That Time of Year

August 21, 2008

I know, I know. It was tomatoes yesterday and it’s tomatoes again today. But, it is August after all. And today’s recipe is actually quite different from yesterday’s. Instead of the über-simple slice-and-salt method at the heart of yesterday’s sandwich, this recipe requires some elbow grease. But, trust me, it’s worth it. Here’s how it works. First, take a gaggle of romas (bonus points for multiple colors) and halve them. Using a melon baller (or a grapefruit spoon or regular old spoon) scoop out the insides and gently tap out any excess liquid in the tomato:

But, don’t forget to save those insides! Roast them up in a baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and red pepper flakes. Pour the whole melty result into a blender or food processor and whir until you’ve got yourself a very tasty marinara. I speak from experience.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Okay, back to the stuffed tomatoes. Once you’ve got your romas halved and hollowed-out, mix up the filling. I went with ricotta, fresh herbs (I used basil and chives, but, really, go with whatever you have on hand), red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, salt and pepper (and, if you’re looking for something a little heartier, chopped frozen spinach (thawed and drained) would be another good addition):

In a separate shallow bowl, pour in some dried bread crumbs (I used whole-wheat panko, but regular ol’ dried bread crumbs would be fine, though I’d stick to the unseasoned variety, so as not to compete with the herbs in the filling). Using a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop (or two soup spoons or, if you enjoy that sort of thing (I do not), a piping bag), fill the hollowed-out romas with a mound of filling. Take each filled roma and invert it (ricotta stuffing side-down) in the bread crumbs, pressing lightly so the bread crumbs adhere to the stuffing. Place the filled-and-crumbed tomatoes on a baking sheet:

Next, roast the tomatoes for 10 to 15 minutes, until the bread crumbs have begun to brown and the tomatoes have softened. If your breadcrumbs haven’t started to brown after 15 minutes, run them under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. I used small (golf ball-sized, about) romas because we served them as an appetizer at a little gathering we had last Saturday—a quick cocktail hour before a dinner reservation. By the time dinner rolled around, no one wanted to leave. I’d like to believe it was the tomatoes (which were perfectly bite-sized and delicious), but I think it had much more to do with the absolutely brilliant summer evening we were all basking in. We eventually made it to dinner, but we also found our way back to our house afterwards and, even though we were stuffed with flat breads from dinner, polished off the remaining stuffed tomatoes. Call it dessert.

Ricotta-Stuffed Roma Tomatoes

20 small to medium-sized roma tomatoes, halved, hollowed-out (using a melon baller), and drained of excess liquid
2 cups ricotta
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as basil and chives
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs, such as panko

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Place the halved and hollowed-out tomatoes on the lined baking sheet, open side up. In a medium sized bowl, combine the ricotta, herbs, pepper flakes, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Pour the bread crumbs in a separate shallow bowl.

Using a small, spring-loaded ice cream scoop, fill each tomato half with about a tablespoon of the ricotta filling (the amount will vary based on the size of your tomatoes, but you want the tomato half to be completely filled and the filling to create a slight mound). Take the filling tomato half and invert it (ricotta side-down) into the shallow bowl of bread crumbs, pressing lightly so the bread crumbs adhere to the ricotta. Place the tomato back on the baking sheet, bread crumb-side up. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. [Note: If you are making these ahead of time (up to 4-6 hours in advance), cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Before baking them off later, remove the sheet from the fridge and allow the tomatoes to return to room temperature.]

Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, when the bread crumbs should be browned and the tomatoes softened. If, at 15 minutes, the bread crumbs haven’t browned, run the baking sheet under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

20 Responses to “That Time of Year”

  1. Shannon Says:

    I happened on your blog by accident but I’m so happy I did. I read it daily and was excited to see this recipe. My mother, great aunt and I get together and make “different” dinners with each of us taking a course. Mine, this time, is an appetizer and I have had a hard time getting inspired. Thanks so much for this recipe, my appetizer search is over.

