Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: Brown rice meets tomato, peppers and onion for a welcome break from the pasta routine.

Little girl eating tomato rice

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Our house is a pasta-loving house. We should just move to Italy and call it a day. But since that's not happening anytime soon, I thought it might be time to break out of the pasta rut we've all been happily wallowing in and add some other starches to the mix.

While I'm an equal opportunity pasta sauce eater, Clara and Jonathan are both red sauce -- or "gravy," as my husband's fellow New Jerseyans call it -- devotees. I make a batch of some kind of tomato-based sauce pretty much every week to satisfy the beasts. A couple of weeks ago, instead of serving it over tortellini or fusilli as per usual, I decided to use the sauce to create a simple riff on pauljoseph's Tomato Rice -- more Italian, less Indian.

More: The only red sauce you'll ever need, from Marcella Hazan.

Tomato Rice

I also happened to have some leftover escalivada in the fridge, which I chopped up a bit and used as a base for the dish so it wasn't just rice and tomato sauce (you can also start with diced onion and red pepper, which I've done since). I used long grain brown rice because I had it in the pantry, and because I thought the nutty flavor would add a little more complexity.

The first time Clara tried my tomato rice was when she came into the office to shoot these photos. Yes, this was a risky move. Some might even call it cocky. But I was so sure she'd like the flavors and textures that I threw caution to the wind.

When I handed her a little cup of the rice, she looked at it skeptically -- why was I giving her something that looked like pasta and tomato sauce but clearly wasn't? As you can see, we did convince her to take a bite, and for the record, that cup was empty by the time the camera stopped.

Tomato Rice

Tomato Rice

Makes about 3 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 cup long grain brown rice

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Californiana
  • newkiwi
  • witloof
  • PaulaJo
  • ChefJune
I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


Californiana January 31, 2015
This is a go-to recipe for me now. Previous attempts with other tomato rice recipes have left me disappointed because they often include a metallic taste (both with canned & fresh tomatoes). I have prepared this recipe with both canned & fresh tomatoes & prefer the latter however, can just as well use canned when it isn't tomato season. Recently, I used half brown rice & half wild rice and the result was a deliciously nutty & slightly chewy texture - I loved it! Thanks, Merrill!
newkiwi November 24, 2014
I mentioned arsenic in rice mainly in regards to children's health. Here's a link to Consumer Reports' latest research.
witloof October 20, 2014
I've made this a couple of times now and it's really delicious! Thanks!
PaulaJo October 15, 2014
The eyes of a child. One forgets how bright and clear and shining they are.
newkiwi October 6, 2014
This looks delicious! BUT...does anyone else worry about the high concentrations of arsenic in brown rice? We've stopped eating it. Only occasionally do we eat white rice, which contains arsenic, too, but not nearly as much. (Our source was an extensive article in Consumer Reports some time ago.)
ChefJune October 2, 2014
Love Tomato Rice. Often bury chicken pieces in it. Now I want to try yours, with that Escalivada!
Melinda F. September 30, 2014
Fannie Farmer has a similar recipe that starts with leftover rice (yes!). I believe she calls it Parched Rice. There is much cheesiness, though, and fewer veggies. I may combine the two!
Sara S. September 30, 2014
This looks great. It kind of reminds me of a Persian dish called Estamboli Polow, basically another tomato rice. Excellent stuff.
Merrill S. September 30, 2014
Well, I certainly can't show her any of these comments lest they go to her head! Thanks for the lovely compliments.
Panfusine September 30, 2014
The star here is little Clara, the tomato rice is a side dish!
creamtea September 30, 2014
What a showstopper! Oh, and the rice looks good too.
aargersi September 30, 2014
The rice sounds good and all, but mostly Clara and the little pink Osh-Kosh overalls are ridiculously cute.