You know those mornings where you wake up at 4:00 a.m., jump out of bed, and think to yourself, “I sure would like to spend the next 17 hours making dinner”? Well, I’ve got just the recipe for you!
All kidding aside, this is without a doubt the single most epic recipe in the history of One Ingredient Chef. If you’ve seen the movie, The Big Night, you are certainly familiar with Timpano (YouTube clip). If not, it is traditionally a giant dome of pasta filled with layers of ricotta stuffed pasta, sausage, eggs, and marinara.
So when I asked my friend / One Ingredient Sous Chef (Hannah Madigan, @theplantbasedjetsetter) what she wanted to make, of course it was her idea to create the world’s first vegan timpano. It’s every bit as incredible as you can imagine.
There are basically 4 parts to making this dish: marinara sauce, chickpea-based ricotta stuffed pasta, eggplant and tempeh “sausage”, and the homemade pasta shell. The recipe below is broken down into each section, with a final part on assembling and baking everything. Yes, it’s time consuming, but the rewards of making (and enjoying) your very own timpano can’t be overstated. Give it a shot:
1. The Marinara
You’re welcome to use any type of marinara sauce you’d like here. If you have an old family recipe, go for it. If you’re in a pinch, you can even use sauce from a jar. For this, I just used a simple, tasty marinara recipe that goes like this:
- 3 small shallots
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
- 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chopped basil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Salt, to taste
- 1/3 cup white wine
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add in the diced shallot. Allow the onion to soften slightly over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, in the food processor or blender, pulse the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper until still a little chunky (or completely smooth if you prefer).
- Pour the tomato mixture into the skillet with the onions, add two splashes of white wine, and allow to simmer for at least 35 minutes. Taste periodically and adjust the seasoning as needed.
2. The ‘Chicotta’
Chicotta is a chickpea-based vegan ricotta cheese that I developed a while back for another recipe. We’ll make this cheese now and chill it until time to stuff our rigatoni or cannelloni pasta (step 4, below).
- 2 (15 oz) cans of chickpeas
- 2/3 cup soaked cashews
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 lemon (juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup basil
Before getting started, soak the cashews for anywhere between 1-12 hours. Then, drain the soaking water and combine the cashews, chickpeas (drained & rinsed), nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, and garlic powder in a food processor and let it run until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If it happens to be so thick that it crumbles, feel free to add a few tablespoons of water. You want the consistency to be somewhat firm, but still creamy.
At the last minute, add a handful or two of chopped basil leaves and process until incorporated. Then, transfer this mixture to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate while making the rest of the timpano. As with most plant-based cheeses, the flavors and textures of this chicotta improve after being refrigerated for a while.
3. The Tempeh & Eggplant Sausage
A traditional timpano has a layer of sausage or meatballs. For our vegan version, we’re recreating this layer by using eggplant and tempeh that has been caramelized with maple syrup, soy sauce, and spices to create deep sausage-like flavors with tons of umami. Here’s how:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
- 1 1/2 cups diced tempeh
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground fennel seeds, crushed red pepper
- Dice the eggplant and use your hands to crumble the tempeh into bite-sized chunks.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in saucepan over medium heat. Then, throw in the eggplant + tempeh.
- Pour in a drizzle of soy sauce and maple syrup along with about 1/2 teaspoons (to start) of each spice and toss the pan to evenly coat.
- Allow this to simmer over medium heat until the pieces are every coated and slightly caramelized. Give it a taste and adjust any spices as needed. Set aside for now.
4. The Stuffed Pasta
Okay! It’s time for the most tedious part of the recipe – stuffing the pasta shells. Start with any type of dry tube-shaped pasta you like. We used cannelloni (which is huge) but smaller rigatoni might work even better.
- The chicotta (above)
- 8 oz. tube-shaped pasta
- Measure out how many shells will fit in your baking dish and double that number (there will be 2 layers of pasta in the final dish). This is how much pasta you will need.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. It’s a good idea to make about 50% more than you think you need, since some will break during cooking.
- Once the pasta is cooked and cooled, grab the chicotta from the fridge and stuff the pasta. You can do this with a pastry bag or just a spoon/knife. Stuff as many as you determined you need and ensure there’s a little extra chicotta left over to layer onto the final dish.
5. The Pasta Shell
Once you’ve crafted a homemade pasta sauce, made a vegan cheese out of chickpeas, sautéed some mock sausage from tempeh and eggplant, and stuffed your pasta shells, the only little thing left to do is make some pasta from scratch. 🙂 Again, the idea behind a timpano is that you line a large drum-shaped baking dish (dutch oven?) with sheets of pasta, layer the other ingredients inside, and then seal up that pasta shell and bake until crispy. Here’s how to make the pasta shell:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- About 1 cup tepid water
- 1 “flax egg” (see below)
- Make a flax “egg” by combining 1 tablespoon flaxseed with 2 tablespoons water and set aside for 5 minutes until it forms a gel.
- Add the flours and salt to a food processor, turn on, and slowly add water until the flour turns crumbly and then forms a solid ball.
- Add in the flax egg along with a small drizzle of olive oil. Turn off the processor and check the dough. If it feels too sticky, you’ve added too much water and you’ll need to add a sprinkle of semolina flour. Otherwise, remove from the processor and transfer to a large work surface sprinkled with flour.
- If you have a pasta maker, that would be hugely helpful at this point, but you *can* roll it out with a rolling pin. What you need is several sheets of pasta to cover the bottom and sides of your baking dish, with enough draped over the sides to form a seal over the top. (like the first picture below). We used 4 sheets, but you might be able to get by with one or two huge sheets.
- Once your sheets are rolled, set them aside for about 5 minutes to slightly dry. Take a deep breath – it’s almost time to put your timpano together!
6. The Assembly
With all the prep (finally!) done, assembling this timpano is actually quite easy. The most important part is having the right baking dish. I used a dutch oven about 8 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep.
- Preheat the oven to 350º F
- Brush the inside of your baking dish with olive oil, then brush one side of the pasta sheets with oil as well. Add the sheets oil-side down into the pan. This will crucially prevent the dough from sticking as you “reveal” the timpano later! Again, make sure there is enough dough over the edges to cover the top.
- Add a layer of the stuffed pasta shells and cover with marinara sauce.
- Add the tempeh & eggplant “sausage” and cover with more sauce.
- Add another layer of stuffed pasta and more sauce.
- Finally, spread on the remaining chicotta and then pull the draped pasta over top and press tightly to seal. Brush the top with oil.
- Bake in a 350º F oven for at least 45-60 minutes. When the top starts browning, you’ll know it’s done. Set on an oven rack to cool for 10 minutes.
7. The Reveal
Once your timpano is cooled slightly, use a thin spatula or knife to carefully ensure that the sides haven’t stuck. Then, carefully flip upside down onto a plate, say a few prayers, and slowly pull up the baking dish to reveal your finished timpano!
To serve, use a sharp knife and pie cutter to cut out wedges, plate with a sprinkle of basil, and enjoy!