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Italian Rice
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Italian Rice

Italian rice made pilaf-style using long grain brown rice cooked together with tomato paste, capers, bell pepper and fragrant fennel in a delicious savory broth. Brighten up with a bunch of fresh basil or parsley for a delicious weeknight meal.
Course Main, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian rice, red rice, tomato rice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 267kcal


  • 2 cups long grain brown rice (rinsed well)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 2-3 Tbsp capers roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 6-8 Tbsp tomato paste (double concentrated)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (or 1 Tbsp chili paste)
  • 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 3.5 cups + 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup Italian Parsley or Basil roughly chopped or sliced
  • sea salt + black pepper to taste


  • Start by rinsing the rice well in a mesh strainer and set aside to drain.
    2 cups long grain brown rice
  • Preheat a high sided skillet over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and saute until softened and starts to get some color around the edges (a good 10 minutes or so).
    1 onion
  • Stir in the fennel seeds and cook until fragrant then add the bell pepper. Stir and saute a few more minutes until the pepper just starts to soften.
    1 Tbsp fennel seeds, 1 red bell pepper
  • Add the garlic, toss to coat and cook just until you can smell it then stir in the capers, paprika and onion powder. Add the tomato paste (+ chili paste if using) and combine everything well.
    5 cloves garlic, 2-3 Tbsp capers, 6-8 Tbsp tomato paste, 1/2 Tbsp onion powder, 1/2 Tbsp sweet smoked paprika, 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Mix in the rinsed rice and toss to coat well with all the seasonings. Pour in the water, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Season with a teaspoon of sea salt, combine well and give it a taste (adjust seasoning). Cover with a tight lid and turn the heat down to medium low.
    2 cups long grain brown rice, 3.5 cups + 2 Tbsp water, 1 bay leaf, sea salt + black pepper to taste
  • Let the rice simmer away for 40 minutes then turn off the heat. (Adjust cooking time here if using a different type of rice or the package suggests different cooking times). Allow to sit covered for an addition 10 to 15 minutes once removed from heat to continue cooking in its own steam.
  • Fluff with a fork, discard bay leaf and mix in the fresh parsley or basil whichever herb you prefer using. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon for extra zing!
    1/3 cup Italian Parsley or Basil


  • Should I wash the rice? Absolutely yes! Rinse the rice well in a mesh colander and allow to drain before adding it to the dish. This will ensure that your pilaf will turn out light and fluffy with separated grains (not sticky) and maybe a little bit of a crisp bottom. The other benefit to washing the rice is getting rid of as much of the arsenic as possible, yes even organic grains!
  • Rice to Water Ratio - Since we are rinsing the rice first I find that the perfect water ratio is 1.75 cups for every 1 cup of rice.
  • The Tomato Paste - Choose an organic double concentrated tomato paste if available. Use at least 5 to 6 tablespoons and If you prefer a deeper tomato flavor squeeze in the entire tube (I used Pomi 4.5 oz tube).
  • Leftovers - Reheat and enjoy, make fried rice and pile on the veggies or turn them into Arancini or rice balls to dip in our homemade arrabiata or marinara sauce.


Calories: 267kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 215mg | Potassium: 420mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1234IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg