Gemista or stuffed tomatoes & peppers are one of the most popular summer recipes in Greece.
What are Gemista?
Gemista or yemista (in Greek it means ‘filled with’) is a traditional recipe for oven baked Greek stuffed tomatoes and/or other vegetables.
Traditional gemista can be either vegetarian/vegan, when are filled with rice, vegetables and herbs. They can also be filled with a ground meat, or a combination of rice and ground meat. The ground meat can be beef, pork or turkey. Every Greek household has its own gemista recipe.
What other vegetables can I use?
- Gemista is usually a summer food due to the abundance of tomatoes and other summer vegetables available. Stuffed bell peppers are also included in gemista as well as zucchini and their blossoms.
- Stuffed tomatoes and peppers always have potatoes surrounding them in the pan. The potatoes get all the juices from the veggies and are SO good. They remain tender on the inside but get crisp brown edges from the roasting.
- The best potatoes for gemista are yukon Gold in my opinion. I don’t remove the skin, it is very thin and I love it when it crisps up. baby yukon Gold potatoes are great for Gemista, the size is ideal. I just slice them in half, season them and pop them around the stuffed vegetables.
The trick is to take the flesh out of the veggies add it to the stuffing mixture. Grate them in a hand grater or add everything in a food processor for a quick chop. The addition of lots of fresh herbs such as parsley, dill and mint as well a couple of tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil give brightness. You can add pine nuts and raisins in the mix, I opted out this time, preferring a more simple approach.
Gemista can be made with rice or ground meat. I prefer the rice version, they are lighter and can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature. I love eating them at room temperature with the absolutely necessary feta cheese on the side and a generous piece of crusty bread to dip in the delicious sauce.
Gemista is an unpretentious delicious Greek dish that is a staple in the summer. Dipping a piece of bread in the sauce is a treat and a quick delicious snack. The aroma of the food while it bakes is captivating to say the least. Makes the kitchen smell like a sweet Greek summer. I love it.
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- Try the traditional Briam, the Greek version of ratatouille. It is delicious, full of veggies and extra virgin olive oil goodness.
- In the summer, these stuffed zucchini blossoms are one of my absolute favorites.
- The shrimp bake-garides saganaki is a decadent dish your guests will love.
- 4 tomatoes ripe but firm large tomatoes
- 4 bell peppers any color you like. Green are more bitter, red, orange and yellow are sweet.
- 4 yukon gold potatoes cut in wedges. I like to leave the skin on, it's very tasty 🙂
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil in total
- 14 oz tomatoes crushed I like San Marzano tomatoes such as Gustarosso
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 ½ cup long grain white rice
- 1 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 cup fresh mint chopped
- 1 cup fresh dill finely chopped
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- Greek dry oregano
- freshly ground pepper
- Greek feta cheese optional
- crusty bread optional
- Using a sharp slice off the bottom side of the tomatoes, cut about 1/8 of an inch or even less if you can. Save the little cap on the side.
- Very carefully scoop out the flesh, making sure you do not rip the tomato skin.
- Place the flesh in a separate bowl and set aside.
- Using again the sharp knife slice the bottom of the bell peppers, cut about 1/4 inch this time. Save the little pepper cap on the side.
- Very carefully remove the bell pepper flesh, rinse each under water if you have to remove any seeds. Do the same for the pepper shell, make sure it’s all clean and no seeds are left inside. Save the pepper flesh on the same bowl with the tomato flesh.
- You can use your hands a hand grater or a food processor gently to mash the veggie flesh and make sure no big pieces are left. Add the extra tomatoes (after you mash them) in the same bowl. Set aside.
- As you finish scooping up and cleaning each vegetable place it in your large baking pan, open side up. Cover each tomato and pepper with their little caps.
Time for the filling
- In a large sauté pan add 4 tbs olive oil. In medium heat sauté the onion 2-3 min until soft and fragrant. Add the rice. Sauté rice 2-3 min or until it looks transparent.
- Turn the heat off and -if your pan is large enough otherwise trader to a large bowl- add the tomato/pepper mix, the mint, dill and parsley and mix well. Add 1 tbs dry oregano. Add 1 tbsp sugar. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix everything together very well.
Fill the veggies
- Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C
- Add a tsp of sugar inside the bottom every tomato and pepper.
- Using a table spoon take a spoonful of the mixture and start filling your veggies. Fill around 3/4 from the top. The rice will grow in size as it cooks and you don’t want to overflow your veggies. Cover each with their little caps.
- In a separate bowl mix the potatoes with 1-2 tbs olive oil and season with salt pepper and a pinch of oregano.
- Fill the space between the tomatoes and peppers with potato pieces. Any mixture you have left you can sprinkle on the potatoes and around the veggies, it will make the sauce yummy!
- On top of each tomato and pepper add 1 tsp or so breadcrumbs.
- Any olive oil you have left drizzle it it evenly all over the pan. Add 1 cup of water carefully to the bottom of pan -that way you don’t disturb your filled veggies and potatoes.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and continue baking for another 10-20 min until most liquid has evaporated and tops of veggies are nice and golden.
- Enjoy with a piece (or two) of good crusty bread and greek feta cheese.
- I find that gemista are always better the next day. Because they are cooked in olive oil they are great in room temperature. That’s what makes gemista such an awesome summer food.