Welcome to summer tomatoes! We better hurry because here in Northern CA, we are quickly nearing the end of tomato season. In case you are running out of ideas for all those tomatoes, you can make a big batch of Pomodori al Riso – Tomatoes with Rice. This dish is happily naturally vegan… I must say, this dish is super flavorful, and like many Italian things, it gets better with age. 🙂
Several renditions of Pomodori al Riso exist in cookbooks, on the Internet, and in food magazines. My research often leads to Rome, where it is said that this dish originates. I love cooking the tomatoes on top of the potatoes because the moisture from the tomatoes helps soften the potatoes and the flavors seem to enhance each other. Cook in the morning or the night before and serve at room temp. during these hot afternoons.
The basic recipe calls for hollowed-out tomatoes filled with rice and other goodies, then baked to perfection. This recipe leaves so much room for imagination and fun variations.
I love searching through Nana’s recipe collection looking for her hidden Italian tricks, tips, and dishes. She has many rice recipes, which can be a nice alternative to other grains. Many ingredients in her recipes reveal the time period, the 1950’s when cooking in American meant convenience for the housewife. She has an Italian Rice Salad with mayo, shredded fresh veggies, and 2 “Boil-in-Bags Success Rice.” Times have changed!
She has some fun rice recipes, for example, Rice Ricole, made with “sharp cheese, butter, broth, and cayenne.” Sounds intriguing! Her Two Salads rice recipe (not sure where the salads come in) suggests adding ingredients to the rice cooking water. It says, “…add white wine or dry white vermouth to water… or add herbs – a bay leaf, a big pinch of thyme or tarragon or an herb bouquet – at the beginning of cooking.”
I don’t remember Nana cooking Pomodori al Riso, but I’m sure she would be happy and proud to know I cherish her recipes and put them to good use. Enjoy!
Pomodori al Riso
- 8 medium tomatoes
- ½ cup long-grain rice (can use Arborio rice, but it will be more starchy.)
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ medium red onion, diced
- 1 lb. potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch wedges (use roasting potatoes)
- 3-4 whole garlic cloves, skinned and crushed
- 1 sprig rosemary
- sea salt to taste
Prep the tomatoes
- Using a sharp serrated knife, cut off the tops of the tomatoes. DO NOT DISCARD. Before baking, we will place the tops back on the tomatoes.
- Using a spoon, scoop out the insides of each tomato. Sprinkle a bit of salt inside each empty tomato and set each one upside down in a pan to drain. Put all pulp, seeds, and juice in a bowl. Using a hand blender, blend the pulp, seeds, and juice together until uniform. If desired, strain out the seeds. (I don't mind the seeds, so I leave them in.) The mixture will be very liquidy. Set aside.
- In a saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and add onion. Saute for 2-3 minutes on medium heat until fragrant. Add dry rice, stir briefly and then add tomato pulp mixture and a pinch of salt. Stirring often, gently simmer uncovered until rice begins to soften (al dente) and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. If needed, add a spoonful of water or broth while cooking. Set aside. You don't need to cook the rice completely here because it will finish cooking in the oven when inside the tomato.
Prep the potatoes
- Coat a large baking dish with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add potatoes, rosemary leaves, and garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Mix well to coat.
Assembling the dish
- Place the empty tomatoes among the sliced potatoes, using the potatoes to keep each tomato upright. Fill each tomato with rice filling, making sure to fill completely. Cover each tomato with its top. Place the top firmly so steam is created inside the tomato.
- Bake at 375° F for 30 minutes until potatoes are done. Test by poking a potato wedge with a fork.
- Serve by placing some potatoes on the plate and a pretty red tomato in the center. Buon appetito!