Feeling adventurous? This recipe came from my love for the movie Big Night. I felt challenged to try to recreate this crowd pleasing gigantic dish. After reading through numerous recipes on line combined with my own pomodoro sauce I came up with this enchanting recipe. Be willing to spend several days organizing and preparing the ingredients. Also, a very large pan must be used. I purchased a thirteen wide by four inch deep blue enamel pan just for this dish. As they say in the movie “To taste great food is to be close to God!” It is a great reason to invite all your food loving friends to share the table for the final presentation!

12 large servings


2 quarts pomodoro sauce (prepare at least one day before)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoons fresh mashed garlic
2 quarts ripe tomatoes or 2 (28 ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes
2 fresh tomato leaves
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
kosher salt to taste


  1. Heat the olive oil over very low heat in a five-inch cast iron pan. (I use a simmer plate underneath the pan over a gas flame for a uniform low heat). Distribute the tomato paste evenly in the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon every five to ten minutes as the sauce caramelizes. After about forty five minutes, when the sauce turns from bright red to rusty brown add the mashed garlic. Stir and cook for another five minutes.
  2. In a deep sauce pot bring the tomatoes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and pass through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin from the pulp and juice. I have an attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer that does this efficiently. It is not necessary to simmer if using the San Marzano tomatoes.
  3. In a large slow cooker mix the tomato pulp with juice, tomato leaves, caramelized paste with garlic, the Italian seasoning and cheese rind. Cover and simmer on low heat for a minimum of eight hours, stirring every other hour. This works well in a slow cooker on low heat.
  4. The sauce is ready when it has thickened, turned from bright red to deep ruddy red and has a deep savory tomato flavor. If bitterness is detected, it has not simmered long enough. Discard the cheese rind. Taste, think, transform with kosher salt to taste.

The sauce may be refrigerated up to a week or frozen up to six months. 


24 meat balls (prepare the day before or the day of making the timpano)
1 pound ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon mince garlic
½ cup pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. Mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, garlic, cheese, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and eggs together. Divide the mixture into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a round meatball.
  2. Heat the oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers add the meat balls. Do in batches if necessary, trying not overcrowd the pan. Keep rolling them around until all sides are nicely brown and round. Place on a paper towel lined sheet pan. (Refrigerate if making a day in advance. Bring back to room temperature to use.)


Timpano filling (prepare before making the dough)
2 cups Genoa salami, cut into ¼ by ½ inch pieces
1 pound Italian sausage, crumbled into ½ inch pieces, cooked thoroughly
24 cooked meat balls
2 cups sharp Provolone cheese cut into ⅛ by ½ inch pieces
⅔ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
2 pounds penne pasta
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 quarts pomodoro sauce
4 large eggs beaten


  1. Prepare the salami, sausage, meat balls and cheeses. Reserve at room temperature.
  2. Bring in one gallon of water with the kosher salt to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions but only for half of the recommended time. Drain the pasta and toss with the olive oil.


Timpano dough (prepare one-and-a-half hours before putting it all together)
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup filtered water (divided)


  1. Mix together the flour, eggs, salt, oil and one-fourth cup water in a standing mixer with a paddle.
  2. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture until it all comes together into a ball.
  3. Place on a floured surface and knead into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest for one hour.
  4. Dust a tea towel with flour. Tap the dough into a circle with a study rolling pin. Then roll from the center outwards in each direction until very thin (less than ⅛-inch thick) but with no holes.

Putting it all together

  1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Liberally butter a thirteen inch in diameter pan. It should be at least four inches deep.
  2. Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin to transfer it to the pan. Gently unroll. Lift and tuck the dough into all corners and up the sides of the pan.
  3. Mix two cups of the sauce with the penne. Divide into three portions
  4. Distribute one-third of the pasta with sauce in the bottom which should be no more than one inch deep.
  5. Distribute half of the salami, sausage, meatballs and cheeses next. Pour two cups of sauce over the top.
  6. Distribute another one-third of the pasta with sauce on top of this.
  7. Distribute the remaining salami, sausage, meatballs and cheeses next. Pour two cups of sauce over the top.
  8. Distribute another one-third of the pasta with sauce on top of this. Pour the remaining sauce over the top.
  9. Pour the beaten eggs over it all. Gently press it all down. Tap the pan up and down to settle all the ingredients.
  10. Fold the pasta dough over the top to seal. Discard any excess dough.
  11. Place in the preheated oven and bake for one hour until lightly browned.
  12. Cover with foil and continue to bake until it reaches 120⁰F at the center. (about thirty minutes more) Remove from the oven and let it rest for thirty minutes.

       13. Run a long knife between the crust and pan to loosen. Place a serving platter over the top.        Flip it over but do not remove the pan yet. Let it rest for another thirty minutes.

       14. Remove the pan and let it rest for another twenty minutes before cutting and serving.

Linda HierholzerENTRÉES