I saw a picture of this Italian masterpiece in an old Gourmet magazine and had to conquer it. It's a great weekend project actually—when it's raining out or you just want to stay in. You will be rewarded! Every recipe I found used meat sauce so I vegetarianized it by skipping the meat in favor of a robust veggie-cheese mixture of eggplant, mushrooms, beet greens and smoked mozzarella.
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Inspired by Gourmet, September 2004
Time: About 45 minute active; 3 hours total
3/4 pounds long rigatoni
4 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
1 pound eggplant, diced
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 rosemary sprigs, stripped and chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound beet greens or other green, chopped
4 ounces smoked mozzarella, grated
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups tomato sauce (here's a great recipe!)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Boil a large pot of water over medium heat and add 3 teaspoons salt. Add rigatoni and undercook—about 7 minutes total. Drain, but do not rinse, and set aside. Periodically loosen pasta with your fingers so it doesn't stick together while you are preparing the rest of the timballo.
3. In a large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, eggplant, pepper, rosemary and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté 10-15 minutes until mushrooms give off their liquid and eggplant is soft. Add garlic and greens and cook 5-10 minutes longer, ensuring very little liquid is left. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, grated cheeses and nutmeg. When vegetable mixture has cooled a bit, add egg-cheese mixture and stir to combine.
5. To assemble the timballo, cut out a circular piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 2-3 quart soufflé dish. Spray the parchment and dish with cooking spray.
6. Lay rigatoni in a neat pattern in the bottom, then top with tomato sauce, oregano, chili flakes and fennel seeds. Add another layer of pasta, then the vegetable-cheese mixture. Lastly, top with rigatoni (you may have some left over).
7. Cover the top with another circular piece of parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray (cooking spray side down) and then foil. Place the timballo in a pan filled with nearly boiling water about half up the soufflé dish.
8. Bake in the oven for one hour. Gently remove from the oven, and then remove the dish from the water bath. Let cool, covered, 15 minutes. Remove foil and parchment and run a long, sharp knife around the edges to loosen the timballo. Put a flat serving dish on top, and invert the soufflé dish onto the serving dish. Remove soufflé dish and remaining parchment paper from the bottom of the timballo. Cut into eight wedges and enjoy hot. (Note: If you have time, I let the timballo cool overnight on the counter before I inverted in out of the dish. I think it may hold together better at room temperature so that it comes out in one piece.)
Writer Bio: Adrienne D. Capps loves food AND is a vegetarian! These things are not mutually exclusive in her world. She is passionate about eating, drinking, cooking, teaching, reading about food and growing food. Her goal with her food blog, Vegetarianized.com, is to open up the world of vegetarian cooking and eating to the veg-friendly and the veg-curious in an accessible way. She promises never to try to convert or make you feel guilty—just that eating less meat can be part of a healthy, fun, and, above all tasty, lifestyle.