Baked Tomato Basil Rice

The rice cooks in the tomato sauce, leaving you with a warm, creamy, comforting dish that’s both rich from the beef stock, Burgundy, and tomato sauce, yet refreshing from the basil. If you have tomato sauce on hand, feel free to use that instead of the sauce recipe provided, adding basil, if necessary. It’ll be even simpler to prepare and that’s always a good thing.


THE RECIPE


Baked Tomato Basil Rice

(perfect for two, if used as more than a side)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 mid-sized cloves of garlic, minced
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 6 oz Arborio rice
  • 8 fl oz beef stock (recommended: Kitchen Basics)
  • 4 fl oz Burgundy or your choice of dry red wine
  • 4 fl oz basil tomato sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a mid-size dutch oven or skillet with a lid, combine the oil, garlic, and salt.
  3. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the garlic is golden, but not brown.
  4. Add the rice, stirring to coat with the oil and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the beef stock, wine, and tomato sauce, bringing it just to a simmer over moderate heat.
  6. Cover with the lid and bake until the rice is cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 30-35 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.

Baked Tomato Basil Rice Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions

Arborio Rice: This is a short grain rice most well-known for being used in risotto. This recipe is, actually, a “baked risotto,” but I don’t prefer to call it that because the outcome isn’t truly a risotto, which is much soupier in consistency.

That being said, if you can’t find Arborio rice, feel free to substitute with any short grain rice. I’ve even used sushi rice in a pinch.

If you can’t find short grain or just don’t have it on hand, any size grain will do, the texture will simply change.

Beef Stock: Make sure you’re using something that you think is delicious because it will have a big impact on the flavor of the dish. Also, feel free to substitute with any stock you like such as chicken or vegetable stock.

Cooking Garlic: You have to be careful when cooking garlic because it burns very easily. This is why you must constantly stir, but it really takes less than a minute to cook when minced, so it’s no real effort. Once the garlic starts to turn brown, it’s becoming overcooked and bitter. It would be better to undercook it than to overcook it.



Basil Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 plump garlic cloves, minced
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • One 28-oz can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes in juice, pureed
  • Leaves from two sprigs of fresh basil (about 10 large leaves), finely chopped

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  2. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat, just until the garlic turns golden, but does not brown.
  3. Add the pureed canned tomatoes to the pan along with the basil, stirring to combine.
  4. Turn up the heat and bring the sauce to a boil.
  5. Immediately lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.
  6. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Basil Tomato Sauce Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions

Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are not all created equal. I highly recommend you taste the raw tomato from a few different brands in order to be sure you’re buying one that really is good quality.

If you can’t find whole peeled canned tomatoes in juice, feel free to substitute with any equivalent canned tomato or canned tomato sauce of the same volume.

Simmering Tomato Sauce: Tomato sauce tends to bubble up and spatter, no matter how lightly it’s simmering, especially if it’s a thick sauce. I highly recommend a splatter shield so you don’t have tomato all over your kitchen.

Unused Sauce: Whatever sauce isn’t used with the rice can, of course, be refrigerated or frozen for later. In fact, if you like the sauce, I’d go ahead and make it in bulk, freezing it so there’s no work adding it to whatever recipe you like, including this one.


THE STORY


So, Take Home Chef…I told you it’s inspiring me! Last night we had a baked tomato basil “risotto” with roast chicken and tonight is my very first homemade cream of potato soup! Hopefully an equally tasty, yet healthier version (with barely any cream). We’ll see 😉

I was trying to come up with a way to use the leftover roast chicken yesterday and all I could think about was the “Neely’s Get Yo’ Man Chicken.” It’s one of my absolute favorite dishes (which…I know I say about a LOT, but when I crave this, I need it) in which you cook chicken in a bath of tomato sauce on the stove top. What gets you is the combination of herbs and spices–they create a very strong flavor that is truly addicting, which is obviously how it got its name! The story is that Pat Neely was won over by this, his very first meal cooked by his wife, Gina. Since my chicken was already cooked, though, I needed to come up with something else. Normally I eat this with rice (as the recipe states), so I figured I could easily turn it into a tomato risotto and simply shred up the roast chicken to mix in, which is exactly what I did.

Whenever I try to create my own recipe, I try to use another as a foundation…it makes me a lot more comfortable because I feel I’m less likely to fail. I find this method enables you to be incredibly creative and, eventually, find that the base recipe is no longer necessary!

So, I looked through every cookbook I own that could possibly have a tomato risotto recipe and coincidentally, I found a “Baked Risotto with Tomato Sauce and Pecorino” in Patricia Wells’ Trattoria. She combines her tomato sauce with the traditional chicken stock, something I wouldn’t have considered, though it makes perfect sense. This is essentially what I took from her recipe since I was missing other key ingredients. I found that I have no hard Italian cheeses, whatsoever (not even a backup supply of Parmesan, *gasp!), and also was out of chicken stock! In a pinch, I simply omitted cheese completely (which is healthier, thank you) and replaced the chicken stock with beef stock. About four ounces short of what I needed in stock, I added just a bit of Burgundy to even it out 🙂

I have to say, this dish was exactly what I was looking for. Once the risotto was finished, I quickly heated up some of that leftover roast chicken and threw it (chopped up) into the rice. My one qualm is that the flavor of the chicken didn’t quite marry with the flavor of the rice; it was too plain! Had I been making chicken from scratch (as I likely will next time), I one hundred percent would cook the chicken in the tomato sauce, like the Neely’s.

What’s great is that you can bring in as much (or as little) tomato flavor as you like. If you find you’d have preferred more, mix in a little extra sauce at the end. Then, next time, add more sauce initially. When I usually make the Neely’s recipe, I do mix the sauce into my rice, so you may also prefer a plainer risotto with the sauce on top! I always encourage your own experimentation 🙂

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