Rice Timballo: a recipe from Sicily

Have you ever hear the Italian expression "The eye needs its shares?". It is so true with food, it needs to catch the eye together with the other senses. Well, timballo is a great way to satisfy all senses!

"Timballo" is a baked dish consisting usually of pre-cooked pasta or rice. It's very easy to make and there are multiple ways to ensure a great presentation. Obviously I chose the rice timballo in this case because it's gluten-free, and the rice is wrapped in eggplants, which are a very popular ingredients for Timballo in Sicily.

Ingredients (makes 6):

  • Rice (Parboiled or Risotto type) 360 gr
  • Tomato Sauce 600 ml 
  • Green Peas (fresh or frozen) 200 gr
  • Eggplants 3 big
  • Parmesan cheese 30 gr
  • Provola Cheese (or another type that will melt well) 50 gr
  • Vegetable stock 1/2 L
  • Olive Oil
  • Basil leaves, 4-5
  • Salt, Chili Pepper to taste
  1. Start by preparing the salsa. Pour the tomato sauce in a pot, add a drizzle of olive oil, the basil leaves and cook over low-medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time add the peas to the sauce, and also 1/2 eggplant, chopped into little cubes.
  2. When the sauce is ready, sprinkle a bit of salt to taste (should be around 1/2 tsp) then add the rice and one ladful of vegetable stock. Mix well and let it cook for the necessary time (even 2-3 minutes less). Stir regularly with a wooden spoon and add more stock if needed. When the rice is ready add the parmesan, provola cheese, 1/2 tsp of chili pepper (more or less according to taste) and more salt if needed.
  3. In the meantime prepare the eggplant strips. Cut them into large slices, and make sure they all have the same thickness (3 or max 5 mm). My grandma would definitely shallow fry them (it's the most tempting version for sure), but I decided to grill them, with just a tiny bit of olive oil on the pan. Grill the slices on both sides, and when they are ready transfer them onto a plate.
  4. Prepare the "Timballo" in a round tin, preferably a ring cake tin. Grease the tin first, then line it with the eggplant slices until the whole tin is covered. Use a big spoon to fill the tin the rice, spread it evenly, then fold the tip of the eggplant slices on the rice.
  5. Cook in in pre-heated oven for 40 minutes at 190 °C. After you remove the Timballo from the oven carefully place it in a plate: cover the top of the tin with a big plate, and quickly turn it upside down. Slice and serve.

TIPS: Prepare this dish for a dinner with friends to impress everyone with your gluten-free cooking skills! 
Be careful when you turn it upside down because it will be really hot! You can also wait 15-20 minutes until it cools down a little bit. This dish is also great after cooling down, for a pic-nic or the day after for your lunch break.
Feel free to add your favorite ingredients to the rice mix. Ham cubes for example match perfectly!

Have you tried it? Do you have any suggestions? Leave your comment!