Pomodori ripieni di riso

Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Rice-stuffed tomatoes, fragrant with herbs and glistening with oil, say summer in Italy to me. Other fillings are based on bread crumbs or ground meat (you could use the mixture for Meatballs from Sardinia, doubling the bread crumbs), but the fillings based on rice are my favorites. You can serve the tomatoes as a Side dish to roast chicken or baked fish, as a light supper, or as an antipasto.

Ingredients

  • 12 large, ripe but firm tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • cups water
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Cut a ½-inch slice off the top of each tomato and reserve the caps. Using a small spoon, scoop out the pulp and juice from each tomato, leaving a shell about ½ inch thick. Chop the pulp and set aside with the juices. Sprinkle the cavity of each tomato with a little salt and with the sugar. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil a baking dish just large enough to hold all of the tomatoes in a single layer.

In a large sauté pan, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the rice and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Add 1 cup of the water and simmer, uncovered, until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the reserved tomato pulp and juices, the garlic, parsley, basil, and the remaining ¼ cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the rice mixture into the tomatoes, dividing it evenly and filling each tomato about three-fourths full (the rice will expand). Place the tomatoes in the prepared dish. Cover with the reserved tomato tops. Pour the remaining ½ cup water into the dish, and drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake the tomatoes for about 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to bake until the rice kernels are puffed and fully tender, about 30 minutes longer.

Remove from the oven and, if desired, drizzle with more olive oil, then let cool. Serve the tomatoes at room temperature.

Variations

Other vegetables can be stuffed with the same filling. To make stuffed bell peppers, cut the tops off 6 bell peppers and set the tops aside. Remove and discard the seeds and veins. Make the filling as directed, diluting 1 tablespoon tomato paste in the water. Parboil the peppers in boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes, then drain. Stuff the peppers, replace the caps, and bake as directed.

To make stuffed eggplants, cut 6 small globe eggplants (each 6 to 7 ounces) in half through the stem end. Scoop out some of the pulp, leaving a shell about ½ inch thick. Chop the pulp, discarding as many seeds as possible. Make the filling as directed, but sauté the eggplant pulp with the onion until tender before adding the rice. Sauté the eggplant cases in olive oil for about 5 minutes to soften them. Stuff the eggplant cases and bake as directed.

To make stuffed zucchini, cut 8 medium-sized zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds from each half, then scoop out some of the pulp, leaving a shell ¼ to ⅓ inch thick. Chop the pulp and sauté with the onion until tender before adding the rice. Parboil the zucchini cases in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain. Stuff the zucchini cases and bake as directed.