Pomodori col riso romano-londinesi (con cannella)- Roasted tomatoes stuffed with rice, herbs and cinnamon, from Rome and London

This is a classic recipe from Rome and one which can be successfully replicated also here in the UK, where good tomatoes are rare. However, in order to coax as much flavour as possible from the often lustreless UK, tomatoes, I have employed few tricks- a long, slow roasting, some flavour enhancers and careful seasoning.

After comparing few sources (Carla Tomasi and Rachel Roddy and Frank Fariello and Domenica Marchetti), I went back to the book that is considered one of the grand books on Italian regional cooking: La Cucina Romana, by Ada Boni (1928). Most recipes for pomodori col riso are similar, Ada Boni only however mentions “cinnamon”: adding a pinch of cinnamon to each tomato, gives this humble dish an exotic, fuller taste, much appreciated.

This is what I did;

Slice off the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out as much pulp as possible and the seeds, leaving an empty shell that is about 2 cm thick.
Cut up any large-ish piece of pulp: by the end you should be left with a mix that is brothy and full of rice-grain size pieces of tomato pulp (what u see in the picture is the tomato pulp pieces still uncut). Add a couple of teaspoons of tomato paste,  mix well and one and a half tablespoon risotto rice per tomato.

Dress the mix with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, a glug of oil, chopped parsley (maybe with some chopped mint leaves) and finely chopped garlic: as usual, authentic Italian cooking is discreet with garlic and I used only one fat clove for 5 large beefsteak tomatoes .

Carefully  and thoroughly, sprinkle the inside of each tomatoe with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Dribble a little olive oil too  (1 teaspoon per tomato).

Place the tomatoes in a large oven dish, already oiled and splashed with water. Fill the tomatoes, making sure to distribute the rice evenly (it helps if you give a good stir to the mix each time you fill a tomato) cover them with their lids, drizzle some more oil all over and bake at 170 C for a couple of hours. You want a long and slow bake to concentrate the tomato flavour and also to avoid splitting the tomato skin, which would happen at higher temperature. I also have a thing  with not properly cooked baked/roasted tomatoes (I hate them): for me a cooked tomato,  must be FULLY COOKED, meltingly tender but still retaining their shape for me. Half cooked tomatoes are disgusting. I pushed the baking to 2.5 hrs once and they were delicious. No, the rice does not overcook, because the temperature is gentle and because it is not swimming in liquid.

Let them rest and eat no warmer than room temperature. In Rome, they sometimes add potatoes, cut into wedges (dressed with oil and salt before going into the pan). If you do this, make sure not to crowd the dish, otherwise the whole lot will steam instead of roasting, so to speak.

 

Pici, pinzi, umbricelli, strangozzi, lunghetti, ciriole, serpentelli: an eggless pasta from central Italy

Pici, pinzi, umbricelli, strangozzi, lunghetti, ciriole, serpentelli, different names for the same pasta: very long and chubby spaghetti-like tubes of fresh pasta generally made only with flour and water, typical of Toscana, Umbria and Lazio. When cooked, they acquire that pleasant, slightly chewy and slippery texture of all “pasta povera”, that is pasta made without eggs. Continue reading

Risu chi castagni o risu chi pastigghi – rice and chesntus from Messina, Sicily

Rice is not immediately associated with Sicilian cooking, apart from the wonderful arancini, those glorious deep fried rice balls stuffed with meat ragù, peas and cheese.. I was therefore rather surprised when I stumbled across this intriguing sounding rice and chestnut dish from Messina, in Sapori di Sicilia, by Giovanni Coria, It is nothing more than boiled rice dressed with a (dry or fresh) chestnut and olive oil “sauce”, with some pecorino and boiled, chopped finocchietto (wild fennel), the signature herb of Sicilian cooking. It is an unusual and tasty dish and if you like chestnuts you might find it appealing. Continue reading

La mia quasi ricotta (almost ricotta)

 

Ricotta is for me strongly associated with Easter and Spring cooking in general: it plays a crucial roles in beloved seasonal dishes, from Ligurian Torta Pasqualina (when the original, more appropriate Ligurian cheese prescinseua cannot be found outside Liguria – that is always!), to Neapolitan ricotta and wheat tart, called pastiera, spinach or nettle ravioli and the endless sweet or savoury cakes and pies that can be found all over Italy at this time of the year, pizza rustica, fiadone abruzzese, pizza di ricotta.

Artisanal ricotta is one of the ingredients I miss most from Italy. I have never tasted here in the UK a ricotta, either made here or imported, that is as good as the one I can have almost anywhere in Italy. It makes sense: fresh ricotta (that has not undergone any pasteurization) is a fragile beauty and it does not travel well. As a consequence what we get here is generally the long-life stuff; local cheesemakers simply do not have the knowledge or the inclination to learn.

So, for me, homemade ricotta it has to be. Well… almost! Continue reading

La sfoglia con 40 tuorli – 40 yolk pasta dough (Piedmontese cooking)

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When making fresh egg pasta, the most common ratio is 1 egg for every 100 g flour. However,  the sfoglia (that is the name of the pasta dough in Italian) can be  as rich/lean as the cook wants. I was recently reminded of this whilst browsing a little book about traditional Piedmontese cooking , Ricette di Osterie di Langa,  published by Slowfood few years ago. Continue reading