My nonna’s stuffed tomatoes are one of my all-time favorite side dishes. I can even make a meal out of these.
As a child my grandmother would make these for me all of the time in the summer. Keep in mind the quality of the tomatoes is very important here. So the summertime is definitely the best time to make this dish. I could remember she would send me out to her backyard to pick the basil leaves to put into the stuffing. The smell of the fresh basil leaves (even on my hands) is a distinct memory for me. I would always associate that with this dish. Isn’t it amazing how smells can bring you back to a time in your life?
½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
7 Whole Garlic, Cloves
1 Red Pepper, Diced
1 Small Eggplant (about ¾ lb.), Diced
1 Zucchini (about 9 oz.), Diced
1 ¼ Tsp Salt
1 Tsp. Pepper
8 Tomatoes (about 5.5 lbs), I use hot house tomatoes and they must be ripe
10 Basil Leaves, Chopped
1 Cup Plain Bread Crumbs
1 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano
Preheat your oven to 375°. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook on a low temperature until the garlic is fork tender.
Cut up all of your vegetables. The vegetables should be diced very small. Keep in mind you are stuffing them into the tomato. Once the garlic is fork tender remove it from the oil and mash with a fork. Put it back into the oil and mix it around. Add in the red pepper and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then add in your eggplant and your zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes until tender and cooked through.
In the meantime, slice the tops off each tomato. Scoop out the insides. I use a melon Baller to do this. Reserve half of the insides of the tomatoes, and save the rest for another use. Purée the tomatoes using a blender. Once the vegetable mixture is cooked add the tomato purée to it. Cook for about five minutes. Add the basil leaves. Remove from heat and add the breadcrumbs and the grated cheese. Stuff each tomato with the mixture. Put the tomatoes in a baking pan coated with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes.