As the temperatures in Rome continue to rise and the city suffers from the hottest June for 230 years the last thing that you want to do is dig into a steaming bowl of pasta. Luckily, the hot weather does symbolize an important moment for many Romans as it means that it is officially the season for the classic summertime dish of Pomodori con Riso.
These tomatoes stuffed with rice and herbs and cooked on a bed of potatoes are rarely found in restaurants, although you may occasionally come across them at a Tavola Calda or take-away. The dish is usually made, and eaten, by families, and many Romans have happy childhood memories tucking into one of these sweet tomatoes at the beach or at a picnic. Although there are variations which involve adding tuna or cheese, it is the traditional recipe that originally comes from Sabina, in Lazio, which is always considered to be the best, with the classic combination of tomato, basil, garlic and olive oil perfectly epitomising Italian cuisine.
Select sweet, ripe tomatoes off the vine if possible and make the dish in advance to give the flavour time to develop and allow the wonderful juices from the tomatoes to seep into the layer of potatoes. You can then warm the tomatoes to serve or alternatively just serve them cold, with a side helping of the potatoes.
Pomodori con Riso (makes 10) 10 medium/large tomotoes on the vine 10 tablespoons of Carnaroli rice (1 per tomato) Extra-virgin olive oil Salt & pepper 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely 1 onion, chopped finely 10 leaves of basil, chopped Handful of parsley, chopped 3 or 4 medium potatoes What to do: Heat oven to 180°. Slice off the top of each tomato with the stalk and keep to one side.
With a spoon remove the inside pulp, chop it and put it in a bowl along with any extra juices. Using your finger, spread a little salt on the insides of each tomato. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until soft. Then add the basil and parsley and the tomato pulp and stir well. Cook for about 8 minutes on high flame until it just starts to reduce. Add the rice and cook for about 10 minutes. Add about 1 glass of water to ensure that the sauce remains quite watery otherwise the rice won’t have enough liquid to cook when it’s in the oven. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Fill each empty tomato with the rice mixture up to about 2 thirds full to leave space for the rice to plump up. Put the stalk 'lid' back on the top. Peel the potatoes, cut into wedges and layer on the bottom of a baking dish.
Place the tomatoes on top and put in the oven for 50-60 minutes until the rice is cooked (taste after 45 mins and adjust cooking time accordingly). Remove from the oven, leave to rest and serve hot or cold.