Back in another lifetime – when we lived in San Francisco – our weekends were quite different than today. We were both Monday-Friday employees and Saturdays were spent doing chores and watching the food shows on KQED. My parents would always stop by at some point in the day and we’d stop whatever we were doing, consume a pot of coffee, and in 30 minutes they’d be on their way. The perfect parental visit.

The cooking shows would be on and depending upon the show – there were quite a few that started early in the morning and ran all day ending at 4pm with Lidia – my mother and I would often yeah or nay their recipes and rework them to suit our vastly-superior culinary skills.  Mom had pretty much stopped cooking by then, but she still had strong opinions. (Gee… I wonder where I get that from?!?)

Two people we never criticized, however, were Julia Child and Lidia Bastianich.

I’ve always been a fan of Lidia and her style of cooking. Taking a few really good ingredients and putting them together – letting the ingredients speak for themselves – is a perfect approach to cooking and eating. It’s pretty much how I learned to cook – before the hotels I worked in decided to complicate things in the ’70s and early ’80s.

My professional cooking days ended years ago and once freed of the professional kitchen, the amateur cook could take off. Cooking became a joy – not a chore. Food became fun – not 1800 salads that all looked exactly the same. After a while, it even became fun to go out to really nice restaurants, again. On one trip to New York shortly after moving east, we had dinner at her flagship restaurant Felidia. It was fabulous.

But even though I love the concept of someone cooking dinner for me and doing the dishes and all that, I’d much rather eat at home, today. I really dislike the pretentiousness involved in dining out. I’m much more the neighborhood trattoria kinda guy – which is why this recipe struck such a cord.

Back here, we watch cooking shows on Sunday. Or, rather, Victor watches them while I’m doing a website or something. Every now and again he calls me into the living room to see something – like the stuffed tomato from Lidia’s show yesterday.

We both started drooling and I knew immediately that it was going to be dinner tonight.

The concept is beautiful – a tomato that has been hollowed out, stuffed with a bread stuffing and baked. When it’s about half-done, an egg is cracked into it and it goes back into the oven under a blanket of cheese. How could it be wrong?

Lidia called it a brunch or lunch dish, but since we were having them for dinner, I added a bed of pasta. The pasta was totally unnecessary.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 1 large tomato per person
  • about 3/4 cup dressing per tomato – a simple bread dressing of your choice will work
  • Shredded granna padano cheese
  • 1 egg, per person per tomato

Preheat oven to 375°. Hollow out tomatoes leaving a thick shell. Place seeds and pulp into a mesh strainer and work to yield as much juice as possible.

Butter a baking dish adequate for the amount of tomatoes. Stuff each tomato with your prepared stuffing, making an indentation where an egg will fit. Pour reserved juice into pan.

Cover pan and bake about 20 minutes.

Uncover pan and crack an egg into each tomato. Top with shredded cheese and return to the oven and bake until the whites are set but the yolks still a bit runny – about 12 or so minutes.

Serve with a bit of the baking juices.

These totally rocked. Alas, Nonna wasn’t overly impressed – even though I made hers without the egg.

Oh well. We liked it – and I’m sure we will be making them, again.