Baked Macaroni in Pastry (Timpana)

A blend of coriander, cumin, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves adds oomph to the meat sauce for this baked pasta in puff pastry.

Similar to the Italian timpano, this Maltese classic calls for encasing a tubular pasta—such as penne, ziti, or macaroni—and spiced meat sauce in puff pastry.



For the Maltese spice mixture:

  • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cloves

For the pasta:

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef or pork
  • Kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 cup tomato paste
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 lb. penne or ziti, cooked according to package instructions and drained
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
  • 1⁄4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1½ sheets all-butter frozen puff pastry (21 oz.), thawed


Step 1

Make the Maltese spice blend: In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, pound the coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves until finely ground. Store in an airtight container. (Makes 3 tablespoons.)

Step 2

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic; cook until soft, 12 minutes. Add the meat, season with salt, and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, 15 minutes. Pour off fat. Stir in the tomato paste, basil, parsley, bay leaf, cumin, 1 teaspoon Maltese spice blend, and 1 cup water. Simmer for 25–30 minutes, adding more water if meat dries out. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine the meat mixture and pasta. Stir in the hard-cooked eggs, 3 beaten eggs, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry to 16 by 13 inches. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the meat and pasta mixture. Roll out the remaining half sheet of puff pastry to 9 by 13 inches, then place on top. Pinch the edges of the pastry together, brush the top with egg wash, and cut four 2-inch slashes. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes and up to 30, then unmold, cut into squares, and serve. (For the cleanest cuts, let the pie cool completely overnight and reheat in a 350°F oven before unmolding and slicing.)

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