Even though it was beastly hot on Tuesday, I was in the mood to cook, and had the time—and besides, we have air conditioning. I looked through my “To Try” recipes and saw this one for a sausage and rice timbale. Long-time readers may remember that I made a rice-crusted timbale once many years ago, but that one had a pasta filling and was baked in a big bowl (it’s here; unfortunately I hadn’t yet learned how to embiggen photos on my blog).
Our only complaint with the dish was that the ratio of rice “crust” to sausage filling seemed off. The recipe calls for an 8-inch springform pan, but I have only a 9-inch one. You’d think that would have made the rice crust too thin all around, but we found just the opposite—too much rice and not enough filling. In fact, next time I make it, I think I’ll start with less rice altogether.
Anyhow, despite this quibble, it was really tasty and everyone said they would have it again. You could obviously change up the filling any way you wanted—I should’ve measured how much I ended up with, but I’m thinking it was about 2 cups or so. The whole thing took a bit of work but wasn’t at all difficult. This is one of those dishes where you’ll want to reuse your bowls and such as you go along, though, so you don’t end up doing dishes all night. For instance, I realize that I could’ve mixed the rice and eggs in the pot I’d cooked the rice in instead of dirtying another bowl.
I served it with a simple salad and heated up some crusty bread—who even knew it was 90° out?
2½ cups arborio rice (See note above; next time I will try it with 2–2¼ cups.)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1 medium onion, chopped (I added another step here, where I chopped up the last onion in the house and then somehow managed to dump the entire thing on the floor and had to go to the market yet again. You might want to skip that part.)
¾ pound Italian pork sausage, casings removed (I used garlic-herb chicken sausage instead.)
½ cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup tomato paste
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3–4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
4 large eggs (See note above re rice; maybe I will drop this down to 3 next time?)
3 ounces grated pecorino romano cheese, divided use
2 ounces sliced provolone cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rice, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the rice is tender, 12–15 minutes. Drain, shaking the colander to remove any excess water. Spread the rice on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool. (This is a great tip for speeding up the cooling process, and one I wish I’d known when I made my previous timbale!)
Preheat the oven to 450° and place a baking sheet on the middle rack. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 6 minutes. (I added a glug of olive oil because chicken sausage has so little fat.) Tear the basil and add to the skillet along with the garlic and tomato paste. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste browns, about 4 minutes. At that point, stir in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15–20 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. (As noted above, mine was 9 inches.) Coat the pan with the breadcrumbs, tapping to remove any excess. Put the eggs and all but 3 tablespoons of the pecorino cheese in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Put the cooled rice in a bowl; add the egg mixture and stir to combine.
Transfer about two-thirds of the rice mixture to the prepared springform pan. Using moist fingers, pat the rice onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan, forming a ½-inch-thick layer. (This is fun! See my note above, though; even with my larger pan, the rice crust was too thick. If you’re in doubt, just don’t use it all.) Place the provolone slices over the rice in the pan. Spoon about three-quarters of the sausage filling over the provolone, filling it to ½ inch from the top. (I used all of the filling and still felt that there was too much rice.) Pat the remaining rice mixture on top to enclose the filling, then sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons pecorino cheese. Put the pan on the hot baking sheet and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. (Even after 25 minutes, mine did not turn golden, but it was hard on top, so out it came.) Transfer to a rack and let cool, 5 minutes.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the timbale, then remove the side of the pan. Slide a spatula under the timbale and transfer it to a platter. Thin the remaining sausage filling with a splash of water and reheat. Serve with the timbale. (I didn’t have any leftover sausage mixture, so I just opened a jar of tomato sauce for those who wished to use it.)