  2. amylouwho Says:

    Looks like another winner! My starred items list is comprised mostly of posts from your blog. Everything always looks so good. Can’t wait to try this – have you ever used goat cheese?

  3. eggsonsunday Says:

    These look so good! They remind me of the ricotta and herb-stuffed mushrooms I’ve made…I love the fennel you included. Such a yummy appetizer idea! –Amy

  4. syd Says:

    Why didn’t I know that Roma tomatoes come in yellow? I don’t think I’ve seen them here.

    Your recipe looks divine!!

  5. Maria Says:

    Great photos! Your tomatoes look lovely!

  6. Robin Says:

    Oh, yay for stuffed tomatoes! These looks fantastic!

  7. Tom Aarons Says:

    Wow. The recipe is delightful and the photos divine!

  8. Shannon: I’m so glad you found your way here too! That sounds like such a fun thing you’re doing with your mom & aunt. Hope you enjoy these tomatoes. Let us know how it goes.

    amylouwho: Oooh, goat cheese would be lovely. I’d probably swap it in for some of the ricotta, so it wouldn’t be too terribly rich in the end.

    Amy: These are pretty similar to your mushrooms! And, I’m addicted to fennel seeds. I think it was the flatbread (you know the one) that did it to me.

    syd: I found these at a farmers’ market last weekend. I’d never seen them either!

    Maria: Thank you!

    Robin: Thanks! Yay, indeed.

    Tom Aarons: Thank you!

  9. Looks like a great dish for a crowd!! Will make this one next time the peeps come over!!

  10. Nicki Says:

    I am so glad I happened by your blog. I was at photograzing at the urging of a blog on my local paper online. Your stuffed tomatoes may be just what I am looking for for the Labor Day picnics I am headed to. Off to see if I can find romas at the farmer’s market this weekend or early next week.

  11. edwin Says:

    looks great and I bet it’ll taste great too.

  12. These look great! I love the colors and look of these! They would be perfect for a dinner party!

  13. Lori Says:

    What a great idea!

  14. Mary Beth Says:

    going to buy tomatoes now:)

  15. holler Says:

    I have made these before with cream cheese and herbs, so I know exactly how much care goes into these! Well done you, they look uber tasty 🙂

  16. Cathy: Definitely good for a crowd. And they’re surprisingly filling too, which is a plus when feeding a crowd, I think.

    Nicki: Welcome! These would make a lovely addition to a Labor Day picnic. If you can’t find romas, larger cherry tomatoes would work well too. In fact, they’d be even more bite-sized, so they might be even better.

    edwin: Thank you!

    My Sweet & Saucy: Thanks!

    Lori: Thank you.

    Mary Bet: Let us know how it goes!

    holler: Yes they are tedious, for sure. But, I have to say, worth it!

  17. Hotdang, these stuffed tomatoes look to die for. I’m debating between these and the chocolate cheesecake. Fantabulous!

  18. js: These tomatoes are excellent, but, really, does anything in the produce family really stand a chance against the chocolate cheesecake? I think not.

  19. Carol Says:

    I’m really excited! This sounds like a great way to use the outstanding amount of tomatoes my plants have used this year. I also plan on using the insides to make the marinara sauce – do you have a more specific recipe for this? I noticed that you had made comment to a link for the recipe – however, I couldn’t find it. Thanks!

  20. Hi Carol: I haven’t written up a specific recipe (and don’t have photos, etc). But I roasted up in the insides in an oven proof baking dish (along with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper) at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. I added some chopped basil after that and pureed the whole thing in the blender (though it was already pretty saucy). Taste again for seasoning: if it’s too tart, add a pinch of sugar; too bland, add some more salt or maybe a pat of butter.

    I hope this helps! Let us know how the tomatoes & the sauce come out. And congrats on your tomato harvest! How fun.

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