this effort, my boys' declared that it was a waste of good homemade garganelli. 

Sauce and Meatballs

  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup  olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably Italian-seasoned
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste


  • a batch of garganelli, cooked al dente
  • another batch of the pasta dough from the garganelli recipe
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
  • 1 pound grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound ciliegie mozzarella

Sauce and Meatballs
Rub basil leaves together to bruise them. Take half of the leaves and place them in a small pan with oil and garlic to let the flavors combine. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the basil leaves and garlic and set the oil aside.

While the oil infuses, in a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, cheese, milk, eggs, parsley, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper with your hands. The mixture will be very soft.

Wet your hands, pinch off or scoop the meat mixture, then roll it into a ball. In a large skillet, add a splash of olive oil and stir in the onions. Add the meatballs and cook until brown and firm. Remove the meatballs, leaving the cooked onions in the bottom.

Into the same pot, add the tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Add the tomato paste and the remaining salt and pepper. Pour in the infused oil and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer for about 25 minutes. 

Now is the perfect time to make the dough for the outside of the timpano. Just make another batch of the dough from the Homemade, Handrolled Garganelli. This time, just roll it out into one enormous round.Roll it out as thin as you can and make sure that there is enough for it to line your baking dish and have overhang.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease your baking dish. I used a stoneware bowl.

Cook the garganelli, then fold them and the remaining basil leaves into the sauce. Now it's time to assemble.

Cover the bottom of the pot with one-quarter of the pasta and sauce mixture. Arrange one-third of the meatballs and egg slices over the pasta. Sprinkle one-third of the Pecorino Romano and mozzarella balls over the meatballs.

Repeat two more times until you reach the top of the pot, then fold over with the remaining pasta. Press down with clean hands to even out and gently remove any air pockets.

Slice 4 slits into the top of the dough. Bake for 1 hour until the top is a light golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes. Then run a thin knife or spatula around the edge of the pot. Using a large cutting board, cover the top of the pot and flip the timpano.

Slice and serve immediately.

Well, that's a wrap on my Big Night offering. We'll be back next month when I am hosting the group and watching Letters to Juliet. Another Italian food-centric flick. Stay tuned!


  1. All that work and then disappointment.....I am so sorry.....Kudos to you for going above and beyond.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, it was sad that the boys didn't appreciate the dish. It was a lot of work. Still, I am glad I can say I did that once!

  2. Overachiever! :) Seriously, I'm impressed. I think I will pass on making this though. Especially after the boys said it was a waste of homemade pasta. (And, it intimidates me.)


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