August 10th, 2010

Tomato Tomato Paella


It’s always a great pleasure for me to have houseguests who also love to cook. And not just for the fun of planning the meals together, or the camaraderie of working side by side in the kitchen. It’s the new things that I get to learn about, whether they are techniques, ingredients, or recipes. We all have such varied experiences with food; there is always something new to share.

My cousin’s husband John, an avid cook, shared this recipe with me. He prepared Tomato Paella as part of a multi-coursed dinner we enjoyed the last night of their visit. It won rave reviews from everyone.

The recipe is a Mark Bittman original. It appeared in The Minimalist column in the New York Times three years ago, and fiercely circulated the ‘net for its spectacular taste and simplicity. Somehow, it eluded me then, but, no matter, I’m on to it now! I couldn’t wait to make the dish myself.

Bittman stresses that it can be prepared with any variety of rice—a short grain style preferred—-and you can take the seasoning in a number of directions. If you have some nice threads of saffron, for a true Spanish take, please put them. Or perhaps smoked paprika. Or herbal notes: thyme, oregano, basil.

Because, really, this dish is about showcasing The Tomato.


Or, in my case, The TOMATOES.

Earlier this spring, I had planted a variety of heirlooms–green zebras, black zebras, cherokee purples, lemon boys, brandywines, sungolds. Each plant has, to date, produced only modestly, but the other day I realized, after picking, that I had a splendid representative from each plant.


What better way to use them than baked on top of savory arborio rice?

My resulting “paella” was a wonder. All the varied nuances of tomato goodness could be discerned in each bite, as each heirloom made its contribution: mellow and bright candied reds, acidy green, fragrant lemon-citrus.

It’s a visual treat, too.


I cooked it as part of Sunday brunch, served alongside poached farm eggs.

Of course, it is just as lovely as dinner side dish, as John had prepared, complementary to the salmon I smoked on our Big Green Egg. I recommend it too, as a meal’s centerpiece, served with an arugula salad, splashed with sherry vinegar.

The original recipe calls for 2 cups rice to 3 1/2 cups liquid. Considering it was just two of us eating, I decreased that to 1 cup rice/2 1/4 cups liquid. I kept the remainder of the recipe intact–tomato paste, garlic, onion, paprika. And, the quantity of tomatoes! I didn’t want to cut down on that!

Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil over the top before it goes into the oven…


TOMATO TOMATO PAELLA adapted from Mark Bittman
1 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Butter
1/2 medium Onion, small dice
1 T. minced Garlic
2 t. Paprika
1 T. Tomato Paste
2 c. Water
1/4 c. Red Wine (opt.)
Salt and Black Pepper
1 1/4 c. Arborio Rice
Assorted Heirloom Tomatoes: Brandywine, Lemon Boy, Green Zebra
(about 1 1/2 lbs.) Sliced into wedges

1 9″ skillet that is Oven-Safe, like a cast-iron skillet, 2″ deep

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Dissolve tomato paste in water. Heat skillet on medium, and add butter and olive oil. Saute onions until translucent, and add minced garlic. Stir in rice and paprika, stirring until the grains are coated. Add water solution and wine, stirring well. Season with a little salt and black pepper.

Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and place tomato wedges in circles around the top. Cover the top well with the wedges. Place uncovered into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Tomatoes will brown and caramelize, their juices encasing the rice. Check for rice-doneness–the grain will be firm, but nicely puffed.

Serves 6.



Oh, how we Love our Tomatoes.

Posted in Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegetables

22 Responses to “Tomato Tomato Paella”
  1. Claudette Patterson Says:

    This looks so good. Please bring some of this good food to us at secondharvest.

  2. FOODESSA Says:

    Nancy…this presentation is fabulous. Talk about showcasing the tomato…just beautiful. I can really see this on my next table spread. It’s nice to show off once and a while ;o)

    Now, all I need is some fruits that will spoil me soon…pickings have been pretty slim in our gardens this year.

    As usual…always refreshing and wonderful to come visit you.

    Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

  3. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    This looks great. So pretty. It’s perfect with all of your beautifully colored tomatoes. I know I’d like mine w/ a poached egg too.

    Just in case you need another zucchini recipe…
    This one is way too easy. Good to keep in the back pocket. Last night I made a Zucchini Crudo in a pattern very similar to your Tomato Paella. I basically used this recipe but skipped the onions and used basil instead of mint, parsley & chives. I served it with cherry tomatoes and some nice crusty bread. It was delicious.

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Denise, thanks for the link for the zucchini crudo—no doubt a Great one to keep in your back pocket. always room for yet another zucchini recipe!

  5. Tammy Says:

    Gorgeous! I love your photos and I will definitely try to make this. I also love that you served it with eggs.

  6. Michele Napoli Says:

    What a gorgeous presentation. Definitely a showstopper. Your garden must be fabulous.

  7. rachel Says:

    I read this last night and I have kept thinking about it all morning, I just love the idea and it looks so damn great. I am back in Rome now so this will get made for very very soon. Beautiful, delicious stuff Nancy.

  8. Maggie Says:

    Beautiful, Nance! And I must say, your tomato variety is excellent – it doesn’t take a huge harvest to make you happy!!

  9. nancy Says:

    Some impressive heirlooms you’ve grown this summer! Green zebras are my favorite. And I absolutely love this tomato paella! Breakfast of my dreams, with those perfectly poached eggs alongside. I just bought some achiote seeds but haven’t used them yet – maybe I’ll try them out in this to color and flavor the rice.

  10. Fluffy Says:

    the art is excellent on this post. the colour makes me want to ………paint

  11. Madeleine Says:

    Want it!

  12. Cathy Says:

    This is truly a way to indulge in beautiful tomatoes like yours. And what a happy surprise it was to read this post first thing this morning! It brought to mind an enjoyable visit and a memorable meal, as did the Spanish tortilla that John made on Monday.

  13. Juliana Says:

    Wow, what a nice dish…love the idea of having so many different tomatoes all together…beautiful!

  14. gigi Says:

    beautimous! as gorgeous as the paella is, and i certainly will give it a go…. i am lusting after those eggs that look poached to perfection. you must teach me how to do that !!

  15. Katarina Says:

    This looks FAB! Going to make it!

  16. Barbara Says:

    I cracked up at daughter Madeleine’s response-“want it”! Well sister Barbara wants it too!! Your tomatoes sure look nicer than ours, Nance. This dish looks scrumptious.
    I am back in Dickson now-and will attempt this.

  17. Mary Says:

    I have to try this. It really looks and sounds delicious. MB’s recipes are really great and not to be missed. Your photography is really great. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  18. Patrick O'Rourke Says:

    Just spent a few minutes this morning looking at a huge basket of mixed tomatoes wondering what to do with them. Now I know. Best PO

  19. John Reef Says:

    Nancy, beautiful paella and wonderfully photographed. Cathy and I are going to Eastern Market in DC tomorrow and I am going to look for some interesting tomatoes. You and Bill made our visit to Nashville great!

  20. Tracy Says:

    I am so jealous. I think I love Brandywines best, but will eat any tomato. This is such an interesting way of showcasing your bounty. It looks amazing. I can almost taste it.

  21., Teresa Blackburn Says:

    This looks like the most perfect recipe for summer tomatoes…I love the simplicity of it. Beautiful!

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