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Mom's Sausage-Stuffed Tomatoes with Provolone

Mom's Sausage-Stuffed Tomatoes with Provolone

My mother is a great cook and this recipe is a real winner. With juicy tomatoes, savory sausage, and two types of Provolone, this is a dish that tastes as good as it looks.

8 medium (about 6 ounces each) ripe firm tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1 cups uncooked orzo
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion (about 1/3 pound), finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound Italian sweet sausage, casings removed and sausage crumbled
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
4 ounces (regular, not sharp) provolone cheese, coarsely grated
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 ounce aged provolone, finely grated (or use Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, or aged asiago)
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut 1/4-inch off the tops of the tomatoes. Gently scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch thick wall. Be careful not to break the walls or bottom skin. Let drain upside down on a paper towel.

Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the orzo slowly, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and let cook 12 to15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has absorbed the liquid, is firm, and is not sticking together.

In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook slowly until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 2 minutes until soft, not browned. Add to the orzo.

Put the sausage in the skillet and sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly and breaking up large pieces until lightly browned. If it seems fatty, drain on paper towels. Let cool slightly. In a medium bowl, combine the sausage and orzo mixture with the oregano, regular Provolone cheese and pine nuts. Stir just until the ingredients are combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble: Lightly salt the inside of the tomatoes. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the orzo mixture into each tomato, pressing firmly to fill as much as possible. Place in a casserole dish or pie plate just large enough to hold the tomatoes in one layer. Top with the aged Provolone.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are feel slightly soft to the touch but still hold their shape and the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 8

Note from my mom: The pulp from the scooped out tomato can be used in the orzo filling. I sautéed it slowly in olive oil until soft, but I didn't like it as well with the cooked tomatoes added to the orzo -- it tasted too much like any pasta dish. It was a little unusual w/o the tomato and my guests loved it. However, to be fair, I didn't serve them the orzo w/ the tomato mixture. I tried it the next night for Dad and me.