Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Italian Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

A light and healthy vegetarian dish filled with Mediterranean flavors
These rice-stuffed tomatoes are just perfect for these hot summer days

This dish is just perfect for the summer. You can buy fresh tomatoes all year long (at least around here). But most of the times, I'm sorry to say, they have very little, or no flavor at all. You can easily figure out if a tomato is any good: just pick one up and give it a sniff, right by the stem... Don't be shy! I say, you have the right to smell your tomatoes before buying them. I always do :)
You will see, most of the year - no smell at all! But now, in the middle of summer, it's the exception and you can get delicious tomatoes. Go to the farmers' market and find some ripe (but not mushy), deep red, big tomatoes. If they have an earthy, fresh aroma, maybe like the smell of dry grass and sunshine ... then, you have a winner!

Once you find some great tomatoes, here is what you do. Very simple: cut the top off and empty the inside. Crush the pulp and use it to make a delicious risotto. In the risotto, mix some shredded mozzarella, grated Parmesan cheese and some chopped fresh parsley. Don't leave these out! The stuffing would be nothing without the cheese and the parsley.
Before baking, fill each tomato with some risotto and surprise, surpriiiise! Add one small, fresh mozzarella (ciliegine) right in the middle. It's a soft, moist and cheesy addition that will make this not just your average stuffed tomatoes, but a deliciously fun, fresh and light dinner that everyone will love.
Enjoy :) 

Ingredients: 4 servings as main dish, 8 as side dish                     PRINTABLE RECIPE
  • 8 large tomatoes 
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • half onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 8 oz (225 gr) of rice 
  • about 2 tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/3 cup (30 gr) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup (100 gr) shredded mozzarella
  • 8 "ciliegine" (small) fresh mozzarella cheese or one large ball cut in eight cubes
  • salt
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 45 minutes in the oven
Directions:

1. Cut the top off the tomatoes (save this part), and remove the pulp and seeds (save them in a bowl) using a small pointy knife and a spoon. Let the tomatoes rest on a plate upside down to drain while you prepare the rest.

2. Puree' the tomato pulp with a blender.

3. Chop half  onion, and crush a garlic clove (or chop it if you like a stronger garlicky taste). In a large pan, saute' the onion, the crushed garlic clove with two tablespoon of olive oil.


4. Add the rice, stir and cook for one minute. Add some of the pureed tomatoes (about half). And save the rest if necessary. Salt to taste. Cook the rice over medium flame for about 12-14 minutes (based on the rice), stirring occasionally and adding more of the pureed tomatoes when dry.
 Note, we don't want to cook the rice fully. It will cook in the oven  with the tomatoes. It should be cooked about 5 minutes less that the time to fully cook it.


5.  Preheat the oven to 375º F (190º C ).
Add the chopped parsley and mix. Remove from the stove, and mix in the shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese.

6. Place the tomatoes in an oven safe dish. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with a bit of salt. Stuff the tomatoes half way with the rice mixture.

7. Add one mozzarellina, and stuff with the rest of the rice.

8. Drizzle with olive oil, cover with the top of the tomato.

9.Bake at 375º F (190º C ) for 45-50 minutes, or until the tomatoes are cooked through and the tops are golden brown and the rice fully cooked. Check the rice before removing from the oven. If by chance the rice is still not fully cooked or you like it softer, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and leave in the oven for an extra 5 minutes or so.
Serve hot or at room temperature.


Buon appetito!












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