Stuffed Tomatoes Redux – Pomodori Ripieni
More with Fonte di Foiano Pendolino Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Stuffed tomatoes are the quintessential summer dish, and they are easy to put together. They are perfect for any meal, casual or elegant, and are incredibly versatile, moving easily from day into night. Serve them with a crisp green salad and white wine for an elegant lunch or as a starter for a more elaborate dinner. You can use large, medium or small tomatoes, what ever suits your fancy.
I used ingredients from all over Italy for these tomatoes, including Fonte di Foiano Pendolino Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany. This oil was among a set I received for review from Olio2go, an online and brick and mortar retailer of Italian extra virgin olive oils. (Click here to read more on these oils.) This oil is a monocultivar or monovarietal (made from one type of olive only) in this case, the Pendolino. It has a wonderful fruity taste with a hint of tomatoes, a bit of basil and parsley too, and a spicy finish that reminded me of red radishes. With all its fresh flavor notes it is well suited for uses in salads or as a finishing oil. I decided to use it in all stages of the cooking, to saute the onion and garlic, in the filling and to finish the tomatoes, and it was a perfect choice, adding flavor every step of the way.
I used green Bella di Cerignola olives in the filling. Big and fleshy, these olives from Puglia added a depth of flavor and a counterpoint to the sweet pine nuts, spicy oil and herbs. With a topping of Gorgonzola dolce from the north of Italy, the tomatoes became a glorious vehicle for a cook’s tour of Italy.
serves 4 as a starter
4 medium tomatoes
Fonte di Foiano Pendolino Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup minced onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup reserved tomato
8 green Bella di Cerignola olives, cut in 1/4inch dice
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus more for garnish (either whole or torn leaves)
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon pine nuts, divided
about 3 oz. Gorgonzola dolce
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil for the baking dish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a baking dish. Line a sheet pan with paper towels.
Using a sharp knife, slice tops off of the tomatoes. Chop the tops into ¼ inch dice, reserving ¼ cup. Scoop out the inside of the tomatoes using a melon baller, being careful not to pierce the sides of the tomatoes. Discard interior flesh. Place hollowed out tomatoes on the prepared sheet pan, and lightly sprinkle the interior with kosher salt. Turn the tomatoes upside down on the paper towels to drain. Set aside as you prepare the filling.
Pour 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a small saute pan, and heat over a medium-low flame. Add minced onion and garlic and saute until translucent but not brown, about 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Add oregano, thyme, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and saute 1 minute longer.
Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons Fonte di Foiano Pendolino olive oil, Panko bread crumbs, reserved tomato, olives, chopped parsley and basil, ¼ cup pine nuts, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Combine well. Check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, if desired.
Spoon the filling into the tomatoes, mounding slightly. Transfer the tomatoes to the prepared baking dish, and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Roast, uncovered about 35 minutes until softened. Just before the tomatoes are done, remove the baking dish from the oven and top each tomato with a few pieces of Gorgonzola. Return them to the oven and continue roasting until the Gorgonzola has just begun to melt, but still retains its chunky shape, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and place them on their serving plates. The cheese will continue to melt as you prepare the tomatoes for service. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of Pendolino oil over the tomatoes and on each plate to decorate. Scatter the remaining 2 tablespoons of pine nuts over the tomatoes, add a bit of basil, and serve immediately.
Food Nerd Notes: Gorgonzola dolce, a creamy, slightly sweet pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is made in the Lombardy and Piedmont regions of northern Italy. Be sure to purchase Gorgonzola dolce, not the sharper Mountain Gorgonzola. Ask for a taste of Gorgonzola dolce before you purchase it, always a good idea no matter what cheese you are buying. Remember that a cheese purchased on Monday may have a good deal more flavor heft by Friday, so make a habit of tasting cheese as you use it. If you are not fond of Gorgonzola, try Fontina, a raw cow’s milk cheese from Val d’Osta in northern Italy. It melts beautifully, and its nutty, fruity taste marries well with the sweet roasted tomatoes and oil. If you can not find either cheese or just want something very mild, select a nice Mozzarella, another cow’s milk cheese.
Panko bread crumbs are a Japanese product with a flaky, even crumb akin to finely shredded dried coconut. They are very light and virtually flavorless. You can find them in many supermarkets. If you can not find Panko, use plain (unseasoned) dry bread crumbs. I suggest you make your own. To do so, preheat an oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the crusts from a rustic white or egg bread. Do not use sourdough. Cut the bread into ½ inch chunks and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal knife, and process until finely ground. Transfer the crumbs to a sheet pan and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven to dry. Bake for about 20 minutes, until well dried, but not brown, tossing or 3 times with a fork. The crumbs at the outside edges will dry more quickly, so be sure to move them toward the center while tossing. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and place on a rack to cool, tossing occasionally. Transfer the cooled crumbs to an airtight glass container for storage.
Fonte di Foiano Pendolino Extra Virgin Olive oil is available from Olio2go or at their brick and mortar store at 8400 Hilltop Road, Suite H, Fairfax, VA 22031; phone 703-876-4666.
Bella di Cerignola olives are available from Gustiamo.com.
Click here for another recipe for Stuffed Tomatoes.
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Disclosure: I received the Pendolino Olive Oil mentioned above for free. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I otherwise have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.