romaine pesto and egg-stuffed tomatoes

“Romaine? Like the lettuce?”
“Like the lettuce. And parsley, you make it into a pesto.”
“But not with basil?”
“No. And then you scoop out a tomato and you put it in the bottom and bake an egg in it.”
“I don’t know, Deb, it sounds kind of weird.”
“It does, right? I mean, pureed lettuce? Blech.”
“So why make it?”
“It’s calling to me.”

Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, and my husband — who was just going to grab some Murray’s Bagels for us — has pretty much given up trying to understand. But, I’ve had a whole week of errands, working late and after-work engagements and I haven’t had a single home-cooked anything since those wee tartlets and I was fiending for the kitchen by Saturday morning. Fiending.

Even walking to the store, I was wondering what I was getting into. Remembering Luisa’s horrendous spinach pesto experience, I wondered how the flavor of ground up Romaine lettuce could be any less flat, and to be honest, I’m not sure I see the point in making pesto with anything but basil because why mess with what works splendidly? Are we really that desperate for new foods to eat? But, I followed through and we are both very glad that I did.

romaine pesto and egg-stuffed tomatoes

The pesto really surprised me; that single clove of garlic, parsley and seasoning packed more flavor than I thought it would, but it was subtle enough not to overwhelm the tomato or eggs. (Alex said it tasted “green,” a word he also uses to describe the smell of my Aveda shampoo. I have only a vague understanding of what it means.) We liked it enough to spread some extra on ciabatta toast. I drew the line, though, at sautéing the lettuce like greens with pancetta, as even the photo accompanying the recipe made it look like slimy mess. I instead crisped up some prosciutto in a pan, my favorite form of “bacon”, and the whole thing came together pretty quickly. I’m totally saving this one for next time I have people over for brunch, and also as a reminder that sometimes, my hunches are wrong in a good way.

romaine pesto and egg-stuffed tomatoes

Romaine Pesto and Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2006

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head romaine (about 1 1/2 lb) *
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 oz finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
6 large tomatoes (about 3 inches in diameter)
6 large eggs at room temperature

Strip romaine leaves from stems, reserving both separately, then tear leaves into roughly 2-inch pieces. Measure 4 loosely packed cups of leaves and reserve remainder. With motor running, add garlic to food processor to finely chop. Turn off and add the 4 cups romaine leaves along with the parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cheese, then pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add remaining cup oil in a slow stream, blending until incorporated.

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut off about 1/8 inch from top of each tomato with a sharp knife.** Gently scrape out pulp and seeds with a spoon and discard them. Put tomatoes, cut sides up, in a 9-inch glass or ceramic dish and spoon 1 tablespoon romaine-parsley pesto into each tomato (you will have extra pesto). Crack 1 egg into each tomato and season with salt and pepper. Bake eggs in tomatoes until whites are set and yolks are still runny, 18 to 22 minutes.

* I didn’t use nearly this much lettuce. For one, I was only making four eggs, and two, I had a hunch this would make an egregious amount. I may have used 4-6 leaves, tops, and half the oil and parsley.

** I ended up beveling a little sliver off the bottoms, too, to stop them from rolling over in the dish and dumping out their eggs, and you may have guessed happened before I came up with my brilliant solution. Next time I’d put a droplet of oil underneath the beveled tomatoes, as they stuck a little to the bottom, something I should have also seen coming.

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51 comments on romaine pesto and egg-stuffed tomatoes

  1. I love it when something makes me hesitate and think um maybe I should skip this and then I try it and have a winner!
    What would have been the result with basil pesto?
    Yes, this looks really good for company.

  2. I know exactly what Alex means when he says it tastes green, just means it tastes fresh and clean and… I can’t describe it better but it’s a good thing.

    Also our local cafe makes rocket pesto with their breakfasts and it’s awesome and light and tastes green too.

  3. What an amazing result, I’m glad you experimented and created this marvel! JUst a question – how on earth did you hollow out your tomatos? I’ve tried to do so with a teaspoon before and just ended up destroying it so that it collapsed!

  4. deb

    Tanna – I considered using traditional pesto, especially because I have ton of basil on my windowsill, bagging for it. I’m sure it would have been great, but I was concerned it might have tasted a little overpowering. Still delicious though; basil pesto is one of my favorite things.

    Carolyn – Thank you.

    Lucy – Rocket pesto sounds sooo good. Arugula is definitely one of my favorite tastes on earth. I think I might try that next time.

    Ellie – They said to use a spoon, but I used a grapefruit knife. It worked pretty well; better on the ones I worked slowly and patiently on.

    Tammi – I was totally disappointed in these tomatoes. These “Holland, vine-on” tomatoes they sell here are a total sham. They look perfect and red on the outside, and inside, too often, fibrous and pale pink or white. It’s what I get for buying produce at Garden of Eden and not the farmers’ market.

    Kate – You can’t win! I think you can totally make this just for one, though, the recipe divides pretty easily.

  5. I call my husband the “food whisperer” because he goes to the store after work, and lets the food tell him what he should cook for dinner (he is a much better cook than I, but I am learning!) I love tomatoes, and we have amazing tomatoes down here in FL, so I will have to try this recipe.

  6. THis looks really good, especially for summer weather. My mom would LOVE this as she likes roasted tomatoes and boiled eggs. I think this would have the effect of combining the best of both into one!

  7. deb

    Kirs – That’s fabulous. I, too, saw it right after I scooped them out. I gotta say though, if you already have a grapefruit knife, and can wield it with any finesse (heh) it really did the trick.

    Ombra – I love that term! It’s a really fun way to shop, too, to just get what you crave and go from there. (Um, as long as its not one of those weeks I’d bring home wine, brioche and a chunk of bittersweet chocolate.) I love doing that at farmer’s markets, too, where its no fun if you come armed with a plan.

    Claire – I just remembered, next time I would season (salt and pepper) the scooped out tomato before dropping in the egg. I mean, few things aren’t imporved by a little extra flavor, and besides, only seasoning the top of the egg seems unfair to the other bites.

  8. Lov

    Hi Deb!!

    I am a great fan of your blog both at ivillage and here.. my boyfriend is actually getting tired of me referring to you as my twin in another country. Too many similarities, from being anal about cleanliness, to being clumsy and above all passionate about food and cooking… I will be visiting new york at the end of this month… Could you suggest good restaurants and must do’s? Btw, I loved the you wont be single for long vodka pasta!

  9. I saw this in Gourmet and also got stuck at the lettuce pesto business. Nice to know how good it was! Your stuffed tomatoes remind me of Lindy’s egg-stuffed tomatoes, Breakfast of Champignons…

  10. chaya

    so i tried this last weekend minus the pesto, since we had no lettuce in the house, and it was delightful anyhow. i think this is my new favorite way to do eggs for brunch and it seems like it would lend itself nicely to many different treatments.

    but what i really came here to tell you is i turned this into dinner tonight – i made the pesto, boiled up some pasta and tossed it together until it looked good, then poached a couple of eggs and laid them on top. so good, and an excellent way to use up some leftover lettuce pesto. i think the runny egg yolks make the pesto that much better.

  11. deb

    Chaya – That sounds amazing! When it said that there would be leftovers, I decided to just make less, because the last thing I need is another mystery container in the fridge. I think I missed out. Thanks for the suggestion.

  12. erin

    i have some of these in the oven right now. i used garlic scape pesto because i had some already made. i’m worried though, because the tomatoes must not have been big enough even for the small eggs i used — the white spilled out over the side. i hope it doesn’t make too big a mess!

  13. I used to work with a chef who made the most delicious Cream of Romaine and Feta soup…..I know, it sounds awful, it SHOULDN’T work, but jeez it really does….

  14. Nicole

    Can these be made ahead of time or are they better served warm? I’m going to make them to take to a brunch tomorrow and I’m wondering if they are baked around 9am will they be tasty at 11?

  15. Amy

    i am looking for a recipe for garlic scape pesto. you reference in the search but i can’t find it anywhere here. do you have a good one?

  16. Lori

    This sounds really delicious. I wonder if basil pesto wouldn’t be overpowering. And, by the way, I think your photo is better than the one in Gourmet!

  17. Elizabeth

    I just wanted to say, I used this recipe as a starting point for my dinner last night. I didn’t have romaine lettuce and I’m not a big fan of pesto, so I mixed some freshly shredded mozzarella with some basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano, put that at the bottom of the hollowed-out tomatoes, filled the rest of the tomato with an egg, sprinkled the top with a little more spice and a few shreds of cheese, and popped ’em into the oven.

    It was delicious. I would never have thought to mix eggs and tomatoes in that way. I just wanted to say thanks for the inspiration.

  18. GretaGrace

    Deb – Thank you for yet another winning recipe!!

    I didn’t exactly use the pesto, instead sauteed a bunch of mushrooms with shallots and garlic, and put those in the bottom of the tomato. Then heated up some leftover farro and mixed in the unused mushroom mixture with a heap of spinach. Made for an excellent vegetarian mean, for distinctly non-vegetarian!

    Thank you again!!!

  19. Jillian

    Another great recipe from you. This was delicious!!! The only problem we (my boyfriend and I) had with the recipe was that we might have added too much oil to the pesto or too much pesto to the tomato. Either explanation, there was too much oil surrounding the egg to tell if it had set. However, now we know that after 22 minutes the egg should be set and the remaining liquid is just extra oil. Thank you again!

  20. Paige

    This was so good, and I think I’ll be using this template a lot in the future. I only had cilantro, so I made a pesto with garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper and cashews (the only nut I had) and then topped it with cheddar since that seemed more cilantro-y than parmesan. We each ate it on two pieces of dry whole grain toast and it was wonderful. Dead-easy, too.

