Ross il-forn in Maltese literally translates to baked rice. It is a popular rice dish in Malta and can be considered the ultimate Maltese comfort food. Although it takes some time to prepare the dish from scratch, there is nothing too complicated about it. Once at it, I like to make extra portions and freeze them for future meals.
Traditionally, the recipe calls for ground beef and pork as well as slices of bacon. However, I have used the traditional Maltese recipe as an inspiration to turn this dish into a vegetarian one. I have used red lentils to substitute the meat and also used a good quality vegetable stock rather than beef stock.
Traditionally, parboiled long grain rice is used for this dish. It is mixed into the meaty tomato sauce, placed in an oven dish and cooked together in the oven. I prefer wholegrain rice and therefore, I have pre-cooked it before adding it to the sauce.
Every family has their own recipe and therefore you will find a lot of variations of the same dish. Some people add marrows, carrots and even hard-boiled eggs. Others use ricotta, cheddar cheese or a combination of their preferred cheeses. There is no wrong or right in this! 😀
Here’s my vegetarian twist on the tradition Maltese Ross il-Forn… Enjoy! 😀
Ross il-Forn, Maltese Baked Rice
The ultimate traditional Maltese comfort food.
- 500g wholegrain rice
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1l boiling water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 chili pepper (optional)
- 2 bayleaf
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 800g tomato passata
- 1 tbsp vegetable stock powder
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 300g dried red lentils, rinsed and drained
- 100g frozen peas, thawed
- Salt & black pepper
- Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 150g kefalotyri or pecorino, grated
- For the sauce: In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, chili pepper (if using) and the bayleaf and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and stir everything while cooking for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato passata, vegetable stock powder, curry powder and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Add the red lentils to the tomato sauce and let it cook for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
- For the rice: Place the rice in the oven dish, sprinkle the oregano and add a good pinch of salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Pour over the boiling water and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Bake for 20 minutes or until the rice is almost fully cooked. The water should be fully absorbed by the rice in this time. Remove from the oven.
- Lower the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the rice, add the peas and 1/3 of the cheese. Mix to combine, making sure that the rice is well covered with the sauce and everything is evenly distributed.
- Add the parsley and the beaten eggs and mix everything again.
- Top with the remaining cheese and place in the oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes until firm and the top is golden brown.