When I was young, my mom and dad would often take my sister and I out strolling around Rome, showing us all of the different monuments and we would simply take in all the beauty that surrounded us. Coming from the suburbs, we would drive through the greenest parts of Rome, and then finally start seeing the big marble statues and the ancient buildings. Now that I’m older and think back to those days, I realize why I love Rome so much. Because my love for it, is truly deep-rooted.
Besides the breathtaking monuments and the busy cobble-stoned streets, there’s one other thing that I remember loving as a child. In Rome, we have something which I have yet to see matched in other cities around the world. All of our best classic and traditional dishes are not only available when you sit at a restaurant table. And, if you are on the go or on your own, a sit down restaurant will probably not be your first choice. In that case, Italians would opt for a tavola calda. This word literally translates to ‘hot table’ and it is a buffet-like intimate cafeteria, but with all the best Italian food available.
At a tavola calda you can find anything from pastas, to the great and beloved pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), and everything in between like fried suppli rice balls and potato croquettes, roast chicken, vegetables (grilled, sautéed, boiled, etc.) and much, much more.
For me, as a little girl, and still to this day, stopping at a tavola calda meant only one thing. Whenever we would stop for lunch somewhere along the streets of Rome, there was always one thing I would ask for, without fail: pomodoro ripieno di riso con patate (roasted tomato stuffed with rice and potatoes on the side – lots of potatoes, please!).
Lucky for me, one of my aunts is an expert in making this dish. Her talent comes from my grandmother, of course, but importantly – the recipe has now become mine. This dish is a true combination of intense flavor and mouthwatering perfection. So here I leave you with my grandmother’s recipe for my all-time favorite dish.
Italian Food Recipe:
Pomodori Ripieni di Riso con Patate
Rice stuffed tomatoes served with potatoes
Ingredients (makes 14 medium sized tomatoes)
- 14 Ripe tomatoes
- 20 Tbsp Rice (carnaroli or other risotto rice, about 1.5 Tbsp per tomato)
- 5-6 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Tbsp pesto
- Basil leaves
- Potatoes on the side (at least 1 per tomato)
Start by washing the tomatoes. Cut off the top and empty out the tomatoes into a bowl. Place the empty tomatoes (with their tops) in the oven pan that you will be using.
On the side, blend the tomato pulp and add oil, garlic, salt, basil and pesto. Keep one cup of this mixture aside (which you will be using with the potatoes at the end). Add rice to the mixture.
Move back to your empty tomatoes. Sprinkle some salt in the tomatoes for extra flavor. Fill the tomatoes with the rice mixture. Replace tomato lids.
Dice the potatoes into 2cm cubes (that way, 1 hr cooking time will suffice). Pour the mixture which you set aside earlier over the potatoes, stir in and add some salt. Add the potatoes to the oven pan with the tomatoes.
Sprinkle some more salt over the top of the tomatoes and drizzle some oil all over.
Bake for at least 1 hr at 225˚C. The potatoes and the top of the tomatoes should be browned.
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