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Pomodori Ripieni di Riso (Tomatoes stuffed with rice!)

I have such fond childhood memories of my grandfather and my father making this dish every summer. Rice stuffed tomatoes with herbs and lots saucy love! This recipe is a lot easier than it appears here. You won’t regret making it and your kiddos will have so much fun helping too. I always did!

Ingredients:
7-9 large tomatoes. (Not overly ripe, firm is better here)
1 to 1 1/2 cups* of uncooked rice, rinsed
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 jar of Due Cellucci Tomato Basil (may not use it all)
1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Herbs: a medley of basil, oregano, thyme & parsley
1 teaspoon each salt & pepper (*this is just to start)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (the rice will absorb the spicy!)

Preparation:
1) Cut off the top 1/4 portion of each tomato, just a cap size (do not cut tomatoes in half!) Reserve the caps for later. Lightly oil each cap.

2) Spoon all the interior tomato meat and juices into a large mixing bowl. Work each tomato, being careful not to break through the skin. Leave enough tomato flesh all around the bottom and sides to hold the stuffing.

3) Break apart any large pieces of tomato guts, add one cup of rinsed and drained uncooked rice (* you can judge if you need to add more rice depending on size and quantity of tomatoes).

4) Mix in the olive oil, salt & pepper, all chopped herbs, half a jar of tomato basil sauce (or more depending on how many tomatoes you use), tomato paste, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar.

5) Taste for seasoning. You want this slurry to taste just a little extra* salty and tangy because the rice will absorb all the flavors – so don’t forget to amp up the flavors keeping that in mind. That goes for loads of herbs too! All flavors will become muted down when the rice absorbs all the liquid.

5) Stuff each tomato just under 3/4 of the way up (rice will expand!) and arrange in a large oiled skillet that can transfer to oven. Pour the broth around the tomatoes, about half way up, cover with foil or a tight lid (*tightly crimp foil around the rim of skillet so the rice will steam in the cooking.)

6) Cook at 375 for about 45 minutes. Check a little more than half way through, take a bite of rice to check how al dente it is, and continue cooking as needed. You may go an hour, just depends.

7) Once you determine rice is just near done, take off the lid and place each oiled cap back onto the tomatoes. Place back in oven, uncovered for about 5-10 minutes more. You can also add a little time under the broiler too, but really watch them carefully!

8) Drizzle some fresh olive oil over, garnish with any herbs and serve at table! Take a bow.

Notes:
Feel free to sauté an onion and mince a few Italian sausages, lightly toast some pine nuts, grate Parmigiano Reggiano into the stuffing or on top Рthese are all great add-ins that would make your stuffed tomatoes sing!

If you find yourself with a ton of leftover stuffing, stuff a bell pepper or a zucchini or squash – any will do. Or simply cook up the extra stuffing as you would do with rice. Or if you find you may not have enough stuffing to fill all your tomatoes, just add in more rice and Due Cellucci sauce to the mixture. And adjust seasoning as needed.