cacio e pepe timballo
We love baked pasta but somehow our progress in exploring this relatively
broad area of cuisine has remained painfully limited. Sure we have mastered the
queen of baked pasta, lasagna, but there are so many other interesting ways to
create a comfort food oven-baked pasta dish. A few years ago we stumbled on a
whole cookbook devoted mostly to baked pastas, in a Rome bookstore in an
underground passage at the street intersection below Via del Corson near Piazza Colonna, and snatched
it up. In Italian. But somehow its inner pages are not calling our name, bake
me, bake me.
One of our nephews attends a K-8 Armenian Catholic school, so in addition to
tuition, they have to do fundraising every year. This year part of it was
magazine subscriptions. I said just give him the money outright, we don't need
another magazine. After all we managed to cut ourselves free from Bon Appetit after 25
years. She picked Food and Wine. Okay, we impulse buy that once in a while.
And a few months into the subscription (May 2015) a recipe catches our eye
immediately: "Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie" they called it, but in Italian they would
call this a "timballo" (from the French word "timbale" for kettledrum, also
timpano in Italian) which is a type of baked pasta baked in a mold or pan so
that it stands alone once removed after baking. Cacio e pepe is a simple tasty traditional Roman pasta that is served in
too many restaurants in Rome, but usually done well anyway. The cheese and pasta
is contrasted with the peppery taste of, well, pepper. Cacio refers to the
cheese in Roman dialect (only pecorino romano in the traditional recipe), but in some indirect way that bob never understood very well.
For this baked pasta the cheese sector is beefed up a bit for the cheesy factor,
a key winning feature for comfort foods, like our own American mac and cheese.
And don't skimp on the black pepperthat is what makes this dish.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 1/2 cups milk
(or 3/4 c nonfat milk, 3/4 c heavy cream)
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
(use pecorino romano instead for authenticity!)
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- Kosher salt
- 6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- Butter, for greasing, or cooking spray
- Trace out and cut a round circle of parchment paper to cover the bottom of a 9 or 9.5
in springform pan. It should be a tightfitting pan, but even so some liquid
may ooze out the bottom. Inverting the bottom (rim down) makes it easy to
slide off the torta when finished. We attempted an aluminum foil layer under the bottom
and up the outer sides of the pan to minimize loss. Butter the side and bottom
of the pan or just spray with vegetable oil, we've done both and don't notice
- Preheat the oven to 425°. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the
spaghetti until al dente. Drain well, but keep some of the pasta water in
- Meanwhile in a large bowl, mix the pasta, milk, Parmigiano, eggs, pepper, salt
and 1 1/2 cups each of the
Fontina and cheddar. [If you think a little hit of pasta water can help
here, try it.] Scrape into a buttered 9-inch springform pan, then sprinkle the
remaining 1/2 cup each of Fontina and cheddar on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes,
until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
- Turn on the broiler. Broil the pie 8 inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes,
until browned on top. Transfer to
a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the ring, slide off the pie (if you
did the parchment paper) and cut into wedges and serve.
- Food and Wine, May 2015, Justin Chapple:
Pepe Pasta Pie [more
- Bon Appetit
Cacio e Pepe, for comparison, but see
Wiki cacio e pepe
for the cheese confirmation.
- The dish "timballo" entered American culture with the film "Big Night",
where the featured dish in an Italian restaurant re-opening was a called by
another Italian term "timpano". A year ago while using an underground street
passage bookstore at Piazza Colonna - Galleria Alberto Sordi in Rome, this
cookbook jumped out at us:
Timballi Lasagne e Pasticci, but it took us a while to actually use it.
- In Italian the normal word order of nouns and adjectives is reversed,
so "timballo cacio e pepe" would be the Italian name, as Massimo reminded
bob, but this is an English language recipe.
- After making this 3 times in our tightest springform pan, a nice heavy
gauge product by Calphalon, fighting the excessive milk leakage each time,
bob found the solution: the
Martha Stewart 9 inch springform pan, only at Macy's with inverted pan
bottom so the lip faces down, locking into an outer rim slot that severely
restricts fluid loss. You could make this in a normal pan, but then you
would have to scoop it out to serve and you would lose the elegant
presentation as a standalone cake.
- An added precaution to lessen leakage is to make a bechamel sauce with
the milk by starting with a little flour and butter and once hot, melting in
the majority of the cheeses, leaving some of each for the topping.
- The NYTimes has recently featured an
"easier to make" timpano. [The
Big Night recipe is much older; see also
9 inch square nonstick springform pan is ideal for this dish. It is a
lot easier to cut portions from a square than from a circle. And you don't
have to trace out the parchment paper, you just make it bigger and clamp
down on it wiith the extra sticking out. We never even
knew this configuration springform pan existed until one of our Roman
friends working overseas had to deal with the remnants of his US life when
one of his daughters changed apartments and delivered an ultimatum about the
family stuff she did not want to drag along. We picked off what seemed
useful and donated the rest. This pan was an incredible addition to our
kitchen equipment for which we will always be thankful. Grazie, Fabrizio!
- Illustrations available.