Wanted to share this recipe with you before it was too late. Before the very last tomatoes were gone. Are you still blessed with tomatoes where you are? We are, or rather the South of Italy is, where the tomatoes we have been eating come from. But not for long.
Eating tomatoes has felt so right this far. We have been enjoying the best September and early October I could have ever hoped for, possibly the best I can remember since we left Bra. Sunny, clear, dry – perfect for eating tomatoes and ignoring the brassicas and squashes for a little longer.
We have been making rice-stuffed tomatoes quite a lot this past summer, with small variations. It all started off with tomatoes taken home from work, getting riper and riper on the counter; and with images seen on Instagram featuring plump stuffed tomatoes laying comfortably on a bed of potatoes, Roman style. It all reminded me of a beautiful post Rachel wrote about them, and of those I ate the very first time I visited Rome with my mum, in a hot August week of ten (gosh!) years ago. I have been making them this way quite a lot, but more often than not, I left the potatoes out. All I wanted were tomatoes.
This is a dish to bridge the seasons. It has, inevitably, the flavour and reminiscence of summer. Yet, the stuffing and baking have an autumnal character and are a welcome activity on these early October days, when memories of summer adventures are still fresh in our mind, and we are not quite ready to let tomatoes go.
The success of this recipe is both in the quality of the ingredients, and in your patience and ability to plan ahead. We usually make them in the early afternoon on the weekend to have them ready for dinner. This is because, besides the cooking time, there is the very crucial waiting time involved, when the flavours deepen and the temperature lowers, revealing all the layers of flavour in this simple yet complex dish. This recipe has been cooked with Rachel’s in mind. I report hers faithfully here, minus the bit for the potatoes, and with the amounts halved to cater a small household.
- 4 medium-sized tomatoes
- 4 leaves of fresh basil
- 1 cloves of garlic
- 5 tablespoons of risotto rice
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
“Cut the tops off the tomatoes and set them aside. One by one, hold the tomatoes over a bowl and using a teaspoon, scoop out their insides – flesh, seeds, and juice – and let it all fall into the bowl. Sprinkle a little salt in the cavity of each tomato and then place them cut side down on clean tea towel so any excess water can drain away. Pass the tomato flesh, seeds and juice through a food mill or blast it briefly with an immersion blender. Peel and very finely chop the garlic and add it to the tomato. Rip the basil leaves into small pieces and add them to the tomato. Add the rice and olive oil to the tomato. Season the mixture very generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir and then leave the mixture to sit for at least 45 minutes. Sit your empty tomatoes in a lightly greased oven proof dish. Spoon the rice mixture into the shells so they are 3/4 full. and then put the lids back on the tomatoes. Slide the tray into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and just starting to shrivel and the rice is plump and tender. Allow the tomatoes to sit for at least an hour before eating.”
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