Armando Perucoco's timballo Napoletano recipe (2024)

This is an celebratory pasta bake with quail eggs, veal meatballs and rigatoni coated in a fresh Napoletana sauce.

Dec 01, 2016 1:00pm

By Armando Percuoco

  • 1 hr 30 mins preparation
  • 2 hrs cooking plus soaking, setting, resting
  • Serves 6
  • Armando Perucoco's timballo Napoletano recipe (1)


Armando Percuoco found his passion for cooking in the family restaurant in Naples at 14. He arrived in Australia in 1972, working with his father at Arrivederci in East Sydney before going on to open Pulcinella in Kings Cross. He has been the chef-patron of Paddington's Buon Ricordo since 1987, before handing the head-chef reins to David Wright in 2018.

This timballo is a dish he recalls with fondness from his childhood. "Traditionally the timballo was a large pie, encased in pastry made with sugna, or pork drippings, topped with a meat ragù," he says. "We still do this occasionally for special events, but normally we serve it in individual portions and, to lighten and modernise the dish, we serve it without the pastry and with a Neapolitan sauce."


  • 200 gm podded peas (about 500gm unpodded), or frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 400 gm (about 60 pieces) dried rigatoni
  • 12 quail eggs
  • 120 gm parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 egg
  • 100 gm provolone piccante or provola, diced
  • 100 gm rindless mild pancetta, diced
  • Butter, for greasing

Tomato sugo

  • 4 garlic cloves, bruised
  • 125 ml olive oil (½ cup)
  • 900 gm canned whole tomatoes, crushed
  • 5 basil leaves, plus extra, chopped, to serve

Veal meatballs

  • 40 gm white Italian bread, such as pane di casa, crusts removed, coarsely chopped
  • 125 ml milk (½ cup)
  • 200 gm coarsely minced veal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Napoletana sauce

  • 1 small garlic clove, bruised
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 gm ripe tomatoes (about 3-4), coarsely chopped
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped



  • 1

    For tomato sugo, sauté garlic in olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat until golden (2-3 minutes). Add crushed tomatoes and simmer until flavours combine (4-5 minutes). Add basil leaves and simmer until a spoonable sauce forms (12-15 minutes), and season to taste. Discard garlic and basil leaves. Purée half the sauce in a mouli or with a small hand-held blender. Reserve blended and coarse sauces separately in bowls.

  • 2

    For meatballs, soak bread in milk in a bowl until soft (10-12 minutes). Squeeze bread to remove excess milk (discard milk), return to bowl, add veal and egg, then stir in the parsley and season to taste. Knead until thoroughly combined, then shape quarter-teaspoonfuls into balls to fit inside rigatoni. Fry meatballs in a little olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, shaking pan occasionally, until golden brown (2-3 minutes). Add reserved coarse tomato sauce to pan and simmer over low heat until meatballs are cooked through and sauce is thick (4-6 minutes).

  • 3

    Blanch peas in boiling water (10 minutes for fresh; 1 minute for frozen). Drain and set aside.

  • 4

    Heat olive oil in a separate frying pan, add onion and sauté over low heat until softened (10 minutes). Add peas, season to taste, and warm through (4-5 minutes).

  • 5

    Cook rigatoni in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente (8-9 minutes). Drain, refresh in cold water, drain again, then gently pat dry with a clean tea towel.

  • 6

    Meanwhile, hard-boil quail eggs (5 minutes), refresh in cold water, peel and cut into 1cm pieces.

  • 7

    Add 75gm parmesan and uncooked egg to reserved puréed tomato sauce, stir and set aside 120ml for later use. Add rigatoni to tomato and egg mixture, and stir to coat thoroughly. Butter six 350ml soufflé moulds, about 10cm in diameter and 7cm deep, and line with baking paper. Tightly pack rigatoni vertically inside moulds, then fill each tube by layering meatballs, peas, quail egg pieces, provolone pieces and pancetta, gently pushing them in with your little finger or the thick end of a chopstick to pack tightly. (Any leftover meatballs and sauce can be served with spaghetti the next day.) Pour 1 tbsp reserved tomato and egg mixture over each prepared mould and refrigerate to set (30 minutes).

  • 8

    For Napoletana sauce, fry garlic in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until golden brown (2-2½ minutes). Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until a spoonable sauce forms (20 minutes). Add basil and simmer until thickened and reduced to 300ml (10-12 minutes). Season to taste, discard garlic, and keep warm.

  • 9

    Preheat oven to 200C and bring pasta moulds to room temperature (30-35 minutes) before baking until warmed through and set (15-20 minutes).

  • 10

    To serve, invert pasta moulds onto plates and remove baking paper. Spoon Napoletana sauce over each, and scatter with remaining parmesan and extra basil.


Drink Suggestion: Gutsy aglianico, typical of the Campania region around Naples. Drink suggestion by Max Allen

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Armando Perucoco's timballo Napoletano recipe (2024)


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