[Sca-cooks] Taganu d'Aragona

Christiane christianetrue at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 16 13:26:12 PST 2009

>On Dec 15, 2009, at 3:35 PM, Christiane wrote:
>> Poking around the Internet for more information about the use of tuma cheese in Sicily, I found this intriguing recipe in About.com for taganu d'Aragona, a traditional pasta baked dish that some claim has been made in and around the town of Aragona, Sicily, since the 1600s. The origin of the word taganu itself is rather obscure; it could be from Arabic (either a type of dish or the name of ibn al-Thumna, the emir of Catania) or the Sicilian translation of the Italian word timbale.
>> Now, I've seen other Sicilian timbale and taganu recipes, and they've all included tomato sauce and also rice. This one intrigued me because it quite clearly didn't use tomato sauce, and instead has saffron, cinnamon, and chicken broth; it also ditches the rice.
>> This is made as an Easter dish, traditionally. Though not documentable as period, I'd call it periodoid. It may be possible for late-period Sicily, but it's certainly not the pasta dish Landi described.

>This seems like it might be a distant relative of the Timpano in Big Night...

"Taganu" in Sicilian dialect sounds like "dy-a-noo" and yes, the name is translated in Italian as "timpano."

The "Big Night" timpano bears the stamp of the "monzu," the French-trained native chefs of the 18th and 19th century Sicilian and Neapolitan nobility and the ones who created the cuisine known as "cucina baronale." The monzu took the local dishes and amped them up a hundredfold in true Baroque style. Therefore, coming into the timpano were the ridiculous proportions of meat and cheese, the red sauce, etc. 

Then there is the tummala, translated into Italian as timbale, which is similar to the taganu in excess, but baked in rice and traditionally is made with a chicken containing unborn eggs. It's also made for Christmas; the taganu is an Easter dish (all those eggs). Unfortunately, there is no one small-town culinary tradition associated with the tummala like there has been with the taganu, so who knows what the original was like before the monzu got their hands on it (Clifford Wright says the tummala name and the original dish may have come from the Arabic too; here's his tummala recipe: http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/recipes/display/recipe_id/788/).

Here's someone's attempt at a taganu, and OMG it looks amazing:


And here's a selection of taganu actually made in Aragona; note that they are cooked in a round pot and seem to be topped with a layer of cheese and beaten eggs rather than slices of bread; you can see how the tops of some have risen like souffles:


And here's a pic of another with stratas of crumbled, cooked veal:


Adelisa (cursing the fates that her husband is lactose intolerant)

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list