Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
Timballini are small neat molds made with meats, vegetables, or, as in this case, with pasta. These are flecked with bright green peas, pancetta, and parsley and bound together with fresh tomato sauce. They make a bright and unusual addition to a Christmas buffet. You can make the sauce several days in advance and assemble the timballini one day ahead, then bake just before serving.
3 tablespoons Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups diced leeks
1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1 10-ounce package frozen petite peas, thawed
3 cups Tomato and Basil Sauce or prepared tomato sauce
Fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1 pound capellini or angel hair pasta, broken into thirds
2 cups freshly grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (5 ounces)
20 aluminum foil cupcake cups, 3 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches deep
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the leeks and pancetta or bacon and cook over medium heat until the leeks begin to wilt and the pancetta starts to brown. Add the parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the tomato sauce and stir well. Add the salt and pepper, cover the pan and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil the aluminum foil cups. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente. Drain the pasta well and place it in a bowl. Add the leek mixture and cheese and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining 1 cup tomato sauce and mix again.
Divide the mixture among the foil cups, making sure to distribute it evenly. Press down the pasta lightly with the back of a spoon to compact the ingredients. Place the cups on cookie sheets. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the timballini are heated through.
To unmold, using a potholder or oven mitt, carefully invert the molds onto a large platter or onto individual dishes.
Variation: Instead of making timballini, use the leek mixture to sauce 1 pound of farfalle bow ties or other pasta for a simple supper for four.