One of the joys of working from home is being able to make myself something for lunch that no one else in my family even remotely likes.
No matter if it’s stuffed with garlicky bread crumbs, spiced grains, ground meat, canned fish, beans or cheese, there’s something about the soft texture of a baked tomato that my spouse and child abhor. That means there’s more for me, and I’m happy to not share.
Certain leftovers, particularly grain salads, can make an excellent stuffing for tomatoes. Recently, though, I had some leftover ricotta, and used that as the base for an herb and Parmesan-flecked filling that was deeply creamy, highly savory and fast. It took about three minutes to mix up.
To make enough for one very hungry person or two moderately hungry ones, you’ll need two large-ish tomatoes. Heat the oven to 400 degrees before you start cutting them up.
Slice off the tops, just enough to remove the stem end and expose the tomatoes’ insides. Using a spoon (a serrated grapefruit spoon is excellent for this), scoop the tomato guts and seeds into a bowl, leaving the flesh around the perimeter intact so the tomatoes don’t collapse when they cook.
To the bowl, add 1 tablespoon chopped olives or capers, a grated or minced garlic clove, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of salt, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs. (Basil and oregano are nice, but use what’s around. Even dried will work, but you’ll want to use more like ¼ teaspoon.) Whisk in enough oil to make it seem like a vinaigrette, just a drizzle or two is all you need. Taste and add more salt or lemon, if needed, or maybe some more olives. This is your dressing, so make it to suit yourself, then set it aside while the tomatoes bake.
For the filling, mix 1 cup ricotta (or cottage cheese or farmers’ cheese), ½ cup grated Parmesan (or feta), a tablespoon or two of chopped herbs (you can use the same ones as in the dressing), ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest, lots of freshly ground black pepper or a pinch of red-pepper flakes and a drizzle of olive oil. Taste to see if it needs any salt. The Parmesan might take care of that, but if not, add a pinch of salt.
Scoop this mix into the tomatoes, mounding it on top. Put the tomatoes into a baking dish, then bake until the filling is hot and melty and a little browned, 25 to 35 minutes.
Pour the dressing over the tomatoes, and serve with more herbs on top, if you like, and some good bread on the side. And you don’t have to share — unless you want to, that is.
This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.