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Eggplant Timbale-Timballo di Melanzane

Eggplant Timbale-Timballo di Melanzane is made with pasta and a meat sauce made with peas. Delicious slices of grilled eggplant wrap around the pasta and it is baked together. A beloved family recipe perfect for the holidays or a special occasion.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: eggplant, pasta
Servings: 6
Author: Lora


  • 9-inch springform pan *You could also use an 8-inch springform pan


  • For the Meat Sauce:
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup of onion chopped you can use sweet onion or yellow onion
  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef you could do a mixture of pork/beef or however you prefer
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2-28 ounce can of whole tomatoes I use San Marzano, remove the tough inside and puree' in a blender
  • 6 fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen baby peas canned does not work for this recipe
  • 2 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Eggplants
  • 2 huge or 3 medium eggplants
  • cup extra-virgin olive oil maybe more (if needed)
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Pasta
  • 1 lb penne or rigatoni
  • a few handfuls of fresh basil roughly chopped or hand torn


  • In medium size sauce pan or a Dutch oven heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes more. Next, add the beef and sauté, stirring frequently.
  • Break up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and stir together and let it evaporate. Add the tomatoes and basil and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens. Add in the peas and stir together. Season with salt and pepper and simmer.
  • I simmer my ragu' (Bolognese sauce/meat sauce) for about 2 hours. Add additional water if necessary for desired consistency while it’s simmering to thin it out a little. You could make this a day (or two) ahead.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the pasta water and boil the pasta until it’s about 2 minutes from al dente.
  • If you cooked the sauce a day or two ahead, remove from the refrigerator and reheat it (this will make it much easier to combine with the cooked pasta).
  • While the sauce is simmering, prep the eggplant slices.
  • Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill.
  • Slice the eggplants vertically to about 1/4-inch thick slices. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Grill the eggplants until colored with grill marks and tender, about 4-5 minutes per side. You want nice golden slices.
  • Set aside the grilled eggplant slices on a baking sheet or a large dish spaced out nicely.
  • If you are using sauce that was cooked a day or two before, heat it in a sauce pan on a low simmer while you grill the eggplant.
  • Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the bowl. Spoon enough sauce onto the pasta enough to cover and stir together to combine. If you are adding any cheese (regular or dairy-free), add it in now. Toss everything to coat (and if you’re using cheese, make sure the cheese is distributed everywhere).
  • Brush a springform pan with olive oil.
  • Layer the bottom of the pan with the longest eggplant slices from the bottom and going over the edge of the spring form pan (so it can be folded over the top later), hanging outside of the pan (make sure there are no open spaces, should be covered with eggplant).
  • Spoon the pasta mixture on top of the layered eggplant slices.
  • Next, fold over the draped slices of eggplant to cover the pasta making sure the whole top is covered. You will have some extra eggplant slices, so use any extra pieces to cover up any open spaces.
  • Place the springform pan on a baking dish (this is just in case of any drips through the pan and also makes it easier to take out of oven). Bake for 30 minute.
  • Remove the tray from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes or so. As soon as it cools down enough, put on some kitchen gloves, and release the side of the pan.
  • Next, place your serving plate over the top of the timblale and carefully flip it over (it’s one swift move, so make sure you’re steady when you flip).
  • Remove the bottom of the springform pan. Use a very sharp knife and slice into portions and serve. Enjoy!


This does take some time to put together. It is elegant and it also absolutely worth all the effort. Do set aside some time to make this or make some of the steps ahead of time. 
Some reminders about this delicious recipe:
  • Eggplants: choose longer eggplants and buy one extra (I grilled up 4). You may end up needing more to cover the bottom or the top, so better to have extra. You could use any extra for another pasta dish.
  • Sauce: I made the meat ragu' a couple of days before. You could make this totally meat free and just make a quick sauce to fold the pasta into.
  • Cheese: I made this version dairy-free, no cheese. You could use chunks of fresh mozzarella or grated mozzarella. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino would be nice. My dad used to fold ricotta into his filling. You could use any vegan/dairy-free cheese if you are vegan or dairy-free.