Julia's Nonna's Italian Stuffed Tomatoes with Roast Potatoes (Pomodori col Riso)

This simple, vegan dish of baked tomatoes, stuffed with rice and roasted with potatoes, is a classic Roman recipe. Best served warm, it's a perfect way to make the most of summer's juicy beef tomato glut.

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Introduction

This recipe reminds me of happy hours spent in the kitchen with my Italian nonna. When I was a child, we'd spend every summer in the countryside just outside Rome. I'd always demand this dish from my nonna - the combination of sweet, juicy tomato, the herby rice stuffing and the roast potatoes cooked in the garlicky, oily, tomato-ey juices is completely irresistible. It makes a brilliant vegetarian or vegan main course and is usually a hit with children. It's best in high summer, when you can get hold of the biggest, juiciest beef tomatoes, but I've made it all year round; you can add a tablespoon of passata to the rice mix if your winter toms aren't up to scratch.

Photo credit: Louise Robinson

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 1 h
Total time: 1 h 20 min

Ingredients

600g Maris Piper potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks
4-6 4-6 beef tomatoes (if they are very large, then one per person will be enough)
½ bunch of parsley or basil, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tbsp risotto rice per tomato
Salt and pepper

Essential kit

You will need a 22cm x 30cm roasting tin.

Instructions

Note: large beef tomatoes are ideal for this dish, but any large tomatoes are suitable. Just increase the number of tomatoes until you have enough to feed four people.

Cut ‘lids’ off the tomatoes, about three quarters of the way up. Don’t throw away the lids - you’ll need them. Hollow out the tomatoes, emptying the flesh, pulp and seeds into a sieve placed over a bowl, and taking care not to remove so much of the flesh that you break through the skin. Season the inside of each, now empty, tomato with a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt.

Squash all the tomato juice you can through the sieve into the bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of juice from the bowl and set aside.

Add the chopped garlic and parsley (or basil), and a tablespoon of olive oil, to the remaining tomato juice in the bowl, then season well with salt and pepper.

Finally, add in the risotto rice and then mix everything together well.

If you have time, leave the juice/rice mixture to sit for 30 minutes at this point.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm chunks. Put all the chunks into a 22x30cm (approx) roasting tin. They should form a single layer at the bottom of the tin. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, turning the potatoes over in the oil until they are coated evenly. Pour in the 2 tablespoons of tomato juice you had set aside, then mix again so the juice coats the potatoes.

When you are ready to stuff your tomatoes, pre-heat your oven to 160 fan / gas mark 4.

Stuff each of the tomato ‘shells’ with a quarter of the juice/rice mixture, then cover each with its lid, before placing the tomatoes on top of the potatoes in the roasting tin. Dribble a little olive oil over each tomato.

Place the tin into the oven and cook for around 1 hour, or until the tomatoes are soft and beginning to wrinkle, and both the rice and potatoes are cooked through.

The dish will taste best if left to rest for 20 minutes or so before eating to allow all the flavours to be absorbed.

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