I’ve been doing variations on this dish for the past ten years–sometimes getting really crazy, cooking the tomatoes for one dish five different ways. When I won Food & Wine’s Best Chef 2000, the magazine featured a very complicated version of this recipe. But complicated isn’t always better, and I’ve finally figured out, in my old age, that the simpler version I was cooking at home is actually more delicious.
This is one recipe that really depends on the season: you definitely want to do this in midsummer, when the tomatoes are at their ripest and most flavorful. Here in New York, we get all different sorts of great tomatoes at the Greenmarkets, including some amazing heirlooms. I like to use both cherry tomatoes and larger sizes: the cherries for garnish on top, the big guys inside the risotto itself.
Two things to keep in mind: I’ve given a standard measure for the chicken stock (or water), but the amount will vary depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes; if they don’t have much liquid, you’ll want to up the amount. And if your tomatoes turn out to be not so great (or if you really, really want to make this when tomatoes are not exactly in season), you can always add a teaspoon of tomato paste to your risotto to bump up the flavor.
- 1 pound tomatoes (about 8 small beefsteaks)
- ¼ teaspoon each sea salt and coarse-ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 clove garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- A pinch of salt
- 5 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock or water)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
To prepare the baked tomatoes:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. Cut the beefsteak tomatoes in half and lay them face-up on a sheet pan. Sprinkle them with the sea salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Lay a slice or two of garlic on top of each tomato half.
3. Bake the tomatoes on the middle rack of the oven, uncovered, until they’re a bit grilled-looking and soft and yummy, about 1 hour.
4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature.
5. Chop the tomatoes roughly and reserve them in a bowl, along with as much of their liquid as you can retain.
To prepare the tomato topping:
1. Gently cook the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and salt together in a small pot over low heat until the oil is bubbly, the tomatoes are soft, and the mixture looks like a chunky sauce, about 20 minutes.
2. Remove the topping from heat and reserve.
To prepare the rice:
1. Put the chicken stock (or vegetable stock or water) on to boil.
2. Melt the butter and the olive oil together over high heat in another large pot. Add the onions and sweat them until they’re really soft, about 2 minutes, stirring as needed so they don’t color or brown.
3. Add the red pepper flakes to the onion-butter-olive-oil mixture and stir to combine.
4. Add the Arborio rice to the onion-butter-olive-oil mixture and mix well, so all the rice grains are coated, about 1 minute.
5. Add the white wine to the rice mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly to ensure that none of the rice sticks, until the wine has been completely absorbed and the rice is soft but not sticky, about 1 minute.
6. Add 3 cups of the boiling stock (or water) and the chopped baked tomatoes with their liquid. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the rice is al dente, just beginning to cook through, and the stock (or water) has evaporated, about 7 minutes.
7. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock (or water) and continue to cook, stirring well and often, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and become a thick, liquidy stew, another 7 to 8 minutes or so.
To finish the dish:
1. Remove the risotto from the heat.
2. Add the mascarpone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Mix well, so the risotto becomes rich and well combined. If the risotto is too thick for your taste, add a little leftover stock or water.
3. Serve in individual bowls, topped with the tomato mixture and a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano.