Most Tuesdays, my friend Tori Ritchie, a veteran cookbook author and food writer, emails a recipe to subscribers. I’ve been one for years and I always enjoy seeing her Tuesday Recipe emails in my inbox (the same cannot be said for all the emails in my inbox).
The recipes Tori shares are usually simple and always appetizing. Often they are Italian (she is an Italophile and has spent a fair bit of time in Italy). They make me want to go right to the kitchen and start cooking.
Especially last week’s recipe: tomatoes stuffed with rice and herbs. This one took me right back to summers at the beach in Italy, when my mom would make stuffed vegetables for pranzo (lunch) or dinner. She used a mix of summer vegetables (zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes) and a variety of fillings (bread, meat, rice), but she almost always stuffed the tomatoes with rice. The tomatoes and the zucchini were my favorites on the stuffed veg platter.
What makes stuffed tomatoes so good is that as they roast in the oven, their flavor intensifies, and the rice packed inside their cavities absorbs all those rich tomato juices. Tori’s recipe takes the dish one step further; the tomatoes rest on a bed of sliced potatoes, with more tucked in between. Like the rice, the potatoes soak up those wonderful tomato juices.
Tori’s recipe starts with raw rice, which cooks inside the tomatoes as they roast. I happened to have some cooked rice on hand so I used that. I thought the rice might end up overcooked but it turned out fine, not mushy at all, possibly because of the dry oven heat. In fact, some of the rice spilled out of the tomatoes and developed a nice crunch. Either way, this is an excellent late-summer dish. You can serve it as a side to, say, roast or grilled chicken. Or you can make the tomatoes the star of the show and serve them with mozzarella, fried zucchini, or sautéed peppers, or even a simple salad.
Rice-stuffed tomatoes are a classic summer dish in Italy. You can use either Arborio (risotto) rice or plain long-grain rice. I haven't tried it, but I'm sure wild rice would also be delicious, if not "authentic." This recipe is adapted from Tori Ritchie of Tuesday Recipe.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 12 ripe round medium tomatoes
- 3 cups cooked Arborio or long-grain rice (I used long-grain; see NOTE)
- 1 cup cubed 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.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Boil the potatoes until barely cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes (test with a knife). Drain and let cool.
Slice the top off each tomato to create a lid. Set a colander over a bowl and scoop out the insides of the tomatoes, leaving a wall about 1/4 inch thick. I use a melon baller but a spoon or small knife will also work; 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.
In a bowl, 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. Peel the cooled potatoes and slice about 1/4 inch thick.
Arrange a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish without overlapping. Set the hollowed-out tomatoes on top of the potatoes. Spoon the rice mixture into each tomato, filling to the top without overstuffing (see NOTE for what to do with any leftover rice). Set each lid on top of its tomato. Snuggle the remaining potatoes around the tomatoes and around the edge of the baking dish; the whole thing should be tightly packed. Sprinkle the chopped rosemary over the tomatoes and potatoes and season with a little more salt. Drizzle everything well with olive oil.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes; uncover and continue to bake until the tomatoes are nicely roasted and browned on top, about 30 minutes more. 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.)
To cook rice: Bring 3 cups broth or salted water to a boil and pour in 1 1/2 cups Arborio or long-grain rice. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer until rice is just tender and liquid is absorbed, 17 to 20 minutes. Pour the rice into a bowl to cool a bit before proceeding with recipe.
If there is rice mixture left over after stuffing the tomatoes, put it in an oiled baking dish just large enough to hold it, cover with foil, and bake for 15 minutes alongside the tomatoes; uncover and bake 15 minutes more, until heated through and lightly browned on top.