Italians will stuff anything, but when it comes to a nice summer tomato this is the recipe. It is good just out of the oven and delicious at room temperature. Wonderful as an appetizer, vegetable and also a main course, this dish is, popular at Italian family gatherings and festivities and it looks great on the buffet table.
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
2 bay leaves
¾ cup arborio rice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 firm-ripe medium tomatoes
¾ cup fresh mozzarella, cut in small cubes
2 ounce piece ham, cut in small cubes
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Grana Padano , or Parmigiano-Reggiano
10 large basil leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon dry oregano
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small pot, bring to boil 2 cups water with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the bay leaves. Stir in the rice and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until rice is al dente and liquid is almost all gone, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a bowl to cool.
2. Slice the tops off the tomatoes, reserving the tops. Scoop out the inner flesh of the tomatoes with a spoon, leaving a thick shell. As you work, put the flesh in a strainer set over a bowl to collect the juices. Once all of the tomatoes are scooped out, season the insides of the tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
3. Chop the tomato flesh and put in the bowl with the rice. To the bowl, add the mozzarella, ham, 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, the basil, the oregano and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine.
4. Pour reserved tomato juices in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Evenly divide stuffing in tomatoes. Arrange cut-off tomato tops in the baking dish and place a stuffed tomato on each top. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may have a little leftover stuffing. If so, roll it into “meatballs” and place in the spaces in the baking dish. Drizzle tomatoes with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle tops with remaining grated cheese. Bake until tomatoes are soft and juicy and stuffing is browned on top, about 20 to 25 minutes.