If you’re looking for a fun alternative to the cup of tomato soup that’s typically paired with a gooey grilled cheese – then look no further than these sumptuous baked tomatoes! Baked tomatoes are certainly not new. I’ve found recipes in cookbooks belonging to my Grandmothers dating to the 1930s and another variation published in the mid 1940s. In the 60s and 70s this dish was considered an elegant addition – one frequently found at dinner parties or formal buffets. This delicious method of preparing fresh tomatoes is one worth keeping on hand.
There are a variety of recipes for baked tomatoes – some simply offer a bit of seasoning and a dusting of Parmesan cheese across the top. Other versions scoop out the meat of the tomatoes, mix in more layers of goodness before everything is tucked back into those big, beautiful tomatoes and baked. This is that version.
It’s a take on a recipe from the 70s that I found in my Mom’s collection. Ripe, plump tomatoes are filled with a mixture of spinach that has been sautéed with a touch of garlic along with crispy bacon and fontina cheese. After baking for a quick bit, there is one final sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and just before serving they’re topped with a dollop of sour cream.
This twist on red ripe tomatoes makes them fabulous as a side and hearty enough to serve as the main course.
4 large tomatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil – or 1 tablespoon bacon renderings plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package fresh spinach, 5-ounces – about 10 cups or a 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out of the spinach
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
3 slices cooked bacon
¾ cup breadcrumbs
1-3/4 cup reserved tomatoes, divided
¼ freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup shredded or shaved fontina cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Sour cream for garnish
Slice a thin piece off the top of the tomatoes.
Using a spoon or melon baller scoop out the meat of the tomatoes, leaving about ¼” for the shell. Reserve the meat of the tomatoes.
Season the inside of the tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, sprinkling about ¼ teaspoon into each shell. Turn the tomato shells over and let them drain for about 30 minutes. A baking rack placed over your sink works well for this step.
In a large sauté pan heat the oil and bacon renderings over medium-heat. Add the fresh spinach, ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt and the black pepper.
Cook until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional five minutes. Crumble the bacon into the spinach, along with the breadcrumbs and one cup of the reserved tomato meat.
Continue cooking until the tomatoes are very soft and cooked down, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and add the remaining ¾ cup of tomatoes, the ground nutmeg and the fontina cheese. Check for seasoning and if needed, add the remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
Place the tomato shells in a shallow baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray. Fill each shell with the filling and bake at 350-degrees for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese over the top of each tomato and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream!
Be careful and don’t over bake the tomatoes or the sides will collapse. You can also bake the tomatoes in individual serving dishes.
You can prep these ahead and refrigerate for a day or two until you’re ready to bake. Just let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to baking. Follow the same steps for baking.