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Neapolitan Savoury Rice Timbale

15 November 2013 / 10:11:26  GRReporter
4371 reads

Danielle Lachana


On the occasion of the Fellini festival in Athens,

it seemed only appropriate to make one of the favourite dishes of the famous Italian film director, Federico Fellini.

(You can watch one of his films here:)



Fellini was not a great lover of pasta, preferring instead a Neapolitan ''Sartu'' - a rich rice dish baked in a deep, drum- or dome-shaped, dish.

There are many different versions of this recipe, some of which literally include as fillings ''whatever you have in your kitchen cupboards'' . Some add a béchamel sauce, others a minced meat sauce, but there are basically two classical versions which are, the older ''white'' one (without sauce) and the more recent, but also more popular, ''red'' one (with sauce), which is what we will make here.  

Naturally, if you prefer the white version, you can just leave out the sauce! Also feel free to make substitutions - instead of the mozzarella cheese you can use another, mild, easily meltable - cheese (but diced), you could replace the hard-boiled eggs with cooked mushrooms, and so on ...

Although there are many elements to this dish, the sauce, rice and meatballs can all be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to assemble and bake.

 An impressive dish for a special occasion which is definitely worth the effort!



Serves 8


If using fresh mozzarella in liquid, slice and leave to drain in a colander.

If using the firmer type of mozzarella or other cheese, cut into dice.


For the sauce  - if not already made in advance.

(Click here for the ingredients and method)


For the rice

Melt  50 g of the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Stir in the rice and cook for about  5 minutes, stirring frequently, until well coated in the butter - but do not allow to burn.  Add the wine and cook, stirring often, until completely evaporated.

Add two ladlefuls  of stock, cooking until it is absorbed before adding more stock, one ladleful at a time, stirring frequently until the rice is almost cooked but still a little firm.

 Stir in the cheese, remove from the heat and add the remaining butter.

 Allow to cool before stirring in the beaten eggs. Add 3 tbsp of the rich tomato sauce diluted with 2-3 tbsp of  water, black pepper and salt to taste. Stir thoroughly until combined and set aside.


For the Mini Meatballs

Mix all the dry ingredients  together in a bowl and add enough of the beaten egg to make a soft consistency after kneading together with wet hands .

Form into tiny meatballs of about 1.5 cm in diameter (the size of a small cherry).

Dust lightly with flour, rolling to coat.

Deep fry in plenty of oil in a large pan (if necessary in more than one batch) over a high heat for about 5 minutes turning until golden brown all over.

Remove and drain on kitchen paper.


 All ingredients ready for assembly.


Add the meatballs to the rich tomato sauce and simmer for  5 minutes.



Use a deep, if possible steep-sided, ovenproof dish or mould of capacity about 2.5 litres (5 pints). Grease very well with a thick layer of butter and sprinkle with plenty of breadcrumbs, pressing them to line the sides and bottom of the dish  - essential to ensure that the Sartu does not stick.

Spoon about two-thirds of the cooked rice into the dish and press it well against the bottom and sides ensuring that it makes walls thick enough to support the finished timbale (aim for at least 2 cm thickness of the base and sides).

While you are pressing the rice to the bottom and sides make a deep hollow in the middle for the filling.

Layer half of the mozzarella slices or dice in the bottom then top with one of the sliced boiled eggs followed by some spoonfuls of the rich sauce filling with the added meatballs. Add peas, chicken livers, ham if using. Top with the remaining cheese and second sliced egg. Cover with the remainder of the rice and smooth down the top until level, sprinkle more breadcrumbs over the top mixed with the 1 tbsp  grated parmesan and dot with slivers of butter.


Tags: Neapolitan Italian recipes timbale rice mould timballo di riso Italy Naples savoury rice
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