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Gemista (Stuffed Tomatoes) and a Well Balanced 3 Course Meal

Gemista stuffed vegetables

Gemista are one of my favourite dishes as it is a combination of so many tastes and aromas. Vegetables (green bell peppers and eggplants), Greek extra virgin olive oil, rice, potatoes, herbs like parsley and mint (also kafkalithres – Tordylium Apulum or small hartwort and myronia – shepherd’s needles – (scandix pecten veneris) as well as spring onions) are mingled in our palate.

Gemista, means “filled” or “stuffed” vegetables such as, peppers, eggplants, courgettes, onions etc.The filling can be a meat based one, usually with minced pork or beef and rice but I always prefer to make them vegan.

Gemista fall under the category ladera or “oily” food, as we call them but my version is a much lighter one, using not too much oil and are mostly “saucy” than “ladera”. The normal amount of oil used would be at least twice the quantity I use.

This is a summer food, since it is the time when the tomatoes are ripe and as they are a light food they can be consumed during hot Mediterranean temperatures, as a slightly hot or cold dish. I really don’t mind baking during summer and if it’s unbearably hot, I prepare them in the evening and bake them early in the morning or just have the air-conditioning on.  

Raisins in gemista

Adding raisins in the rice is something I love as it gives a hint of sweetness to the rice.  My newest addition are goji berries (Lycium Chinese), making the dish even healthier.

Gemista with goji berries

Although there are tomatoes year round now with the green houses, I seldom make them during winter, except maybe during Lent when we need to eat a variety of vegan dishes.

adding tomatoes in gemista

I like adding potato wedges between the gaps, but make sure that the potatoes are very thin, otherwise it will take more time to cook them than is necessary to cook the “gemista”.  If you want your wedges thicker, you can cover the baking tin with aluminium foil and cook for one hour.   Then remove the foil and cook until the potatoes are roasted.

fresh mint

They absorb so much flavour from the tomatoes which makes them irresistible.


The flavour of good quality Greek extra virgin olive oil and all the sweet juices from the fresh ripe tomatoes and raisins and mixed to make a delicious sauce which should be mopped off the plate with fresh hot bread 🙂  Unfortunately, this is something I now have to avoid but everything in moderation is allowed!

Gemista with tomatoes and bell peppers


Gemista (stuffed tomatoes)– Greek Recipe, by Ivy

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time:1 hour 30 minutes

Serves:4 – 5




Tomatoes (or combined with bell peppers)



Red onion and 1 green onion, finely chopped

1 – 2

Cloves garlic, finely chopped



Extra virgin olive oil, divided



Short-grained rice (Carolina or arborio) or 1 heaped tablespoon for each tomato



Parsley (and 2 tbsp fresh oregano or myronia and kafkalithres, which are optional)



Dried mint but definitely 2 – 3 sprigs fresh mint  is better if you have some



Tomato paste as well as all the interior of the tomatoes, pureed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper



Raisins and 1 tbsp goji berries (optional)



Potatoes (optional), cut into thin wedges, seasoned with salt, pepper and dried oregano



Wash tomatoes and cut a horizontal slice off the bottom side of the tomato (not where the stem is) but do not cut entirely.


With a teaspoon, scoop out the contents of the tomato into a food processor and then blend them.  I also add 1 tbsp tomato paste.


Put the tomatoes in a baking dish and sprinkle some salt inside the cavity of the tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are tart, sprinkle a pinch of sugar as well.


Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick sautéing pan and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent then add the rice and mix.


Season with salt and pepper and add the fresh oregano and mint.


Add half of the blended tomatoes, lower heat and mix for five minutes stirring occasionally.


Add the parsley and fresh mint, mix in and remove from the heat.


Fill in the tomatoes by ¾ full, leaving room for the uncooked rice to expand.  Add a couple tablespoons tomato puree on top of the rice and cover the tomatoes with the lid.


Add the potatoes, the remaining olive oil and remaining blended tomatoes.(No water should be added)


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F.


