PESTO STUFFED TOMATOES WITH RICE AND SAUSAGE
I didn’t eat a tomato that wasn’t in sauce or sun-dried form until I was 15.
Despite currently being one of my favorite vegetables (at least, when they are in season), tomatoes were a new one to me when I was a teenager. Growing up, my mom would basically throw a temper tantrum if there was a tomato on her plate. Witnessing that taught me that tomatoes were something to fear. Plus, those slimy looking seeds always turned me off.
It wasn’t until I went on a trip to Austria and the Czech Republic while in my vegetarian phase that I was essentially forced to get past my tomato fear. If you know anything about Austrian or Czech food, it’s that meat is front and center. Vegetarian options? Not so much.
I was forced to make a choice between tomato and meat on my very first day there, when we were eating in Prague’s town square. My one vegetarian option was a simple pasta salad with raw tomatoes. Vegetarianism is totally cool by me, but friends, let’s not do what teenage Rachael did and become one just because Drew Barrymore and your best friend were vegetarians, and then go on a trip with your meat loving parents to Europe.
Perhaps desperation was the best seasoning, but I found out that I actually really liked the taste of fresh tomatoes. They are juicy, bright and tangy with a hint of sweetness! Although when it comes to the seeds, I’m still a little meh about them.
That’s one of the reasons I love stuffed tomatoes so much. It replaces the most meh part of the tomato with yummy filling! Whether it’s served 50s housewife style, stuffing a raw tomato shell with tuna or chicken salad, the French way with tons of buttery herbed breadcrumbs, or my personal favorite – tomatoes stuffed with rice and some kind of meat, they’re all delish!
This recipe for pesto stuffed tomatoes with rice and sausage is seriously the best, especially in those cooler days towards the end of summer (which we’re actually experiencing now that we live in Boston). It’s a little bit fancy, a show stopper if you’re entertaining, but still incredibly easy to prepare.
HOW TO PREPARE TOMATOES FOR STUFFING
Whenever I make this recipe, I start by preparing the tomatoes for stuffing. You can also prep the tomatoes while the rice and sausage filling cooks, but personally I’m a little too scatterbrained to do two things at once.
First, make sure you have the right type of tomatoes. I like to use beefsteak or large tomatoes on the vine. Make sure they’re nice and ripe. Although out of season or not perfectly ripe tomatoes will sweeten up a bit in the oven, so don’t sweat it if they’re not perfect.
To prepare the tomatoes, slice the top 3/4 inch off the top of the tomato. Then using a serrated tomato knife or paring knife, carefully cut away the seeds and inner pulp, being careful not to pierce the flesh. Then scoop out the seeds with a spoon, leaving a little tomato bowl.
HOW TO MAKE PESTO STUFFED TOMATOES WITH RICE AND SAUSAGE
After prepping the tomatoes for these pesto stuffed tomatoes, prepare the rice and sausage filling. First, cook the rice, and while it boils, cook the sausage with onions and garlic. When the rice is tender and the sausage mixture is cooked, toss them together along with a can of chickpeas and basil pesto. Set the tomatoes in a casserole dish spread with your favorite tomato sauce, then stuff the tomatoes with the filling, patting it down with the top of a spoon to fit it all in. Top the tomatoes with grated mozzarella followed by a mix of parmesan and panko, then bake until the cheese is melted, breadcrumbs are golden, and the tomatoes are tender. And tadah! These pesto stuffed tomatoes with rice and sausage are ready to enjoy!
WHAT TO SERVE WITH PESTO STUFFED TOMATOES WITH RICE AND SAUSAGE
With a nice balance of carbs, fat, protein and produce, this recipe is a meal in of itself, but it also pairs well with crusty bread and/or a side salad. Try the following:
- Easy No-Knead Focaccia with Roasted Garlic
- Green Summer Panzanella
- The BEST Chopped Side Salad
- Fig and Prosciutto Salad
- Roasted Spring Vegetables with Mint and Meyer Lemon Dressing
PESTO STUFFED TOMATOES WITH RICE AND SAUSAGE RECIPE ADAPTIONS
Feel free to make this recipe with zucchini or patty pan squash instead of tomatoes. For zucchini, scoop out the seeds to make little long boats. Or, feel free to use bell peppers for filling. The timing should be pretty similar, although the zucchini might take a little bit longer to cook through so check it with a sharp knife for tenderness after 40 minutes.
This recipe is also great with different types of grains. I’ve made it with farro, which is thick, chewy and adds tons of yummy whole grain flavor. You could also swap brown rice, although for a whole grain option I prefer using farro in here. I think smaller grains like couscous would work, but they might get a little too soft in the oven. Let me know if you try it!
For a vegetarian version, I really love Impossible sweet or hot Italian sausage in this recipe.
If you like this recipe for pesto stuffed tomatoes with rice and sausage, follow my meaty main dishes board on pinterest for more recipe inspiration.
This recipe for pesto stuffed tomatoes with rice and sausage was originally published June 2015. Recipe, images and text have been updated to give you the best possible content.
PESTO STUFFED TOMATOES WITH RICE AND SAUSAGE
- 8 large tomatoes
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 lb sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 1/2 cup basil pesto
- 1 1/2 cups jarred tomato sauce
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella, grated
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional, for serving
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut a 1/2-inch slice off the top off each tomato and discard or compost. Using a serrated knife and a spoon, cut and scoop away the pulp, leaving the tomato “shell.” Sprinkle the inside of the tomato with a bit of salt.
- Rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear. Place in a small pot with 1 1/2 cups water, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes until rice is tender and water is absorbed. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes to let the rice finish steaming, then fluff with a fork.
- White rice is cooking, cook the sausage. Place sausage, onion and garlic in a skillet on medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage, until the sausage is browned and onion is tender.
- Mix rice, cooked sausage, chickpeas and pesto in a large bowl. Spread tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch casserole dish. Arrange tomato shells in the casserole dish and divide rice mixture evenly among them, pressing down slightly with the back of a spoon if needed to make room for all the filling. Sprinkle the top of the tomatoes with mozzarella cheese. Mix the parmesan and panko together and sprinkle over the tomatoes.
- Bake 40 minutes until cheese is melted and tomato sauce is bubbling. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley, if desired.