  21. Tricia in Monaville

    Being fundamentally unable to follow any recipe exactly as written, and also highly suspicious of pesto made with romaine, I changed this up a bit. Okay, a lot. I sauteed some red and green bell pepper, onion and jalapeno and put a healthy Tbsp of that in the bottom of the tomato, added another Tbsp of shredded jalapeno jack cheese, then the egg on top. How will I ever eat another egg without it being baked in a tomato? Bet you cilantro pesto (thanks Paige!) is delicious too. My daughter made cilantro pesto with pecans and it was good on every-dang-thing including pizza crust.

  22. Amy M D

    A colleague at work and I were just bemoaning the fact that it is NOT tomato season here in Ohio and now I see this recipe. How can you make it in winter? Are the pale tomatoes in the grocery up to the task? I would love this for a book club dinner. We’re reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I joked that I’d be serving breakfast, of course. Problem is, most of the members are watching their carbs, so no pancakes, biscuits, french toast, etc.

  23. Selletson

    Just wondering how this would work with green tomatoes. Anyone try that before. I do love tomatoes with eggs and this looks wonderful.

  24. MontyP

    A friend told me about your site, I was browsing through recipes and saw this earlier today… I already made it, and ate it!!!! SUPER!

    Just a note, going to the original site where this was “adapted” from, looking over that recipe actually gives a disclaimer that the eggs aren’t fully cooked, which you don’t mentioned and I think you should. The whites were pretty runny, but the yolk wasn’t, optimally I’d like the opposite.

    Thank you!

  25. nicole

    Made this last night and it was fantastic! I used a fruit baller to take out the inside of the tomatoes and it worked perfectly. The tomatoes weren’t the best, but this was still really good. Thinking of trying it with bell peppers – anyone done this? Also, any ideas for the inside of the tomatoes?

  26. Liz

    So… I’m about to make this:, but I don’t have any spinach, I’m using Romaine. Mostly because of this recipe of yours (which I haven’t had a chance to try yet, but soon, very soon) and because of this (my vegetable delivery goddess): – where she says “it’s easy to forget that Romaine is a dark, leafy green, not just something for your salad bowl”. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  27. Jennifer

    Just made these and they were delicious, although my oven took a tad longer. I was skeptical of the “lettuce pesto” but omg it worked great. It was more subtle than basil but I like my breakfast more toned down. :)

  28. Deb, I love you. And I love this recipe. I just made this for breakfast . I had no tomatoes (it being February) and simply baked the greens and eggs in custard cups. The vibrancy of the greens against the creaminess of the eggs was simply delicious! Now I have even more to look forward to come tomato season.

  29. Tom

    I tried a similar recipe I found in my Silver Spoon cookbook (mainly cuz it was one of the few in that book that seemed fairly normal..haha). the combination is delicious. The pesto from the other recipe is more traditional. I may need to try this romaine pesto. Paired with some crusty bread it makes a great meal for any meatless night. Good enough it prompted me to do a web search to see if anyone was doing any other variations of this recipe.

  30. The Bug

    I loved this!! I cooked up some bacon, broke it up into little pieces and sprinkled it between the egg and pesto and then again on top of the egg. I also used spinach instead of romaine and it was AMAZING!!

  31. I am approaching this with trepidation… My mom tried chopped lettuce in vegetable soup when I was young. Really did not like it.

    However, I am seeing some raves here. I wonder if it were just a pesto combo to be put on the vegetables, raw or cooked, might work for me. It would get more servings of vegetables in.

  32. Shante

    I made this with a store-bought pesto, because as a college student with no idea where I’ll be in a year, owning a food processor is really not reasonable (This is also why I don’t currently have access to a toaster or a microwave). It turned out wonderfully!
    I got sad about the amount of tomato lost to the scooping out of my tomatoes, so I pulled all of the solid chunks from the soup of seeds, tossed them with more pesto and some mozzarella, and ate it as an appetizer while the tomatoes cooked. Yum!

  33. I just found this as I fell through the rabbit hole of what is Smitten Kitchen “One Year Ago…” I could not be more thrilled, yet trepidatious. My culinary ears perked up at the sound of romaine pesto. Definitely going to try this.

  34. Stef

    Hi Deb,

    I love your new site and I am a lover of all your recipes.

    I am making this now for me and the hubby. Tomatoes are just so in season! The pesto is tasty, everything seemed easy, but now it appears that the yolks of my eggs are cooked through and the whites are still clear and uncooked. Ugh. What went wrong? How can I remedy this for the future?


    1. deb

      Getting eggs to bake so that the whites are set and the yolks are runny is SO tricky. I have trouble with it all the time. My best advice is to take it out sooner, even when the whites are not fully (but largely) opaque because it will keep cooking in the pesto/tomato. Good luck.

  35. Kate Stephenson

    I tried this tonight with fresh tomatoes from the garden, and I agree it is really hard to know when the eggs are soft cooked. I went a few minutes past the 22 Minutes in the recipe and took them out, let them sit another 10 mins before eating, but they were still pretty runny. The tomatoes produce a lot of liquid. If I were to try this again I might core the tomatoes then salt them and try to get some liquid out, then bake a bit longer… And add some cheese?