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I have been hearing about Pomodori e Riso (tomatoes and rice) for the past two years. This is one of Roberto’s favorite dishes that he misses the most since moving from Rome to the US. Like his mom’s Involtini, tortellini soup, and roasted potatoes from the Rosticceria, he mentions pomodori e riso often with a dreamy faraway look in his eyes. Pomodori e riso, roasted potatoes and roasted chickens are on offering in many a Rosticceria in Rome. I have been hearing about how great the food is from these places, that when I finally make it to the Eternal City, I imagine that they will be built of gold and marble. Not only this, but I really want to do my best to replicate Roberto’s favorite dishes and give him a sense of home. But Roman cuisine is all uncharted territory for me, as my Italian ancestors are from much farther South and therefore the cuisine is an entirely different animal! But I am always up for a good challenge in the kitchen!

My attempts at making the tortellini soup went over pretty big a few years ago (before I had this blog), so when we found ginormous tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market last week, and he got the pomodori e riso bug, I was all for it. I put on my proverbial chef hat, and my geeky researcher glasses and in a very Food 911 fashion, I asked a lot of questions about how it was supposed to taste and why his past attempts just didn’t do it for him.

Here were the problems with his past attempts:

1) The tomatoes and potatoes were too hard – the ideal texture is soft on the inside, but crispy on the top of the tomatoes and the outsides of the potatoes from sitting in the rosticceria all day getting nice and slowly cooked.

2) The tomatoes were too small and therefore not up to par

3) The sauce needed some help – it had been too bland in the past

4) Rice was not the right texture

So I thought about how to improve on the recipe, and came up with these solutions:

1) I have perfected roasted potatoes. So I knew how I was going to cook them (see recipe method), as for the tomatoes, they needed to be cooked a little ahead of time to get them to the right texture and then but under the broiler (with a little grated parm) at the end to get the crispy top.

2) Use the season’s bounty of beautiful big tomatoes (I don’t think these kinds of tomatoes grow very much in New England)

3) I made the sauce by using the insides of the tomatoes, some Pomi tomato sauce, fresh basil, fresh garlic and salt, sugar, balsamic and pepper to make a delicious and fresh tasting sauce

4) I used arborio rice and pre-cooked it, but added a little extra water so that when it was baked inside the tomatoes, it wouldn’t get hard

Pomodori e Riso

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups uncooked arborio rice
@ 8 small potatoes – we used red skinned
s&p
dried rosemary
4 very large garden fresh tomatoes, insides scooped out and reserved, and tops reserved
2 large portabella mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil and s&p
grated parm for the top
drizzle of olive oil

for the sauce

insides of tomatoes
@ 1 cup of Pomi tomato sauce (or any other you like)
3 cloves fresh garlic
6 nice leaves of fresh basil
shot of balsamic
1 tsp of sugar
s&p to taste

METHOD:

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1) Cook rice to package directions – make sure to salt the water. Mix in sauteed portabellas and set aside.

2) Preheat the oven to 425 F. Cut the potatoes into wedges, drizzle with olive oil and season with s&p and dried rosemary. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes

3) Place tomatoes in a large glass baking dish with their tops on and cook them along with the potatoes for about 15 minutes or until they start to soften up. Remove from oven after 15 minutes, while potatoes continue to cook.

4) In the meantime make the sauce – put all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix together. Add about 3/4 of the sauce to the rice mixture.

5) Stuff the tomatoes with the rice mixture.

6) When potatoes are finished, put them in the bottom of the baking dish you used for the tomatoes. Place the stuffed tomatoes on top. Great some cheese over the tops of the tomatoes and put the lids of the tomatoes on top. Pour reserved sauce over top of everything

7) Bake in the oven at 400 F for about 25-30 minutes. Then place under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until skins of tomatoes char a bit on the top and the cheese browns a little.

8) Serve with a little extra grated cheese and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

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Well these were delicious! It tasted like summer on a plate – it was fresh and flavorful and full of the bounty of the season! Roberto was very happy with our version, but felt that the rice needed more salt or something to give it a little umph! He though the potatoes and tomatoes were some of the best he ever had! We had a wonderful time making this dish together and I think it is one of those dishes we will make every time we find really great big and delicious tomatoes!