My last post featured cupola di bucatini, bucatini dome, a recreation of a historic timballo (aka timpano). It was created by Francine Segan, a food historian and author of Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), to celebrate the appointment of the new Italian Trade Commissioner, Pier Paolo Celeste. ”This recipe dates to 18th century Naples, and was rediscovered and modernized by Giorgia Chiatto and Carmela Caputo, who run Naples’ first…cooking school, Cucinamica,” she says. She learned how to make it on site from Garofalo, one of the city’s oldest and most famous pastificci, headquartered in Gragnano, home of some of the best dried pasta in Italy.
Francine Segan’s cupola di bucatini. | Photo: Francine Segan
Because so many readers wrote asking how to make it, I asked Francine for the recipe. It was a real show-stopper, but, she says, don’t get intimidated. “This architecturally magnificent–and delicious–dish is actually quite easy to create.” The trick is to use bucatini, thick, long and hollow pasta that keeps its shape as you coil it into a bowl. Also essential is to use high quality imported Italian pasta, which will hold up to being cooked twice—first boiled on the stove and then baked in the oven. Here’ how to make it, step-by-step photos and all.
Using one strand and starting in the center of the prepared domed container, twirl the pasta around itself to form a coil.
Line the pasta with slices of caciocavallo cheese, pressing the cheese firmly against the pasta.
Put in half of the vegetable-pasta mixture, pressing firmly into the bottom and sides of the bowl to remove any air pockets.
Put in half of the vegetable-pasta mixture, pressing firmly into the bottom and sides of the bowl….Top with cheese slices.
Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes, until golden and set.
Put a serving plate on top of the bowl, and invert it.
Cupola di bucatini
From Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy, by Francine Segan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013)
14 tablespoons butter, plus more for the pan
5 to 6 slender zucchini (about 2 pounds), minced
3 medium carrots, minced
3/4 pound haricot verts or very thin string beans, minced
1 1/4 pounds bucatini, preferably Garofalo brand
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
3/4 pound deli-sliced high-quality provolone or sliced caciocavallo cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180 C. Very generously butter an 8 to 9-inch dome-shaped oven-safe container such as a Pyrex or metal bowl.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan and add zucchini; fry until soft. Put the zucchini into a large bowl. Using the same pan, cook the carrots and string beans in 1 tablespoon of butter over low heat, covered, until tender, adding a few drops of water, if needed. Stir into the bowl with the zucchini until well combined. Set aside 1 cup of this vegetable mixture as garnish for later.
3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 2/3 of the package’s recommended time. Drain and divide, putting 3/4 of the pasta into the large bowl of vegetables and the remaining 1/4 into a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of butter. Set aside; the small bowl, it will be used for the outer part of the dome.
4. Add 9 tablespoons of butter to the pasta-vegetable bowl and stir until the butter melts, then stir in the beaten eggs, pecorino cheese, and freshly grated black pepper. Using kitchen scissors, cut into the pasta mixture so it is broken up a little. Set aside.
5. From the plain buttered pasta, using one strand and starting in the center of the prepared domed container, twirl the pasta around itself to form a coil. Continue the coil with another strand of pasta starting where the last strand ended so it is in one continuous line; continue with additional strands until half way up the pan. Line the pasta with slices of caciocavallo cheese, pressing the cheese firmly against the pasta. Put in half of the vegetable-pasta mixture, pressing firmly into the bottom and sides of the bowl to remove any air pockets and densely pack the filling. Top with cheese slices.
6. Continue coiling the plain pasta around the dome to the top, adding a strand at the exact spot the last ended. Line the sides with more cheese slices and top with the remaining vegetable-pasta mixture and slices of cheese. Press the pasta down firmly with a spatula or wooden spoon. This is key to getting a nice compact dome that stays together nicely when sliced. Cut the remaining plain buttered pasta with scissors and press on top of the mixture.
7. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes, until golden and set. Let rest 10 minutes, then put a serving plate on top of the bowl, and invert it. Hit with a wooden spoon to help the pasta release from the pan, and, using the tip of a spoon or butter knife along the bottom edge of the bowl, begin to remove the bowl from the pasta. Serve garnished with the reserved cup of minced vegetables.