The culinary use of lemons is often limited to garnishes, desserts or liqueurs. But this citrus fruit can do so much more than simply flavour water and liquor and it was eating and cooking in Ravello, Italy that taught me this. The Amalfi Coast isn’t just home to beaches, sun and sand; this area is an agricultural region that produces lemons for the Italian and European markets.  Everywhere you turn you’ll see the image and presence of the mighty lemon, but this isn’t just any type of lemon, this is the limone sfusato: a type of lemon that is grown only on the Amalfi Coast that boasts a size and flavour that is unrivalled the world over.

To highlight the crown jewel of agriculture in this region, and to celebrate summer on the Amalfi Coast, Tavola will be posting a week’s worth of recipes featuring lemons under the title of “A Week in Ravello”. This recipe is one of the seven included in this series.  These recipes were created using ingredients picked from the gardens, bought from the markets and pulled off the fishing boats by the beautiful people who work and live year-round in this region. If you have an opportunity to try these recipes don’t hesitate to use lemons that you can find at your local markets wherever you are in the world. But if you find that one day you can make the trip to the Amalfi Coast, be sure to try these recipes out using the real limone sfusato.

Lemon and Rice Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 cups of cooked rice
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  •  Juice and zest from one lemon
  • 1 tsp diced parsley
  • 1 tsp diced basil
  • 1 tsp diced oregano
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano (sheep cheese)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400 F / 200 C / Gas Mark 6.

To yield 2 cups of cooked rice you’ll need 2/3 cups of uncooked rice and 1+1/3 cups of water.  In a pot, bring the water to a boil and add in the salt, olive oil and sugar.  Add rice as the water comes to a boil, then lower the heat to as low as you can and cover for 20 minutes until fully cooked. No peeking!

While the rice is cooking, cut the tops off and core out the centres of each tomato. Set the tops aside and put the core pulp and seeds into a bowl as you’re working; don’t throw them away!  Take out as much as possible while leaving solid sides and bottoms; be careful to not puncture the bottom or sides of the tomatoes as you spoon out the insides.

In a food processor add the tomato pulp and seeds, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, diced herbs and give it a quick spin until the tomatoes and other ingredients are diced and mixed nicely.

Once the rice is cooked and cooled to room temperature, turn the wet mixture of tomatoes and herbs into it.  Add the capers and 1/2 cup of shredded pecorino romano and stir it all together.  Spoon the rice and tomato mixture into each tomato one by one.  Be sure to pack the mixture down a bit with the spoon as you reach the top of the tomato and don’t over-stuff the tomato.  Cap each tomato with its original top and place them in a casserole dish for baking.  Baked uncovered for 30 minutes and serve as an appetizer or as a side-dish.

Buon Appetito!  Good eating to you…

Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions about this recipe below.