A timballo or timbale as Sicilians call it, is a molded dish made of rice, pasta, or potatoes. The timbale can be a layered concoction with cheese, vegetables, eggs, meat, and or poultry. Sometimes the filling is encased in a layer of pastry crust or thin fried eggplant slices. It can be simple or as elaborate as the one referenced in Tomasi di Lampedusa’s famous novel The Leopard (Il Gattopardo). This recipe is a simple molded rice dish wrapped in a layer of eggplant. It is not difficult to make.
It is traditional to fry the eggplant in olive oil before making a timbale. Oven frying the eggplant is much easier and cuts down on the time needed to make this dish. If you do not want to go through the trouble of unmolding the timbale an easier method is to layer the eggplant in a casserole dish.
For a variation try adding peas and or diced ham. Use the larger pan when adding more ingredients.
Sicilian Rice Timbale
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 6 servings.
2 large eggplants (about 3 pounds), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4 cup for basting plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup diced onion
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 whole basil leaves plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
2 cups Carnaroli rice
½ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
8 ounces smoked or plain fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
8-inch or 9-inch springform pan
2 rimmed baking sheets
Parchment paper or foil
Bake the Eggplant: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
Arrange the eggplant slices on the baking sheets. Baste each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Flip the slices over, repeat basting with oil and sprinkling with salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until eggplant slices are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans.
Make the Sauce: Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes.
Stir in both cans of tomatoes, 1/2 cup of water, and the whole basil leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Discard basil leaves before using.
Parboil the Rice: Bring 4 cups of water and 1½ teaspoons of salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Stir in the rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes. The rice will not be fully cooked.
Remove rice from heat and drain in a colander.
Return the rice back into the pan and stir in the sauce, Parmesan, mozzarella, and chopped basil. Season with pepper.
Assemble the Timbale: Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Line the bottom and sides of the springform pan with the eggplant slices, slightly overlapping along the side and draping over the rim of the pan. You might have some eggplant slices leftover. Use them to make a delicious sandwich.
Spoon the rice mixture into the pan. Place a single eggplant slice on top of the rice mixture, in the middle.
Bring the draped eggplant slices over the top to completely cover the rice mixture. Use more eggplant to cover the top if needed.
Bake the Timbale: Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the baking sheet and allow the timbale to cool in the springform pan on a baking rack for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the outer ring of the springform pan. Sprinkle the top of the timbale with parsley before serving.