A “Big Night” Dinner And A Movie! A Slice Of Pasta Pie! Stanley Tucci And Tony Shaloub’s Timpano Recipe!

Want A Slice Of Pasta Pie?

I love food. I love Italian food. And I just might love this dish most of all! Imagine being served a beautifully prepared cake – but when you cut into it, you get this!

Or Is It A Pasta Cake?

This one looks like a giant frosted cake!

Look, however you want to describe it, it’s an amazing dish that I plan to make as part of my “dinner and a movie” series, because this incredible dish is featured in one of my favorite “food” movies!

Big Night – 1996

Many consider this to be the best movie ever devoted to food. This 1996 labor of love stars Minnie Driver, Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci – AND DIRECTED BY– Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott.

It’s the poignant story of two brothers who struggle to save their failing restaurant – and come up with an idea to get publicity – by putting on a “big night” for a celebrity guest.

While Tucci is smooth as silk at handling the “front of the house”, his more volatile brother Shaloub is a perfectionist in the kitchen – something that threatens to torpedo their “Big Night.”

Check out the trailer:

The signature dish of “Big Night” is the amazing “Timpano” – which I call a “pasta pie” and “pasta cake” interchangeably – but, the “Timpano” is defined as:

“A deep-dish Italian pie consisting of a pastry shell filled with layers of pasta, salami, cheese, meatballs, hardboiled eggs, tomato sauce, and other ingredients that is covered with a crust and baked.”

As you can see, it’s an amazing dish, and the film meticulously showcases the creation of this incredible meal!

Yes, Stanley Tucci is actually “listening” to this dish!

Here is the “Big Night Timpano” recipe – everything made from scratch, but you all know how to simplify with some pre-made ingredients if you want to!


2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil


1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup fine bread crumbs

Thanks to the terrific website “Kimchee Mom”, here is a picture of the various steps in the process, all nicely displayed in a single image:


1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, minced
1 medium rib celery, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons chicken broth or white wine
2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, passed through the medium disk of a food mill to remove seeds
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1/2 pound penne or other short-shaped pasta, cooked al dente, drained and reserved
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 hard-boiled eggs, cut in quarters
1 pound mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami


To make the pasta, mix the flour and the salt together, then stir the salted flour with the eggs and the oil. Continue to stir until the dough comes together in a ball. On a floured work surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until silky smooth. Wrap with plastic and set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
Combine all the meatball ingredients. Roll into about 65 balls, using 1 tablespoon of meat for each. In a large nonstick frying pan, cook as many meatballs as will fit in 1 layer over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes. Repeat if necessary. Set aside in a bowl at room temperature.
In the same pan used to make the meatballs and utilizing the fat left in the pan, cook the onion, carrot, celery and garlic over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the tomato paste in the stock or wine and stir into the vegetables. Cook the mixture for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
To make the timpano, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the penne with 2 cups of the sauce. Roll out the pasta on a lightly floured surface to make a 26-inch round. Grease a 3-quart stainless- steel bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil and gently mold the pasta sheet to the contours of the bowl; there should be enough hanging over the edge to fold over and cover the filling.
Spoon 1 cup of penne into the bowl. Top with 1/2 cup of the sauce, 12 pieces of egg, half of the meatballs and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat the process, this time using 3 cups of penne, 1 1/2 cups of sauce, the remaining eggs, meatballs and cheese. Top with the remaining penne and sauce. Create a final layer with the salami. Fold the pasta over the filling and brush with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake the timpano for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 45 more minutes. To check if it’s done make a small hole at the top using a knife blade. If steam comes out and the cheese is melted, it’s done. Otherwise, bake for 10 to 15 more minutes. To serve, remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Carefully turn upside down onto a large platter.
YIELD 6 to 8 servings
Originally published with FOOD; Eye Candy
By Molly O’Neill, November 16, 1997

There you have it, an incredible feast for you and friends to dig into before watching this great movie about the love of food!

Also…At the end of “Big Night”, there is a static 4 minute scene involving a single fried egg – the shot above captures the exact camera shot – a moment of simplicity that is full of unspoken emotion between the two brothers – it will make you cry and hungry at the same time.

So there is your “dinner and a movie” tonight – another Italian masterpiece!

I previously shared the meatball recipe from “Goodfellas”, which included the legendary “Goodfellas Garlic” process as shown here by the great character Actor Paul Sorvino – see it here:


Let me know if you’ve made a Timpano!

Categories: Art, Awards, Books / Media, cookbooks, Cult Movies, Film Fight Club, Food, food blog, Food Review, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Movies, Obscure Movies, Recipes, Restaurants, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized, Wacky Food

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18 replies

  1. What a monstrous thing, but it looks so delicious! Looking forward to seeing your attempt of recreating it!

  2. What an incredible dish! Wow… I’ve never heard of the movie or the pasta pie before. Thanks for the fascinating post!

  3. Wow! Have never seen this movie but feel like I really need to. This pasta cake looks marvelous, so impressive. May need to give that a go too!

  4. Wow! What an interesting dish and movie. I’ve not seen it, but I’d like to. Thanks for the recipe. It looks like a lot of fun to make. Nice post, John.

  5. I have never seen this film. I must rectify this oversight forthwith. I have Alison never eaten a pasta pie but this will be rectified too. It looks …. I am lost for words is how it looks (which is a rare and very good thing, by the way!)

    • I plan to make this in the next month or so and will post that effort…it’s a sweet, very well-acted film about two brothers struggling to save their business, and it’s a move that loves the process of creating food as art…really great

      • Right up my street, the film – I can’t imagine how I have missed it. I look forward to seeing your epic creation later in the month 😊 🍝 🥧

  6. John, I absolutely LOVE that sadly underrated and overlooked film.
    The pie looks delicious too! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.


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