After a grueling week of business travel through four countries in Europe, I was at least able to find the latest Italian issue of La Cucina Italiana in the Frankfurt airport on my way home. The mouthwatering food photos kept me occupied on the flight and offered lots of inspiration for when my little feet hit the jetway. After a week of mostly hotel food, I was brimming with excitement to see my garden and better yet, to spend time in the kitchen with whatever bounty was ready to be picked! I discovered a few zucchini were ready and although my tomato plants are simply weighed down with fruit, my tomato crop is only beginning to ripen. However, I had spied a few great recipes in this month’s issue and after a bit of loose translation, decided to try my hand at a mouth watering Pomodori Ripieni con Mozzarella (Stuffed Tomatoes with Mozzarella) – at least I could put the first zucchini of the season to good use! After an early morning trip to the local farmers’ market and some work in the garden, I was finally able to head to the kitchen to cook my heart out for some friends stopping by this evening. These delicious stuffed tomatoes are a snap to prepare and have my kitchen smelling simply wonderful as the aroma of the tomatoes mingles with the garlic and peppers. For this first go at this recipe, I used mostly peppers, zucchini and olives to stuff my tomatoes – but I can’t wait to give this a go with perhaps some sauteed veal along with the veggies. And of course, feel free to substitute other veggies for the peppers – try mushrooms or onions perhaps! Experiment and enjoy! Buon appetito!
Pomodori Ripieni con Mozzarella
6 large tomatoes
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into 6 slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 stalk of celery
20 pitted black olives
1 medium zucchini
1/2 each of a yellow, red and orange bell pepper (you will need about 1 1/2 peppers – pick whichever colors are your favorite; I used 1/2 of each color)
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of bread crumbs (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon of grated pecorino romano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing
A few fresh basil leaves, chopped
1. Chop garlic, zucchini, peppers, olives.
2. Heat over medium heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan that will hold the stuffed tomatoes and can be put under the broiler. Saute chopped garlic – be careful not to burn. Add celery and olives. Saute for a few minutes until tender. Add the diced peppers, zucchini and oregano. Stir to blend and saute for another few minutes – about 5 – until soft. Add sea salt to taste.
3. Transfer sauteed vegetables to a bowl to cool. Add bread crumbs and romano cheese. Stir to blend.
4. Cut the tops off the tomatoes. Remove stem and chop remaining tomatoe tops, reserving half. Add remaining half to vegetable mixture. Stir to mix.
5. Remove the pulp and seeds from the tomatoes into a bowl, forming tomato cups. Chop any large bits of tomato pulp.
6. Stuff the tomatoes with the vegetable mixture.
7. Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan in which you sauteed the vegetables. Add the tomato pulp and chopped tomatoes. Simmer the tomato pulp and diced tomato in the pan until thickened – about 5 minutes. . Seaon with salt and freshly ground pepper. (NOTE: If you’d prefer more tomato sauce, add another diced tomato or 1/2 can diced tomatoes (optional)).
8. Place the stuffed tomatoes in the pan on top of the tomato sauce. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
9. Place one slice of mozzarella on top of each tomato. Cover again and continue cooking for another few minutes, until mozzarella begins to melt.
10. Remove pan from stove. Heat broiler. Place pan under broiler until cheese is brown and bubbly.
11. Allow tomatoes to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving.
12. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil. Serve and enjoy!