It is a climatological irony that during the hottest time of the year, the best dishes need to be cooked in an oven — and this is the case with these tomatoes. This is the epitome of home food, a summer staple. These tomatoes stuffed with rice are to be eaten at room temperature, never hot.
The one thing that no one likes to say about pomodori col riso the Roman way is that … well … they are not big on taste, slightly bland in fact. And that’s just how they are supposed to taste — because when it is very very very hot, you want flavours to be soothing as opposed to stimulating. Do not be tempted to add a little bit of this or a dash of that: no! That would be a mockery of pomodori col riso. The one concession is basil. Caveat emptor …
This is the bowl containing the tomato pulp, to which I added plenty of shredded basil leaves, a good dose of salt, and about three cloves of garlic roughly chopped. Do make sure you use plenty of salt, this recipe requires it.
Now add 1 spoon of Italian rice (not basmati!) per tomato, plus a little bit extra (if the tomatoes are very big, obviously add a bit more). I was dealing with 8 tomatoes so I counted 8 spoonfulls and then added another 4. In terms of quantity, the idea is to fill each tomato only half way up.
Now add plenty of olive oil. Stir these ingredients and let them ‘sit’ for at least half an hour. The longer they sit, the better for the rice to absorb some taste from the tomato pulp and juice, the garlic and the basil.
Serve. You can put this dish in the fridge and serve it the following day if you like. The brilliant feature of this recipe, I repeat, is that it offers texture and hunger-curbing factors without overwhelming the palate on a very hot day.