Remember the scene in Big Night, where Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub unmold an enormous Timpano? That scene made quite an impression on me, but I never attempted anything close to that amazing dish. Today I decided to try Michael Chiarello's recipe for Pastina Timbale. One look at the ingredients told me it would taste great, whether it unmolded properly or not. In fact, I confess to feeling pessimistic about this cooking adventure when I began. To my delight, each timbale was perfect, and I'm now determined to make a huge version someday. The main ingredient is tiny little pasta about the size of large couscous, with a delicious dusting of crisp bread crumbs, parsley, and parmesan. I think this recipe is perfect for Presto Pasta Night, which was created by Ruth at Once Upon A Feast. Every Friday pasta lovers from around the world share their recipes, so do stop by her site and see them.
Good news--this was a quick dish to prepare. I started by making toasted bread crumbs, mixed with parsley and parmesan. Take one test bite, then step away. You will need it to line the molds for your timbale.
Adapted from Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
1 tablespoon unsalted soft butter
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound pastina or other small pasta like orzo or riso
Timbale sauce (see below)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Brush 8 (12-ounce) ramekins or 1 large oven-safe bowl with butter and set aside.
Combine 2 tablespoons of the oil and the minced garlic in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook until the garlic about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the bread crumbs to the skillet and stir them every minute for 3 to 5 minutes until the crumbs are lightly toasted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup of the parsley and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.
Pour the bread crumb mixture into the prepared ramekins or bowl and press around the sides to line with the bread crumb mixture, using your fingers to evenly distribute it along the bottom and up the sides.
While the Pastina Timbale Sauce is simmering, cook the pastina in the boiling salted water until just shy of al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain the pastina in a colander.
Reheat the sauce, if needed, and add to the drained pastina. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of parsley, and remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir to combine. Transfer the pastina mixture to the lined ramekins (1 1/4 cups per ramekin) or large bowl. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Invert the molded pastina timbale onto warmed individual serving plates, and serve.
Note: The molds may be filled and stored in the fridge a day ahead. To serve, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook the timbales in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them sit for 10 minutes. Then serve.
Pastina Timbale Sauce:
3 cups tomato puree--about 28 ounces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
About 9 chopped sun-dried tomatoes, oil packed
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt to taste
Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, season with salt, and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree, sun-dried tomatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium, add the basil, and simmer until thickened and reduced by a fourth about 15- 20 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.