This is Roman street food par excellence, the sort of thing you would get in a rosticceria to take back home or to the office. I like to inject a bit of fun into the kitchen by taking what was once in vogue and bringing it up to date, and this retro dish is definitely ready for a comeback. I love the way such simple ingredients can turn into something so tasty. Eye-catching red parcels, perfect for a cosy meal in that most exclusive restaurant: your own kitchen.
Preparation time: 30 minutes plus cooling
Cooking time: 2½ hours
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling
2.5kg (5lb 8oz) King Edward potatoes, peeled, parboiled in salted water and cut into chunks
handful of rosemary leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
300ml (½pint) vegetable stock
6 large vine tomatoes, each weighing about 200g (7oz)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
180g (6oz) arborio or carnaroli
40g (1½ oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
20g (¾ oz) pecorino romano cheese, grated
60g (2½ oz) scamorza, haloumi or mozzarella da cucina (cooking mozzarella), cut into 6 pieces
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
Lightly oil a Pyrex baking dish and add the parboiled potato chunks, rosemary and two garlic cloves. Cover with the stock, transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are soft and slightly browned at the edges. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Slice off the top third of each tomato and reserve (these will act as the ‘lids’ for the stuffed tomatoes). With a spoon, scoop out the pulp and juices of the tomatoes, transfer them to a food processor and blend together until smooth. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with salt and place them upside down on a wire rack to drain.
Gently fry the remaining garlic clove in the olive oil until browned, then add the blended tomato and leave to simmer for 10 minutes over a low heat until thickened. Remove the garlic, season to taste and stir in the chopped herbs. Set aside.
Boil the rice in abundant salted water according to the packet instructions until al dente, about 15–18 minutes, then drain and transfer to a bowl with the tomato sauce, grated Parmesan and pecorino. Stir together well.
Place the tomatoes on one of the prepared sheets. Fill each with a tablespoon of the rice mixture, add a piece of scamorza and cover with more rice to fi ll. Lay the tomato caps on the other baking sheet. Drizzle the tomatoes and lids with oil and season with pepper. Transfer to the oven, placing the tomato lids on the bottom shelf, and bake for 55 minutes, turning the grill up to high for the final 5 minutes of cooking, until golden brown.
Remove the tomatoes and lids from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Put the lids on the tomatoes and serve with the potatoes.
Extracted from As The Romans Do by Eleonora Galasso. Available here