A timballo is a combination of ingredients, usually with some type of pasta, baked in a mold or springform pan and then unmolded. Some timballi are chock-full of ingredients while others rely on just a few. Nevertheless, they are impressive-looking and can even be made using ovenproof glass bowls.
Farfalle and fava beans flavored with Italian bacon and combined with Fontina and mozzarella cheese make a delicious timballo when served with a velvety cherry-tomato-and-cream sauce. Fresh fava beans are usually available in the spring, but lima beans, either fresh or frozen, are a good alternative.
FOR THE SAUCE
1¾ pounds cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ teaspoon salt
FOR THE TIMBALLO
Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil spray
2 large bay leaves
¼ pound pancetta, diced
4 to 6 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
2½ cups shelled fresh fava or lima beans
1 pound farfalle pasta
½ pound Fontina cheese, rind removed and diced
One ¼-pound fresh mozzarella cheese ball (fior di latte), diced
3 tablespoons Half & Half
Grinding of white pepper
Puree the cherry tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to press the tomato juice into the bowl; discard the seeds and skins. Alternately, use a food mill. There should be about 2¾ cups of tomato juice.
In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Pour in the tomato juice and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, cheese, and salt and continue to stir until the ingredients are well blended. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, uncovered, until it is reduced by one third and thickens. Keep the sauce covered and warm while the timballo bakes.
Generously spray a 2½-quart ovenproof glass bowl or other similar mold with olive oil spray. Position the bay leaves in the base of the bowl and set aside.
Cook the pancetta in a medium-size non-stick pan over medium heat until the pancetta begins to crisp and give off its fat.
Meanwhile, fill a pasta pot with an insert with the water and bring to a boil. Add the salt and fava or lima beans. Cook the beans until tender but not mushy. With a slotted spoon, remove the beans to a bowl, then add them to the pan with the pancetta. (Don't discard the water.) Cook the mixture over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Add the farfalle to the boiling water, stir to prevent them from sticking, cover the pot, and bring the water back to a rolling boil. Uncover and cook the farfalle until al dente. Lift the insert and drain the pot, then return the farfalle to the pot.
Over very low heat, stir in the pancetta mixture, the cheeses, half and half, and white pepper. When all the cheese has melted, transfer the mixture to the glass bowl, pressing down with a wooden spoon to compact it.
Cover the bowl tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake the timballo until browned on the bottom, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the bowl from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
To unmold, remove the aluminum foil, place a serving dish over the top of the mold, and invert to unmold. Serve the timballo cut into wedges with sauce on the side.
Note: The sauce can be made 2 days ahead, refrigerated, and then reheated.
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