Wondering what to do with all those luscious tomatoes ripening in your garden right now? There are only so many tomato salads one can eat in a day. After making bruschetta, pizza, gazpacho and tomato sauce (and popping a few tomatoes whole into plastic bags for the freezer), I needed another idea.
Thankfully, I found it on Domenica Marchetti's blog, Domenica Cooks. As soon as she posted this classic Roman recipe, it struck a note of nostalgia and hit one degree of separation. My late friend Clo, who was a native of Rome, (and who was also friends with Domenica's mom) used to make these each summer. Although I've made tomatoes stuffed with quinoa, it was time for me to follow Domenica's lead (and bring back memories of Clo) and stuff tomatoes with rice.
They are delicious hot, warm, lukewarm or cold - perfect to take on a picnic or a lunchbox.
Start by hollowing out the tomatoes - cut a rim with a small paring knife around the circumference of the tomato. Scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
Place the pulp into a colander and press out the juices as much as possible (or until you get tired).
Pour those juices into the cooked rice and mix with the herbs and cheeses.
Place a little oil on the bottom of the baking pan, then spoon the rice mixture into the tomatoes and cover the tops with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 1/2 hour, or until the top is nicely browned.
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And if you live in the Central N.J. area, join me on Saturday, August 29 at 11 a.m. at the West Windsor Farmer's Market, when I'll be on a panel discussion with other food writers and photographers, including Rome-based Katie Parla and NJ Monthly columnist Pat Tanner.
Baked Stuffed Tomatoes
Adapted from Domenica Marchetti's "Pomodori Ripieni"
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 ripe round medium tomatoes
- 3 cups cooked Arborio or long-grain rice (I used arborio)
- 1 cup cubed or shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the bottom and sides of a baking dish just large enough to fit the tomatoes with olive oil.
Boil the arborio rice in an uncovered pan on medium heat with the water, about 12 minutes. I like to slightly undercook it since it will cook further in the oven once inside the tomatoes. Nearly all the water should be absorbed by that time. Dump into a bowl.
Slice the top off each tomato. Set a colander over a bowl and scoop out the insides of the tomatoes, leaving a wall about 1/4 inch thick. I used a small paring knife and spoon. Just be sure not to pierce through the tomato. Set the tomatoes aside; press the pulp and seeds to extract as much tomato juice as possible into the bowl. Discard the solids that remain in the colander.
Combine the cooked rice with the juices from the tomatoes. Stir in the mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses, along with the parsley, basil, and oregano. Season with a little salt and pepper. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and mix everything together well.
Spoon the rice mixture into each tomato, filling to the top without overstuffing. Sprinkle a little extra shredded mozzarella on top.
Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes; Remove from the oven and let cool until warm or at room temperature. Scatter a few basil leaves over the top and serve. (Leftovers are delicious straight from the fridge.)