Carefully core the tomatoes. To do this, I used a sharp knife to slice the top off of each tomato, then used a spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving the outer wall intact. Transfer the tomato pulp to a small bowl for now.
Place the tomatoes on a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking tray and set aside.
Step 2: Sauté the ingredients
Peel and dice the onion. Rinse the rice until the water runs almost clear.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook for several minutes, stirring often, until translucent. Then add the tomato pulp, tomato paste, and salt (and pepper, if preferred).
Step 3: Par-cook the rice
Add the rice and water to the pan, stirring well, and then cover and cook until just below al dente (around 90% cooked). To do this, I recommend following the package instruction for the rice minus 2-3 minutes.
While it cooks, finely chop your herbs of choice, then add them to the pan at the end of the cooking process, mixing until well combined. Then remove the rice mixture from the heat.
Step 4: Bake the stuffed tomatoes
Using a spoon, scoop the rice mixture into your tomatoes (right to the top) and cover with their "lids."
Bake in a preheated oven for around 30 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC. When ready, the tomatoes should be soft and slightly "shriveled" looking, with a tender rice filling.You can optionally broil the tomatoes for a short while at the end if you want a more blackened, slightly smoky "top" of the tomatoes.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven, allow them to cool for just a few minutes, then remove the lid and top with some lemon zest, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and optionally some feta cheese. For a truly delicious Greek stuffed tomato, I recommend serving with an extra glug of extra virgin olive oil - enjoy!
How to Make Ahead and Store
Makeahead: you can prepare these Greek stuffed tomatoes ahead by preparing the filling and stuffing them but then covering them tightly in clingfilm for 1-2 days before baking. You can also freeze the unbaked stuffed tomatoes and bake from frozen. Add a few extra minutes to the cooking time (until bubbly and tender), though they won't hold their shape well upon thawing.Store: once baked, allow the stuffed tomatoes to cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. You may also be able to freeze the leftovers, though I never have. If you do, let me know in the comments how it went. Reheat: you can reheat the baked stuffed tomatoes either in the microwave or in the oven, in a large baking pan filled with around a cup of water at 400ºF/200ºC, until fully warmed.
Leave to "marinate": these baked stuffed tomatoes taste even better on the second day, so feel free to leave leftovers or prepare them a day in advance and enjoy cold or reheated.
If the tomatoes are browning too much: you can cover them in foil while they continue to bake. This will stop them from burning while also allowing the rice stuffing to steam and thoroughly cook.
To prevent mushy rice: You can sauté it for several minutes in a skillet until lightly golden. This helps to "seal" it and avoids mushiness when cooking.
Experiment with the filling: this rice filling is super adaptable and excellent for adding extra veggies, herbs, etc. Simply use what's in season and that you have available.
To grill the stuffed tomatoes: if it's still grilling weather, then no need to turn on the oven. Instead, use some yarn or cooking twine to tie the top and bottom of the filled tomatoes together, brush with a bit of oil, wrap in tin foil, and then grill for 10-15 minutes, until tender with a fully cooked stuffing.
When using add-ins: note that adding protein or extra veggies will yield more overall "stuffing." Feel free to save any leftovers for another batch of stuffed veggies. Alternatively, after filling the tomatoes, you can continue to cook the rice filling on the stovetop until fully cooked and then use it as a side to other meals.
If your tomatoes aren't very fleshy/juicy: you may need to add some extra tinned tomatoes for extra juice and flavor.
Don't be stingy with the olive oil: for traditional Greek stuffed tomatoes, olive oil is used for more than just sauteing the ingredients - around 1/3 cup (total) can be used to drizzle over the stuffed tomatoes before and after baking to produce a super silky, melt-in-the-mouth consistency.
Optional add-ins and recipe variations:
Other vegetables: you can easily boost the nutrients, colors, and flavors in these rice-stuffed tomatoes with extra, finely diced veggies, like peppers, spinach, carrot (grated), potatoes, zucchini, etc.
Other grains: you could experiment with making these stuffed tomatoes with other grains like quinoa – follow the same method (cook 90% before stuffing and baking). Adjust the amount of liquid needed accordingly.
Other spices: feel free to experiment with the spices used in the rice stuffing: oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, allspice, etc. For a kick, you could add some chili/cayenne powder or finely diced chilies.
Pine Nuts: make for a great garnish. Lightly toast in a dry skillet for extra toasty flavor.
Raisins: you can use golden or dark raisins added to the rice mixture.
Protein: feel free to make a vegetarian "mince" filling by adding around 1lb of your favorite vegan mince (or soy protein) of choice. Pre-cook on the stovetop.
Sugar: you may want to add a pinch (or more) of sugar to balance the tart flavor from the tomatoes. If your tomatoes aren't as ripe as you'd like, you could rub a little sugar into the inside of the tomatoes before adding the rice stuffing.
Cheese: I recommend using feta cheese to crumble over the vegetarian stuffed tomatoes. For vegan stuffed tomatoes, use vegan feta cheese.
For stuffed peppers and tomatoes: the peppers will naturally be "drier" as they don't become as juicy when baking. To combat this, spoon some of the juices from the baked tomatoes over the peppers before serving.
Tzatziki: you can optionally use tzatziki to drizzle (or dollop) over the vegetarian stuffed tomatoes.
Check the blog post for more tips and serving suggestions.