Timpana had been a new discovery to me, and I first noticed it in all the pastizzerias when I was in Malta visiting family at a young age. I was brought up on għaġin il-forn (baked pasta) which was a similar version, but without the pastry shell.

Timpana is a traditional Maltese pasta dish made with a special type of meat and tomato sauce. Penne or similar tube pasta is then mixed in, as well as cheese, egg and seasoning. It is then encased in a pastry shell and baked in the oven until golden brown. Its origin seems to lie in Italy’s timballo. Though traditionally served at Christmas, timpana is now made all year round.

Image credit: Marlene Zammit 


I wanted to come up with something a little lighter, and so have opted for a tuna version. I know, it’s not traditional – but why does it have to be? I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.

Image credit: Marlene Zammit 


Tuna Timpana

I use a 23cm cake tin with removable sides for this dish, but you can also use a baking dish.


350gr penne pasta, or anything similar
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato purée (kunserva)
1 large red pepper, diced
30 green olives, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
200gr tinned tuna in oil
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
3 sprigs of mint leaves, chopped
170gr grated cheddar cheese
2 rolls of puff pastry (375gr per roll)
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper
Olive oil


#1: Boil the pasta for seven minutes, or as instructed on the packet, but make sure that it’s slightly under-cooked. Drain and leave aside.

#2: In a large frying pan, fry the onions for five minutes with some olive oil.

#3: Add in the garlic and tomato purée, and fry for another minute.

#4: Add in the peppers and fry for another five minutes.

#5: Mix in the olives, capers and tuna with its own oil.

#6: Preheat the oven to 180℃.

#7: Add in the chopped tomatoes and fry until they reduce a little and a thick sauce has developed. This will take an additional five minutes.

#8: Add in the herbs and some seasoning.

#9: Prepare your dish by lining a tray or cake tin with the pastry. Make sure you join the edges together. Use a fork to make holes in the pastry.

#10: Mix the tuna sauce and the penne together, and then add in the cheese. Season again if necessary.

#11: Pour the pasta mixture into your dish. Cover with the remaining pastry and pinch the edges together to seal. Use a fork to make holes in the top of the pastry.

#12: Brush the pastry with egg yolk, and place in the oven for an hour.

#13: Allow to rest and serve.


Image credit: Marlene Zammit