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.

 

Grano al sugo di pomodorini (wheat berries with cherry tomato sauce from Apulia)

A simple and tasty recipe from Puglia, the heel of Italy: wheat berries boiled till al dente and then simmered in a cherry tomato sauce, with garlic, chilly pepper and parsley. Straightforward and delicious. I prefer using semi-polished berries here, the ones that have had the outer, inedible husk removed but with some of the bran still attached. I also tried cooking with whole grain berries in the past I have always found them boring and far too chewy. If you soak the berries the night before, the cooking time will be very short indeed. Continue reading “Grano al sugo di pomodorini (wheat berries with cherry tomato sauce from Apulia)”

Sfincione di Bagheria (sfincione from Bagheria, a Sicilian pizza)

Sfincione is the pizza of Sicily: contrary to its Neapolitan counterpart, which is generally round, sold in individual portions, with a thick cornicione, a thin centre and not too much topping, sfincione is generally baked in large trays and sold cut up in hefty portions (even if there are also small, individual  sfincioni, called sfincionelli, approximately 300 g each); it is quite thick all over, with a soft and pillowy dough (sometimes a little lard is added to the dough, which I greatly approve of) and it is laden with toppings. It is another thing altogether and something I urge you to explore – sfincione lends itself to domestic home baking much better than Neapolitan pizza. Continue reading “Sfincione di Bagheria (sfincione from Bagheria, a Sicilian pizza)”

Pasta cù l’agghia (al pesto trapanese) (Pasta with garlic, almond and tomato pesto from Trapani, Sicily)

“Pesto alla trapanese” is a vibrant, intensely garlicky Sicilian pasta sauce made with almonds, tomatoes, garlic and basil – it is lesser know that its Ligurian basil and pine-nuts cousin, but equally glorious. It comes from Trapani, on the west coast of the island ,and it is generally eaten with busiate, a spiral-shaped, chewy, durum-wheat, egg-less fresh pasta (here, if you want to learn how to make it). Pasta con il pesto alla trapanese is also known as pasta cù l’agghia, pasta with garlic (in dialect): if you are after a delicate sauce, this is not for you. Continue reading “Pasta cù l’agghia (al pesto trapanese) (Pasta with garlic, almond and tomato pesto from Trapani, Sicily)”