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Meat mains


Main Serves 10 4h 30 min
This is a real celebratory blowout not to be attempted more than once a year. In fact in Sicily that's just what they do - it's their equivalent of Christmas turkey. Tummàla is a kind of multi meat cassoulet with rice and cheese instead of the beans. It's a magnificent feast dish, which should be shared with family and friends. As with much of Sicilian culture, the name is of Arabic origin but opinion differs as to whether it's named after an Emir, a plate or musical instrument. Who cares? You could scale up the meatball production to use all your mince and save the extra for another meal. They are pretty much the standard polpette meatball normally served with tomato sauce. The instructions and ingredients look quite daunting but everything apart from the final bake can be done ahead of time and there really isn't anything unusual to buy.


  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • stock veg: 1 celery stick, 1 carrot, 1 onion, all roughly chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 g breadcrumbs made from stale bread
  • 100ml milk
  • 250g beef mince
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped and crushed with a little salt
  • pinch nutmeg, grated
  • 30g Pecorino or Parmesan, grated
  • 250g pork sausages
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 more onion, finely chopped
  • 100g tomato purée
  • 250ml water
  • 450ml plain passata or blitzed chopped tomatoes
  • 450g risotto rice
  • 2 heaped tbsp dried breadcrumbs
  • 250g mozzarella (or Sicilian tuma cheese if you are connected), sliced
  • 3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • another 50 g Pecorino or Parmesan, grated
  • a knob of butter
  • salt and pepper


Prep time: 30 min
Cooking time: 4h
  • Step 1

    Put the chicken, stock veg, tomatoes, peppercorns and bay leaves in a saucepan, cover with 2½ litres of water, add a little salt, bring to the simmer and cook for an hour.
  • Step 2

    Remove the chicken, scrape the meat from the bone, return bones and skin to the pan and simmer for another hour.
  • Step 3

    Meanwhile make the meatballs. Mix the breadcrumbs and milk, squeeze out excess liquid and blend with the beef, beaten egg, parsley, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg and the 30g of grated Pecorino. Form into walnut sized meatballs.
  • Step 4

    Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan and brown the sausage. Remove the sausage and quickly brown the meatballs in the same pan. Cut the sausage in to 2cm pieces. Sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the tomato purée and the water. Stir until dissolved and add the passata or blitzed tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes and add the sausage and meatballs. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Step 5

    Strain the stock through a sieve. You should have 1½-2 litres. Clean out the pan, return the stock, add a ½ teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Add the rice and cook until al dente. Remove from heat and leave, covered, to absorb the rest of the stock.
  • Step 6

    Now it's time to make your Tummàla. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Butter a large casserole and sprinkle in the dried breadcrumbs. The first layer should be about a third of the rice, followed by two thirds of the chicken, the sliced cheese, another third of the rice, the meatballs, sausages and a couple of ladles of the tomato sauce and lastly the remaining chicken and rice mixed together. Beat the eggs and yolks until fluffy, fold in the grated Pecorino, season and pour over the top.
  • Step 7

    Bake for 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Serve hot with the rest of the tomato sauce. I don't suppose you'll feel the need for much more than a green salad to go with it.