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Tomato gratin: recipe of Romagna

Pomodori gratinati

Tomato gratin.
The taste of my summers and a typical side dish of Romagna cuisine.

Tomato gratin alla Romagnola recipe

Summer colors

Summer is made up of many colors but, perhaps, among many, and although tempted by the golden color of wheat fields and the crystal blue of some summer skies, I choose red.

Poppy red.
Cherry red.
Watermelon red.
Sunset red.

And then there are them. Tomatoes. The reddest of them all. They dot the garden in red and, when they ripen in the sun, give off an intense, inviting scent.

At home, when I was a child, tomatoes were the stars of the summer table.
I ate them in salads and cold pasta dishes, gratin and grilled. During summer grilling in Romagna, the holy trinity of vegetables consisted of aubergines, zucchini, and tomatoes. Others, such as peppers, are recent history.

Tomatoes also appeared, of course, like the sauce for pasta.

But I also remember the cherry tomatoes, place in the jars, with a few basil leaves, and then cooked in the big pots like passata.

Tomato gratin

Baked stuffed tomatoes are a dish common everywhere in Italy but with different stuffings.

I love to share my family recipe to make tomato gratin “alla romagnola”.
It is one of the typical side dishes, alternative to grilled tomatoes (which my grandmother seasoned with chopped rosemary, salt, and garlic similar to salamoia Bolognese), were tomatoes au gratin.

As simple as they were good. Even today, when I prepare cherry tomato gratin, I always make a few more, just in case. What’s more, they are also good the day after.

The magic happens during cooking. The breadcrumb filling forms a crunchy crust which keeps the tomato flesh soft. Thanks to the protection, the tomato transfers its flavor to the bread, which remains moist and tasty underneath.

In its simplicity, a perfect dish. I recommend accompanying it with bread or, even better, piadina. Especially the Bertinoro type, not too thin, otherwise it gets wet and breaks.

Tomato gratin alla Romagnola recipe

How to make tomato gratin

Baked or in the pan, but the cooking time changes.

If you opt for the pan, grease the bottom and cook for about 40 minutes with the lid. Only open the pan towards the end to allow the crust to form. On the web, many recipes indicate a cooking time of 20 minutes for the pan, sometimes even less.

No garlic in the recipe at home; I don’t remember it being used at my friends’ house (whereas grilled tomatoes want it). If you can’t resist its taste, chop it very, very finely as you will have to mix it with breadcrumbs.

Also, following family customs, I don’t mix the breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese (which melts in the cooking process and changes the flavor of the tomatoes au gratin while you should feel the taste of the tomato).

Mix the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt and the fragrance of a chopped herb, fresh or dried (usually oregano, rosemary, or parsley).

Before the recipe, two nonna’s tricks.

Pour the breadcrumbs in a bowl, add olive oil and then, using your fingers, mix the bread with the oil (see photo below the recipe); only then add a little water and mix again. In this way, the breadcrumbs remain compact without running away from the tomato.

Cook the tomatoes gratin at a low temperature to prevent the bread from burning or drying out too much. In mid-cooking, if necessary, add a little oil to each tomato.

The last thing, this is a recipe “to taste” or quanto basta (q.b.).
You will have to use your eye to fill the tomatoes.

Buona cucina, Monica

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Tomato gratin recipe

Food tips

Choose firm ripe tomatoes.

Usually I cook 1 tomato per person. If tomatoes are little, cook 6 tomato.

Cut in two tomatoes, remove the middle and seeds, then drained from excess water and filled tomato halves.

I love love love cherry tomato gratin.

“Alla Romagnola” tomato gratin recipe

serves 4

4 tomatoes, round type such as Pisanello variety
breadcrumbs, 2-3 tablespoons for each tomato halves (or about 100g)
olive oil, 1 small spoonful for each tomato halves
water, half a glass
salt to taste
1 sprig of oregano or rosemary or parsley (whichever aromatic you choose, use only the leaves)


Cut the tomatoes in half.

With the help of a knife and a teaspoon, remove the central part (the hardest heart), trying not to cut the skin, and the seeds.

Lightly salt each tomato half and place them upside down in a colander for half an hour.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt and the finely chopped aromatics.

Add the oil and mix the breadcrumbs by running them through your fingers, then pour in the water but do not make the bread mushy, then pour in the liquid a little at a time.

Preheat the oven to 180-190C degrees.

Fill the tomatoes using a spoon and your fingers without pressing too hard.

Place the tomatoes next to each other in a lightly greased baking dish. Place in the oven, lower the temperature to 170C degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes.

If the oven seems too hot and the tomatoes are undercooked, cover the tray with aluminum foil.

The tomato gratin cooked in the pan, on a medium-low flame, are ready after about 40 minutes (pour a little water on the bottom of the pan, even if greased with oil).

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