Italian Stuffed Tomatoes

People don't get it when I tell them that I don't care for spaghetti. (Rick thinks I'm weird because he loves it.) But I personally think spaghetti is overrated. That's all people ever talk about when they think Italian. That, and pizza. Tsk tsk tsk, I say! One of my favorite shows growing up was Lidia's Italy, hosted by the lovely cook Lidia Bastianich who shared with her viewers old family recipes and fun stories about cooking with her mother and loved ones. That opened up a whole other world of Italian cooking that was beyond pastas and pies. 

There are so many other great Italian dishes out there, and Stuffed Tomatoes is one of them. This recipe is an adaptation of Lidia's dish, but with a hunter's twist. Nothing beats a vine ripened tomato filled with warm, gooey Arborio rice and mozzarella cheese, ground venison seasoned with oregano, fresh basil and bay, then topped off with a good helping of rich olive oil. We hope you enjoy this dish. It's great right out of the oven, or at room temperature. It's delicious!

Servings: 8 individual stuffed tomatoes 
Prep Time: About 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 fresh bay leaves or 3 dried
- 3/4 cup of Arborio rice
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 8 firm-ripe medium tomatoes 
- 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 lbs. ground venison
- 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbs. grated Kraft's Parmesan cheese
- 10 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring 2 cups of water, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and bay leaves to a boil. 

Stir in rice and 1 tbs. olive oil. Simmer and cook uncovered...
Until al dente and the liquid is all gone, about 10 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Scrape in a large bowl to cool. 

2. In a pan, brown ground venison over medium heat with Italian seasoning and a pinch of both kosher salt and ground black pepper, about 5-10 minutes. 

Add to the bowl with the rice. 

3. Cut the tops off tomatoes, saving the tops. 

We suggest that you buy round tomatoes that can sit easily on their bottoms.
4. Place a colander or strainer inside a 9x13 inch baking dish. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh and seeds of the tomatoes into the colander, letting the juices collect in the baking dish.

5. Chop up the tomato flesh and seeds and add it to the bowl with the rice and venison.

Add cubed mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, chopped basil and oregano. Mix well.  

To make things clear, stuffing ingredients include:  cooked rice, browned ground venison, chopped tomato flesh/seeds, mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan, basil and oregano.

6. Place hollowed tomatoes in baking dish with tomato juice, arranging the tops underneath. The tops will hold the tomato cups like a pedestal.

Lightly salt the insides of the tomatoes and fill with stuffing. 

Note: We used 2 small baking dishes instead of one large 9x13. Use whatever you have.

Heaping spoonfuls!

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top. Sprinkle the remaining grated Parmesan cheese over stuffing. 

If you have any leftover stuffing, and you probably will, roll them into "meatballs" and place them in the open spaces of the baking dish. 
Bake in a 400 degree F oven until tomatoes are soft and juicy and the stuffing is browned on top. About 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy with good white wine. :-)
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  1. Why Kosher salt? we are not all Jews or Americans for that.
    But boy is this a good recipe
    Great Britain

    1. Hi Colin,

      It has nothing to do with being a Jew or an American. We are definitely not Jewish, being Mexican and Vietnamese. Kosher salt is simply more gentle in taste than regular table salt. It's easier to pinch and its big granules are good for creating a nice crust on steaks. You can use whatever salt you like. However, table salt is more salty than kosher so you may have to cut back from what our recipes say.

      Rick and Jen

  2. What did lidia's stuffing call for?
    We have no acess to venison

    1. Hi Sue. Lidia's version had ham in it, I believe.

    2. Lidia's version has ground beef or veal


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