Neapolitan zite timbale

A timbale is a sublime example of southern Italian cuisine, in particular of Sicily and Campania; the origins of the name and the methods of preparation derive from an Arabian instrument, a sort of cylindrical drum equal in height and diameter, an ideal receptacle for preparing a meal fit for a king, abundantly filled with pasta, fine meats, elaborate sauces. Very chic in the noble homes of the Bourbon capital, it became a truncated cone shape in the late 18th century, in order to make it easier to release the preparation from the mould. Unlike pies and lasagne, also having a rich filling, the timbale is served in a shortcrust pastry case. In gastronomic literature you can find traces of timbales in the writings of Vincenzo Corrado and Ippolito Cavalcanti; then as now the timbale is synonymous of a festive day, when rich and sumptuous dishes are passed around the table. A long and painstaking preparation, beautifully portrayed in Stanley Tucci's film "Big Night". There are many variations deriving from the original Arab drum; the Sicilian version being the most famous, with anellini (small rings of pasta), meat sauce and aubergines, and the Neapolitan version, prepared with ziti (pasta tubes), meatballs, meat sauce and fior di latte mozzarella.


  • Ingredients for the timbale:
  • 500 g of ziti pasta
  • 2 l of tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato concentrate
  • 300 g of minced beef
  • 300 g of pork sausage
  • 150 g doc small shelled peas
  • 3 eggs
  • 200 g of fior di latte mozzarella
  • 100 g of grated parmesan
  • 1 onion
  • 1 slice of stale bread
  • 20 cl of milk
  • 2 springs of parsley
  • 20 cl of white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Ingredients for the shortcrust pastry:
  • 400 g of plain flour
  • 200 g of butter
  • 100 ml of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 4
  • 4 hours
  • Medium
  • Pasta



Day 1: Prepare the sauce: chop the onion and lightly brown it in extra virgin olive oil in a deep pan, add the sausages and brown them well on all sides. Once browned, remove the sausages from the pot, add the wine and deglaze. Once the alcohol has evaporated, add the tomato puree and the concentrate, bring to the boil and then lower the heat so that the sauce just simmers. After about ninety minutes put the sausages back in and continue cooking for another hour and a half until the sauce has a thick consistency; salt to taste. Prepare the shortcrust pastry: place the flour in a large bowl, cut the butter into small pieces and put in the centre with the salt. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until you get a granular mixture; add the cold water gradually, working the mixture until the water is completely absorbed to obtain a smooth and consistent dough. Form a ball, cover it with cling film and chill in the fridge for up to thirty minutes before using.


Prepare the meatballs: remove the crusts from the stale bread and put to soak in the milk. Mix together the minced beef, one egg, chopped parsley and a pinch of grated parmesan cheese, then add the bread after squeezing the milk out.


Shape into meatballs of about two cm and fry them in seed oil; dry them on kitchen paper and put them in the fridge.


Day 2: Cook the pasta, calculating half the time indicated on the packet plus one minute; in the meantime, thinly roll out the pastry, obtaining two large discs. Bring some water to boil in a saucepan and hard-boil the eggs; once cooked, cool and cut into wedges. Slice the fior di latte mozzarella; remove the sausages from the sauce and slice them cold. Drain the pasta and season it with a couple of ladles of sauce.


Place the pastry in the mould with the help of greaseproof paper, which will make it easier to unmould later. Assemble the timbale with a layer of pasta, mozzarella, peas, slices of hard-boiled eggs and the meatballs, season with plenty of sauce, parmesan and pepper.


Continue with a second layer of pasta, slices of sausage, mozzarella, peas, hard-boiled eggs, plenty of sauce, parmesan and pepper. Finish with a third layer of pasta and cover with the second disc of pastry in which you should make a couple of small holes to let the steam escape during cooking.


Bake at 180° C in a static oven, for about forty-five minutes, until the pastry is golden on top; let it rest for half an hour and then gently turn it out. If the rest of the pastry is still pale, you can bake it for about another fifteen minutes, still at 180° C. Serve the timbale in slices, as if it were a cake, seasoning with a generous spoonful of hot sauce directly on the plate.