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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Tomato rice

Published: October 22, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

My grandmother is one of those cooks who doesn’t need measurements. While she cooks, she tastes and smells the food and instinctively knows which sauce to add, which seasoning to sprinkle. She has a process that can’t be repeated because it’s never the same. This is both wonderful and frustrating. It makes her cooking an extension of her personality, warm, comforting and flavorful, but it’s also hard to learn. One day my sister watched my grandmother cook our favorite dish, tomato rice, and wrote down what she did. Below is an attempt to recreate my grandmother’s magic.

Tomato rice is a Portuguese dish that is easy to make and simple to modify for a wide range of tastes. Tomato rice has a subtle flavor that can transform a simple rice dish into a more complex and satisfying dining experience.


A large pot

A wooden spoon

A cutting board

A sharp knife

A liquid measuring cup

A dry measuring cup


1/2 of a medium onion (diced)

A tbsp olive oil

1 inch of butter

minced garlic (to taste)

2 basil leaves

2 cups water

1 cup rice

8 oz. can tomato sauce

Tips: To make the flavor of the rice more complex, use canned tomato sauce that has already been seasoned.


1. Put the large pot on the stove on a low heat setting. Once warm, coat the bottom of the pot with a thin coating of olive oil.

2. Add the butter and minced onion to the pot and cook until the the onions have a golden hue (before they start to brown) and then put in the garlic and basil leaves. Add pepper and salt to taste.

3. Remove the basil leaves and then remove the pot from the burner. Pour the tomato sauce and the water into the pot.

4. Replace the pot onto the burner and adjust the heat to a high setting. Wait until the mixture starts to boil.

5. Adjust the heat to low and add the rice to the pot. Cover the pot and let the rice simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. You will know by sight that the rice is done when it has soaked up the tomato mixture and is a slight orange color.

Tomato rice is great as a side dish, but it is also fantastic as the foundational ingredient of a rice dish. To make it into the main dish I recommend mixing into the rice a can of rinsed black beans or cooked chicken. Enjoy!