Bake for about 1 hour and fifteen minutes, according to your oven. Half way through, mix the potatoes and baste the vegetables at least once, in order to keep them moist on the top.


Serve with feta.


In case no potatoes are used the baking time is less.

I am sending this recipe to Yasmeen of Health Nut, for her event Well Balanced 3 Course Meals.  I have already posted the starter, Fetatziki and the Apricot Meringue Dessert. In this picture the dessert is mpezes (meringue) with yoghurt mixed with whipping cream and Cherry Spoon Sweet.


You can find more “nistisimes syntages” (Lenter Recipes), most of them are vegan,  here.

You can find many more Greek recipes in my cookbook “More Than A Greek Salad”, and “Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!” both available on all Amazon stores.



Other relevant recipes:

Gemista with sausages

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

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20 Responses

  1. Ivy, I have Gemista in the oven as I leave this comment…various coloured peppers and tomatoes…the smell is divine!

  2. Great, I think I will try that. It certainly is the season now with all the tomatos I can find at the market.

  3. I really like stuffed tomatoes (and now I’m in love with the word ‘gemista’!). These sound delicious.

  4. When my tomatoes ripen, I will revisit this recipe. Sounds like a perfect summer treat.

  5. I’ve always loved stuffed vegetables! Those tomatoes look really good! Well-balanced indeed…



  6. The vegetarian version is my favourite too as this is what my mother always preferred to make…they are very addictive!

  7. This looks great! I love stuffed tomatoes, so this will be a great recipe to try.

    Haley J.’s last blog post..Grilled Pork Tacos

  8. Ivy these stuffed tomatoes look very delicious. And yes, they are so versatile. I love the addition of the raisins.

  9. I agree this does look delicious. Must try it soon.

    Lisa Henderson’s last blog post..Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

  10. Oh wow….i wanted to try stuffed tomatoes from so long….these look slightly different from the ones i know…..this version looks completely drool worthy…….yummy feast…nice entry….

    Lubna Karim’s last blog post..Jeera-Peas Pulao

  11. this looks delicious ivy!!
    must absolutely try!
    I also saw the event over at Yasmeen, will try to participate.

  12. Ben

    I love Gemistas! And I don’t mind baking during the summer, I am not a huge fan of hot weather, but I am big fan of baked vegetables 😀

    Great recipe!

    Ben’s last blog post..Spicy mayo and how to photograph steam

  13. Liz

    I make them meat free too. They taste so good with lots of herbs!

    Liz’s last blog post..A story

  14. Lunch time here, & i really could eat all of those. I love the use of raisins.. lending a little bit of sweet. I remember i grandma would sometimes stuff the tomatoes with spiced potatoes, nuts & raisins.

    Soma’s last blog post..Chimichurri

  15. This is such a delightful and wonderful recipe…perfect summer treat!

    Usha’s last blog post..Banana Fudge ( Halwa)

  16. Thanks so much Ivy,this is totally fulfilling meal! I love the tomatoes stuffed with flavorsome rice,and potatoes baked alongside make a tasty side 🙂

    yasmeen’s last blog post..The Ice Dream CookBook Review.Dairy-free Roasted Banana nut Ice Dream.And Peach Melba.

  17. “Pomodori col riso” is how this dish is called in Italy (tomatoes with rice) and I make it often in the summer. No meat with the rice and definitely potatoes. It’s wonderful. It is nice to see how the same dish is part of many traditions around the Mediterranean.

    Simona’s last blog post..Novel Food #8: quattro tipi di pane

  18. That is such a satisfying meal…the stuffed tomatoes look yumm!

    Poornima’s last blog post..Garam Masala

  19. Simply awesome preparation. We used to get ‘huge’ tomatoes those days in Bangalore. Mom used to stuff them with either a ‘palav’ or an Indian potato curry. This greek version sounds too tempting – and love the name as well “gemista” 🙂

    dibs’s last blog post..Vendakkai Masala – Ladies Finger or Okra Masala

  20. Those tomatoes look perfectly cooked/roasted and tasty! They would go well with the fetaziki.