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Learn how to make a Sicilian rice timballo and wow everyone at the table.

Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, connoisseurs of all things Italian, have a new cookbook out. Bring a taste of Sicily right into your home kitchen and re-create the best of what this food-forward island has to offer. Ever made a Sicilian rice timballo? Get ready to fall in love!

Salvatore, our guide around Palermo, likened Sicilian culture to lasagne, with each layer a different layer of history. You can take a bite from the lasagne, but you cannot separate the layers; you bite into them all together. It is the same with the Sicilian dish of timballo, named after the timbale, the mold it is cooked in.

Rice timbale is an elaborate layered dish from eastern Sicily, which is said to derive from Catania during the time of the Arab occupation. There are probably hundreds of variations of timbale; some are made with penne, and I have seen ones made with spaghetti. In fact, it is a good way to use up leftover risotto or pasta. And do try layers of roasted aubergine (eggplant), flavoring the rice with saffron or adding cooked mushrooms, for a few ideas. I spent a day working with our chef Gregorio Piazza from Augusta, near Catania, and we invented our own version, taking into account our children’s preferences and what we thought people would realistically make at home. It is gluten-free and can be adapted to a filling of your choice. Gregorio said proudly that it looks British but it tastes Sicilian! Our children love it and it is not complicated to make. You can leave it in an ovenproof dish or go for the ‘wow’ factor and cook the timbale in a cake tin, which can be removed after cooking.

Variation: This timbale recipe also makes a beautiful layered savory cake when cooked in a cake tin. To do this, generously grease a loose-bottomed 24-centimeter (9½-inch) cake tin with butter. Follow the method above and after removing from the oven allow the timbale to sit for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.

Reprinted with permission from Sicily