I love tomato season and I usually get a little greedy at the farmers' market. It's hard to stop grabbing up all the various sizes and colors and shapes, each one with its own little personality. But then you end up with a pile of overripe tomatoes on your hands. Or maybe you have a garden and this happens every summer.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to make tomato risotto. Actually, tomato risotto is so good you probably should just go and buy a bunch of tomatoes to put yourself in this situation.
I know, I've said bad things about making risotto for dinner parties on this blog before. It takes too long to make. All that stirring keeps you away from your friends. It will make you sweat. But if you have an open kitchen where everyone can gather while you are cooking, or if you can enlist a friend or two to help you stir and drink wine, it's not a bad way to go at all. Central air conditioning helps too. This recipe is so good, I will gladly confine myself in the kitchen and sweat it out.
The recipe, from Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian, requires a few steps, like most chef-created recipes. It calls for a lot of tomatoes, which can be expensive, but if you can score some less-than-perfect ones from the farmers' market on a discount, they will do nicely.
First, you roast beefsteaks and garlic in the oven until they are soft and fragrant. Then you make the risotto, with all the usual suspects: stock, butter, Arborio rice, wine, an onion. The roasted tomatoes get folded into the mix, along with parmesan, and, if you're feeling decadent, some marscarpone cheese. The whole thing is topped with a garnish of halved cherry tomatoes, and I like to add a bit of basil as well.
When ripe, tomatoes are one of those things that are pretty much perfect as-is. There is nothing quite like eating a slice of a mid-summer heirloom with a sprinkle of salt, juice dripping down your chin. This risotto is the next best thing.
Adapted from Urban Italian
(serves 4 to 6 people)
For the baked tomatoes:
1 lb. tomatoes (8 small beefsteaks)
1 lb. tomatoes (8 small beefsteaks)
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1 tsp. rosemary
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
For the tomato topping:
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
pinch of salt
For the rice:
5 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, or water, or a combination)
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
To finish the dish:
2 Tbsp. marscarpone cheese (optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 Tbsp. chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 handful basil, julienned (optional)
To make the baked tomatoes:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the beefsteak tomatoes in half and lay them face up on a sheet pan. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Lay a slice or two of garlic on top. Bake uncovered until they are a bit grilled-looking and soft, about 1 hour. (You can do this way in advance.) Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. Chop them roughly and reserve them and the juices in a bowl.
To make the tomato topping:
Carmellini suggests cooking the cherry tomatoes in olive oil in a small pot over low heat for about 20 minutes, creating a chunky sauce. I like serving them raw, sliced in half and tossed in the olive oil and salt. Either way works.
To make the rice:
Put the stock or water on to boil. Melt the butter and olive oil together over high heat in a large pot or skillet. Add the onions and sweat them until they are soft, about 2 minutes, stirring to keep them from browning. Add the red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Add the rice and mix well so the grains are coated, about 1 minute. Add the wine and continue cooking, stirring constantly to ensure that the rice does not stick, until the wine has been completely absorbed and the rice is soft but not sticky, about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of the hot stock (or water) and the chopped baked tomatoes with their juices. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the rice is al dente, just beginning to cook through and the stock has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and continue to cook, stirring well and often, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and become a thick, liquidy stew, another 7 or 8 minutes or so.
To finish the dish, remove the risotto from the heat. Add the marscarpone, if using, parmesan, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Mix well, so the risotto becomes rich and well combined. If the risotto is too thick for your taste, add a little leftover stock or water.
Serve in bowls with the tomato topping, extra parmesan, and basil.