These simple stuffed tomatoes are packed with orzo, sausage, fresh herbs, and deliciously salty feta cheese. A stellar dish featuring beautifully ripe summer tomatoes, this one can also be effortlessly adapted to suit your meatless Monday needs!
Do you watch cooking shows? I’ve always been a fan. I grew up on PBS Sunday afternoons full of Graham Kerr, Sara Moulton, and Martin Yan. And honestly, I thought of them almost as friends. I was a bit of a loner as a kid and so I found their familiar faces putting together delicious dishes and talking me through every step, very comforting.
Nowadays of course, the landscape of food entertainment has changed entirely. Chefs are celebrities in their own right, people compete in insane shows for cash prizes and fame, and food personalities are household names – finding their way into our kitchens via TV shows, books, and social media. Some of it is a little too over the top for me (re: crafting a dish using only miniature utensils and a bunsen burner), but I’m really digging how creative the industry has gotten. And how many cool, unique, and individual personalities are coming out of the woodwork.
Take the peeps over at the Bon Appetit test kitchen for instance – real cooks, making real food, and even real mistakes, in an incredibly approachable way. You can’t help but feel like you could be friends with them, shoot the shit, or just geek out over a particularly memorable meal. And although it’s new, fresh, and so 2019…it reminds me of being seven years old, sitting in front of our TV, transfixed by Natalie Dupree, stories from her Southern kitchen, and her perfectly plush looking biscuits.
So today I’m sharing a dish that while totally delicious reads maybe just ever so dated. Stuffed tomatoes are an homage to those humble, public television cooking shows of yore, with a few updates that bring them squarely into present day. I’m so happy that food has found such widespread popularity and that people (including me) have places (like this) to share and celebrate our passions. But the lonely, little girl in me will always remember watching those programs on a Sunday afternoon as my “weird” little hobby. So this is for those unlikely heroes who didn’t host daytime TV, have a line of spice blends, or host zany competition shows where people cater weddings from inside an igloo using only canned ham products. I salute you.
For whatever reason TV chefs of the 80’s and early 90’s just loved to stuff a vegetable. Stuffed mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and of course tomatoes were all commonly showcased as the chicest of dinner party fare. And while I doubt anyone would roll out of the stuffed veggie brigade for the Queen these days, they do make an excellent weeknight dinner, and one that’s just a little bit different (and also prettier) than your standard meat, starch, veg routine.
Aside from the visual presentation though, there’s the matter of flavor. I think the real beauty of a stuffed tomato is what you put inside it. And to be honest, the sky’s the limit. Any manner of meats, cheeses, carbs, and veggies can make for a great stuffed tomato. But there are a few things to keep in mind to keep your tomatoes intact, your stuffing flavorful, and yourself sane.
How to make the stuffing
Stuffing, regardless of where it’s going should hit a few main points. It must be vibrant and delicious, sturdy without being dense, and compliment its container rather than outshine it. This one gets flavor from savory sausage, briny feta cheese, and fresh herbs. You’ll notice though that the amount of all of these things is moderate at best. Reason being is I don’t want any of them to run the whole show. They should work in harmony with the juicy, summer tomato, not flatten it completely.
That being said, every single element should be flavorful in its own right (ie: don’t count on the sausage and feta to take care of everyone else). You should be tasting and seasoning each layer of your dish from spinach to orzo, and everything in between. This will ensure a well balanced and delightful end result, scout’s honor.
How to prep your tomatoes
Firstly, it should be summer when you’re making this. If you’re wearing a sweater and contemplating anything even remotely related to pumpkin then please navigate away from this page (or better yet, bookmark it for sometime in August). Ok, now that that’s out of the way, choose a tomato that’s big enough to stuff (a medium beefsteak is a great choice) and is red, ripe, and heavy for its size, but doesn’t show signs of sagging or softness. Then cut the top off, saw gently around the inside perimeter of the tomato (leaving about a 1/4 inch border and being careful not to pierce through the bottom) and then unceremoniously plunge your fingers into the tomato. Now twist and rip the inside out (gruesome, I know). Finish any extra cleanup with a small spoon. It’s not absolutely necessary to get them looking pristine on the inside. But try to get all the liquidy parts out so they don’t water log your stuffing, and I think it’s pretty obvious that the advantage to more space is duh, more stuffing. But before stuffing meets tomatoes, give them a little S&P…because well, they deserve it.
How to finish your stuffed tomatoes
This is not science…stuffing, meet tomatoes. I’m sure you two will be very happy together. Introducing one to the other should not be an anxiety producing feat. But it will be kind of messy. So spoon it in there and mound it high. There’s no need to pack it in super tight though – just get everyone all nice and comfortable and ready for the oven.
To save myself an extra dish to wash I place the tomatoes back in the same skillet where I made the stuffing. Then just pop the whole thing in the oven – no need for covering, water baths, or any of that silly stuff. Also the stuffing itself is already cooked, so you’re really just baking these to soften the tomato and get a little bit of golden brown, crunchy love on the top – which by the way is how you know they’re done.
Serve these as a side dish to a piece of chicken or fish, or as the main event alongside a salad or some simply prepared veggies. And be pleased knowing that even though they aren’t the trendiest dish on the block, they’re damn good – inspiring even.
Need more summer recipes?
Look no further. And if you try any of these, please take a moment to comment below with what you loved about the dish. I’d love you a lot – like almost as much as I love my cats.
- Zucchini Goat Cheese Pasta
- Lemon Yogurt Cheesecake Parfaits
- Zucchini Corn Quinoa Salad
- Oven Roasted BBQ Chicken
Simple Stuffed Tomatoes
Juicy, summer tomatoes get stuffed with a flavorful mixture of sausage, orzo, spinach, fresh herbs, and salty feta. This easy dish is a perfect way to showcase those beautifully ripe and red tomatoes.
- Prep Time: 10 Minutes
- Cook Time: 40 Minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: American
1/2 C orzo
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb Italian sausage, removed from casing
6 scallions, sliced and separated (white from green)
6 ounces baby spinach
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 T chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 medium beefsteak tomatoes, 3-4 inches in diameter
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the orzo for 6 minutes, or just until al dente. It will continue to cook inside the tomatoes, so err on the side of a little underdone. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.
Cut the tops off the tomatoes and remove the insides, leaving a quarter inch border. Season the insides with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large skillet set over medium heat, cook the sausage until brown, about five minutes. Add the scallion whites and saute for another two minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Transfer the sausage mixture to a bowl and add the feta, mint, salt, pepper, scallion greens, and orzo. Stir until thoroughly combined. Stuff a generous half cup of the mixture into each tomato – packing it down lightly.
Place the tomatoes back in the skillet (or a baking dish) and bake, uncovered for 25 minutes or until the tops begin to brown lightly. Serve immediately.
Instead of orzo you could use any small pasta, cooked until al dente. Other great substitutions would be rice, quinoa, farro, or barley.
Similarly, feel free to substitute any tender herb in place of mint.
To remove the inside of the tomatoes cut the tops off, then using a sharp paring knife, cut a circle around the border of where the meat of the tomato meets the inside edges, being careful not to cut through the bottom of the tomato. Then twist the insides out with your fingers and scrape any extra flesh out using a small spoon.
Feel free to make this vegetarian by substituting the sausage for tofu, mushrooms, or just more orzo and spinach.
Keywords: stuffed tomatoes, summer recipe, weeknight dinner, summer dinner