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Creamed Spinach and Red Wine Timballo


A timballo is a dome-shaped Italian casserole usually made with pasta, rice or potatoes. In this
timballo, a layer of creamed spinach adds extra creaminess and color to the dish.

  • Duration
  • Prep Time
  • 8 ServingsServings


  • 1½ cups marinara sauce
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 12 ounces ziti
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, finely grated
  • 1 ounce (½ cup) parmesan cheese, freshly grated, divided
  • 4 ounces (scant 1 cup) fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes


Prepare sauce: Heat marinara sauce in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Add celery, tomato paste, wine and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, until most of liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Pasta: Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain, but do not rinse. Set aside.

Creamed spinach: Heat butter in a 1½-2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat until foam subsides. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add milk in a slow stream, whisking. Bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, salt, pepper, nutmeg and 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Remove the pan from heat.

Assembly: Place oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°. Grease a soufflé dish or domed glass mixing bowl, and line bottom with greased foil. Cover bottom of the dish or bowl with a single layer of pasta. Sprinkle ½ cup cubed mozzarella and 3 tablespoons parmesan over pasta. Spoon half of sauce in an even layer over cheese. Arrange one third of remaining pasta over sauce and top with all of creamed spinach. Add another layer of pasta (about half of remainder).  Sprinkle with remainder of cheeses. Spoon remaining sauce over cheese. Top with remaining pasta.  (You may have some pasta remaining.) Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover pasta.

Bake: Place the dish into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Fill the 9x13 dish with water halfway up the sides of the soufflé dish. Bake until bubbling and a metal skewer or thin knife inserted in center of timballo comes out hot to the touch, about 1 hour. Remove soufflé dish or bowl from water bath and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove foil and run a knife around edge of timballo to loosen. Place a platter on the soufflé dish and invert the dish onto the platter. Remove the soufflé dish or bowl and remaining foil.

Plan ahead - The timballo may be prepared up to 2 days ahead.
Store covered in the refrigerator, unmolded. To serve, reheat in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 300°. Unmold as per the recipe directions.

Simplify - In a pinch, you can get the look of the timballo, minus some of the work (and flavor). Instead of the creamed spinach, substitute spinach mixed with ½ cup heavy cream and 1 teaspoon salt.  Use plain marinara sauce in place of the sauce recipe.

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