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Vegetarian Timpano – An Updated Classic

Do you like the idea of a timpano but don’t want a meat-heavy dish? In that case, you’re going to love this veggie-centric Vegetarian Timpano – an update on a classic.

Vegetarian Timpano

What is a timpano? It’s basically a large Italian baked pasta dish. (Officially, it’s called a timballo, but timpano is a regional name that became better known in the U.S.) But calling it a dish is a little bit of an understatement. It’s more like a crowning achievement. It often represents more than a day’s worth of labor, and it serves as a beautiful centerpiece to a meal. You never know exactly what it’s going to look like, so there’s often a dramatic reveal when you slice it open.

A Vegetarian Timpano

If you know the movie Big Night, you know that the climactic scene revolves around creating a timpano. But that timpano, like most, heavily features meatballs and other sliced meats. We thought we’d try a version with a variety of vegetables instead.

Vegetarian Timpano

What made us confident that the vegetarian timpano would be just as delicious? Real Italian ingredients, including tomatoes and pasta from Italy. We received these tomatoes and pasta as a gift from the Greatest Tomatoes from Europe, a three-year campaign on behalf of ANICAV – the Italian Association of Canned Vegetable Industries. ANICAV members account for over 60% of all the processed tomatoes in Italy. In addition, they account for nearly all of the whole peeled tomatoes in the world. (That includes the internationally renowned San Marzano tomatoes).

These European tomatoes are special because of the great care taken in growing and preserving them. Artisan farmers grow these tomatoes grow in rich fertile land, pick them at their peak of ripeness, and preserve them by time-honored methods. Additionally, they’re so flavorful that they don’t require the additives or flavoring ingredients that other canned tomatoes might need. They’re perfect just as they are. (Exhibit A: This Tomato-Pesto Frittata.) In fact, we like to think that these are the very tomatoes that our European ancestors relied on to make their meals special.

Making a Timpano

OK – if you’re ready to make a timpano, just understand that it is probably a two-day commitment. We started working on various stages during dinner one night, and by the second night (at 10:00 p.m.) we were finally ready to slice into the completed timpano. With that said, get ready to dive in:

5 from 1 vote

Vegetarian Timpano

A timpano (baked pasta dish) made with eggs, cheese, and vegetables. The dough is adapted from the "Timpano alla Big Night" recipe from Cucina & Familia by Joan T. Tucci and Gianni Scappin.

Course Main, Main Course, Main Dish/Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword broccoli, eggplant, eggs, hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, pasta, peppers, timpano, tomato sauce, tomatoes, vegetarian, zucchini
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Resting Time 2 hours
Total Time 6 hours 30 minutes
Servings 12


For the Vegetables

  • 2 large red peppers
  • 1 medium Italian eggplant
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 6 ounces mushrooms
  • 2 medium Italian zucchini
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided plus two tablespoons

For the Sauce

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 32-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 5 to 6 leaves basil, torn
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • pinch sugar (optional)

For the Ricotta Mixture

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ounces spinach or kale leaves, or a mixture
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs (uncooked)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Crust

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs (uncooked)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water (approximately)

Additional Timpano Ingredients

  • 1 pound high-quality Italian penne pasta or equivalent, cooked, drained, and tossed lightly with olive oil
  • 1 pound low-moisture mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounces provolone cheese
  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1 egg, beaten (uncooked)
  • olive oil and butter for greasing pan


Preparing the Vegetables

  1. Broil the red peppers, turning frequently, until the skin is charred on all sides. Peel off the skin, remove the seeds, and cut the flesh into strips. Set aside.

  2. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices; toss with salt, and place in a strainer, preferably weighing it down with something heavy. Allow the eggplant to sit and drain for 30 to 60 minutes, then rinse and pat dry. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, spread out on a baking sheet, and roast at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.

  3. Chop the broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini into bite-sized pieces or slices. Toss in a bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil. Spread out on a large baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked and lightly browned.

  4. Peel and dice the onions, then saute in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until softened and golden brown.

  5. Set all prepared vegetables aside until ready to use.

Preparing the Tomato Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan, saute the garlic in olive oil until just softened. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, and oregano and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the mixture to a simmer and continue simmering for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the large tomato pieces with a spoon. Remove from heat and toss with the cooked pasta. Set aside.

