Sep 2, 2013

The Mail Slot {and Risotto Stuffed Tomatoes}

My great grandparents lived in a modest house on two lots in the suburbs of New Orleans.  Rather than a huge house with very little yard like you tend to find now, most of their property was great-grandpa's garden.  The house was very small--smaller than the garden, which overflowed with broccoli, greens, green beans, tomatoes.

Risotto Stuffed Tomatoes: Ms. enPlace

There is one feature of their house that stood out for my brothers and me.  The mail slot that was built right into the brick wall.  It wasn't a mail slot in the front door where mail would drop to the floor.  This was a small box built into the wall, accessible from the inside by a little lift-up wooden door.  No one else we knew had such a thing, making it a plaything when we visited.

We would "mail" each other giggles (and sometimes insults) through the outer and inner doors.  Send each other wiggly fingers through the narrow opening spanning inside and not.

Sometimes we were sweet, shipping bouquets of white clover, yellow wood sorrel, violet wood sorrel, and buttercups through the mail slot for great-grandma to discover after we headed home.

Sometimes we were little shits, leaving doodle bugs (pill bugs), worms...or maybe a lizard if we felt really bold.

Great-grandma prepared whatever came out of the garden.   I suspect without recipes.  And tomatoes were usually served as is.  Maybe with a little salt and pepper.

Packed with garlic, savory with Italian sausage, and summery with fresh basil, when it comes to tomato recipes and doing something with them more than slicing, this is one of my favorites.

Print It

Risotto Stuffed Tomatoes

4 ripe, medium to large tomatoes
2 links Italian sausage, hot or mild, casing removed
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 large garlic cloves, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup reserved juices from the tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, warmed
1/3 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400.
Cut off the top third of each tomato and set the tops to the side.  Using a paring knife and/or a spoon, remove the inside of each tomato, being careful not to puncture the walls of the tomatoes.  Reserve the pulp and juices.  Place the tomatoes in a medium greased baking dish.  You may need to prop them against each other so that they stand up.

Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to a medium skillet.  Saute the sausage over medium heat until it has browned lightly.  Lower the heat and add the garlic, cooking a few minutes more.

While the sausage browns and garlic sautes, break up the tomato pulp into pieces, straining and reserving the juices.

Add the Arborio to the skillet and saute until it is translucent (5-7 minutes).  Add 1/2 cup of the tomato juices and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed.  Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until the liquid is almost absorbed. After about 15 minutes, test the rice.  If it is still hard, add a small amount of broth or water and repeat stirring until the liquid is almost absorbed.  If the risotto is chewy, remove from the heat.  Stir in the basil and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Spoon mixture into the tomato shells (there may be some left over).  Place the tomato tops on the stuffed tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake until the tomatoes are soft and the rice is tender, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

linking with:

Who Needs a Cape?  Linky Jam Hands
Memories by the Mile
Feeding Big
Love Bakes Good Cakes
nap-time creations
White Lights on Wednesdays
Miz Helen’s Country Cottage Photobucket BWS tips button Freedom Fridays


  1. Michelle, those tomatoes look oh so good ! x

  2. Anonymous9/02/2013

    At least we never put the hose in it and turned it on

  3. Oh man, do I ever love fresh tomato season! Your tomatoes look yummah! And thank goodness you never put the hose in the mail slot! Your granmama would have had a fit!

  4. This looks WONDERFUL!! What a delicious and beautiful looking dinner! All those delicious flavors packed into the tomatoes sound amazing!

  5. These are kind of tradition here, and I remember my Mom making these veggie for me
    I LOVED it !!

  6. I love your memories of the mail slot. We had a milk box in the wall of our house that my friends and I used to play with. Your Grandparents' garden sounds wonderful, and I love the sound of your Risotto Stuffed Tomatoes too. Tomatoes fresh from the garden are one of my favourite treats and this is a gorgeous way to serve them. I'm pinning this recipe to my 'Tomatoes' board on Pinterest :-)

  7. I love all the character of an older home. I can imagine the fun you and your brothers had with the mail slot. For us it was the laundry chute. We sent everything down that thing. No telling how many surprises were found in the washer and dryer. Just thinking about it makes me feel sorry for my mom ;-)

    Love the idea of a risotto stuffed tomato. Very elegant presentation but comforting at the same time. Plus, it's like built in portion control!

    Hope you had a great birthday! I couldn't hold out on the broccoli and gorgonzola pie. I just bought the stuff at Kroger. I think I'm gonna try making baby pies. We'll see how it goes.

  8. This sounds so good, you are making me hungry! =)
    Stopping by from "Memories by the Mile"!

  9. I ate tomatoes stuffed with lamb mince and rice a few times when I holidayed in Greece, but I never thought of stuffing them with risotto - brilliant idea and I can't wait to try it.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories.

  10. Your tomatoes were one of our Featured Picks at last weeks SUPER SUNDAY Link Party! Congrats!

    Stop back over this week & link up some more SUPER posts!

    Who Needs A Cape?
    Not Your Average Super Moms!

  11. What a cool house... one of my grandmother's had a great big house that was divided into apartments. She actually lived in an apartment in her house and most of the backyard was my grandfather's garden. Love the story and the tomatoes. Thanks for sharing them with us on foodie friday.

  12. LOL .... I think all children can be more precious at certain times more so than others!! LOL. Loved reading about the mail slot ;) Your Risotto Stuffed Tomatoes sound delicious, Michelle!


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