Versions of tomates farcies, or stuffed and baked tomatoes, are found in many different cultures. In France, this popular rustic dish is typically made using ground veal or sausage, but ground beef is also common. Since there are many variations of this classic French recipe, I played around a bit with different ingredients, but this recipe was the clear winner. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dinner two nights in a row (just as good reheated the second night). “Tomato that melts in your mouth with the best, juiciest meatball” was my husband’s review : )
The cheddar adds a little American touch, but you can also use a different cheese. You don’t need to use fancy or excellent tomatoes – baking them enhances the flavors. I suggest serving the stuffed tomatoes with lightly seasoned rice or pasta. One tomato was a good portion for me, but my husband had one and a half.
Stuffed Tomatoes (Tomates Farcies)
Servings: 4-6 (depending on size of tomatoes and appetites)
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: about 45 minutes
6 large tomatoes – round, ripe and firm
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove of garlic
1-pound (500 g) ground beef
1 slice of sandwich bread (whole wheat or white)
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup chopped parsley
¾ cup (60) grated cheddar cheese
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (or regular)
Preheat the oven to 340° F (170° C). Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a baking dish large enough to hold the 6 tomatoes.
Prepare the tomatoes. Using a serrated knife, cut the ‘hats’ off the tomatoes – about a ½-
inch off the top. Do not throw the hats away. Using a small knife, carefully cut (do not pierce the skin) around the circumference of the opened-up tomato, leaving a ¼-inch rim. Use a small spoon to detach the core from the bottom of the tomato and scoop out the soft center. Gently scrape and scoop out the seeds and juicy pulp. You can use parts of the scooped-out insides to mix with the pasta or rice you serve with the stuffed tomatoes.
Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Cut off and discard the crusts of the sandwich bread. In a small bowl, shred the bread into tiny pieces and add the 2 tablespoons of milk. Stir together gently.
In a large bowl, place the ground beef. Add the bread/milk mixture, sautéed onion and garlic, chopped parsley, grated cheddar, 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together.
Stuff each tomato with the beef filling – the filling should go just slightly above the edge of the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in the baking dish and put their 'hats’ on. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes – the tomatoes should be slightly wilted, but still upright.
Serve over rice or tagliatelle lightly seasoned with a little olive oil or butter and chopped pieces of the scooped-out tomato bits. The stuffed tomatoes can be made ahead and reheated for 15 minutes at 250° F (120° C) – the tomatoes retain the juices nicely.
And bon appétit!