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.

 

Ragù alla bolognese in pentola a pressione (pressure cooker Ragù Bolognese, even better than the conventional one)

Ragù
Ragù

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her last book, even the arch-traditionalist Marcella Hazan said that making  egg pasta dough in the  food processor is fine. She was  finally acknowledging what home cooks and restaurant chefs had probably been doing for a long time, but it was also testament to her intelligence: food and cooking must evolve to stay alive. It would be foolish to ignore that cooking is an ever changing reality that resists being imprisoned in dogmas: we do not eat, cook or think about food one year for the other.

As much as I love traditions and traditional food, I am also very open to “new ways” in the kitchen, as long as they make my life easier and/or my food better. The pressure cooker is a good example. Continue reading

Risoto de peoci (Risotto with mussels)

This is a risotto from Veneto, North-east Italy, a region that offers a magnificent but restrained fish and seafood cuisine, well exemplified by this sober, briny risotto with mussels – Peoci is local dialect for mussels, cozze in Italian.  If you happen to spend a few days in Venice, the capital of Veneto, do check the Rialto fish market,  which is a cornucopia of marine life and whose charm made Elizabeth David write one of most celebrated pieces of food writing in English. It is as magical now as it was sixty years ago. Continue reading