Yemista: Stuffed Tomatoes with Rice and Ground Beef

Summer Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice and Ground Meat - Yemista. Photo © Lynn Livanos Athan
    105 min
Ratings (15)

Yemista means "stuffed" in Greek, and this recipe traditionally features tomatoes. This recipe is a staple of the summer season when tomatoes are abundant and at their peak. You can also use the same filling for peppers, zucchini or any other vegetables that may be available.

This recipe makes enough filling for 6 large tomatoes and 3 medium zucchini. You can adjust it according to your needs. Feel free to add raisins, pine nuts or slivered almonds if you like.

What You'll Need

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 6 tbsp. uncooked rice
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 6 pats of butter or margarine

How to Make It

Prep the Vegetables

  1. Slice the tops of the tomatoes, leaving a small piece attached to the base to act as a hinge for the tomato top. This helps to keep the tops matched to the bottoms. 
  2. Using a spoon, scoop out the tomato flesh and reserve in a bowl. Be careful not to pierce through the skin of the tomatoes. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar into each tomato cavity to help reduce the acidity.
  3. Slice zucchini in half and scoop out the zucchini flesh and add to the bowl. Using a food processor or food mill, process the pulp until you have a chunky liquid. Set aside.

Prepare the Stuffing

  1. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. When all the pink has disappeared, add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the parsley, rice, half the tomato pulp puree, tomato paste and tomato sauce. (The paste is added to deepen the flavor and also to improve the color of the sauce.) Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce a bit so that it is not too runny. The uncooked rice will begin to absorb the excess liquid as it cooks.

Stuffing and Baking the Vegetables

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of a rectangular pan. Assemble the vegetables in the pan and use the potato wedges to keep the vegetables upright. (You can also put in some carrots to sweeten the sauce as they roast.)
  3. Stuff the tomatoes and zucchini about 3/4 full. Replace the tomato "caps" and sprinkle the tomatoes and zucchini with breadcrumbs. Place a pat of butter or margarine on each tomato top. Pour the remaining pulp puree into the bottom of the pan and season the vegetables with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour or until the vegetables have become tender and cooked through. For best results, you can lower the heat to 275 F and let the vegetables slow roast for a few hours.
  5. The flavors develop as the vegetables sit so they can be enjoyed even more as leftovers the next day.