Preparing the Ricotta Mixture

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add the spinach and/or kale leaves and saute until wilted. Remove greens from the pan and chop finely. Stir the greens together with the remaining ingredients (ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt) until well mixed and then set aside.

Preparing the Crust

  1. Add flour, eggs, and olive oil to a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix until combined; then add water tablespoonful by tablespoonful until the dough sticks together and forms a ball. Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and let it rest for 30 minutes.

  2. After the dough has rested, roll it out with a lightly floured rolling pin into a large circle, approximately 1/16 to 1/4 inch thick, and approximately two feet in diameter. Now you are ready to assemble the timpano.

Timpano Assembly

  1. Grease a 5-quart round enamel-coated Dutch oven with butter and olive oil. Pick up the timpano dough and lay it gently in the Dutch oven, letting the edges hang over. Spoon about half of the pasta-sauce mixture into the crust. Layer slices of mozzarella cheese (about half the cheese) over the pasta. Then cover the cheese with the eggplant and onions. Next, dollop on the ricotta cheese mixture to cover the vegetables.

  2. For the next layer, arrange the eggs in a circular pattern into the timpano, pressing the eggs down gently into the ricotta mixture. Cover the eggs wiith the zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, and red peppers. Then add one more layer of mozzarella slices, using up the remaining mozzarella.

  3. Finally, pour the remaining pasta and sauce into the timpano. Top with sliced provolone. Then pour one beaten egg over the top. Now pull up the edges of the dough and fold them over the top, sealing the contents tightly.

  4. Cover the timpano with the lid from the Dutch oven and bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes. The top crust should be golden brown and the internal temperature should be at least 125 degrees F.

  5. Remove from the oven and let it sit in the Dutch oven for 30 minutes. Then gently invert the timpano onto a large platter. Let the timpano stand for at least another 30 minutes before slicing into it. Serve with additional sauce if desired.

Did you get all that? Seriously, let’s look a little closer at a few of the steps. One – You’re need to get the sauce, the pasta, the eggs, the veggies, and all of the fillings prepared before you can put everything together. It may look like a lot, but each piece is not that difficult.

Your dough is going to be possibly the most significant part, because it has to hold everything together.

When you are rolling it out, it should be smooth and elastic enough to stretch into a two-foot-wide circle. That will make it big enough to cover the inside of the pan and have plenty lapping over the sides. (Do you have a large Dutch oven? These pans are fantastic for making a timpano!)

Layering in the ingredients is the fun part. By the time you get to the top, your Dutch oven should be full and heavy.

Then you fold the dough over the top, making sure to seal it all together.

After you bake it, it should be nice and golden brown on top, like a beautiful bread.

Then you have to hold yourself back as much as humanly possible to resist flipping it over and cutting it right away. The temptation is real. But stay strong. The longer you let it “set,” the more likely it is to hold together.

Vegetarian Timpano

Oh – and by the way – here’s what it looked like when we cut into it:

Like it? Let us know if you make one!

Blogger disclosure: Greatest Tomatoes from Europe gifted us with tomatoes. We did not receive compensation for this post; all opinions expressed are our own. This post contains affiliate links.

4 Responses to Vegetarian Timpano – An Updated Classic

  1. Jacqui Storum December 26, 2020 at 10:36 pm #

    5 stars
    I made this recipe as part of an Italian themed Christmas lunch with friends on holidays.
    The Timpano was a great success, delicious and everyone loved it. A great recipe.

    • Jeanne December 27, 2020 at 1:02 pm #

      Fantastic! I’m so happy to hear this! Thanks for letting me know!

  2. Jim would bless you. Looking forward to your response.Ryda February 25, 2024 at 3:15 am #

    Tried your recipe For a friend that is having surgery and is a firm meat eater, and it was wonderful! A major question I play in a volunteer orchestra in Northern California. When we perform we have a break and everybody brings food. We have one gentleman that is a vegetarian and is so tired of vegetarian pizza. I try and make food for him. I can’t make something just for him.

    There are 60 people in our orchestra doing a performance. When I would go broke, two that’s an off a lot of work. Is it possible that this could be baked in a a baking dish large? With the same results are maybe with a tinfoil outside so it could be tall? Another words one bake and A bunch of Hors d’oeuvre squares. Jim would bless you. Looking forward to your response.

    • Jeanne February 25, 2024 at 9:48 am #

      Hi – Yes, I think this would work in a large baking dish! If you try it, let me know how it goes! Best, Jeanne

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