When it comes to challenges in the kitchen, I tend to get a bit fixated. If a recipe fails (sad face) I go straight into problem-solving mode until I have exhausted every single possibility. I guess it’s the neurotic perfectionist in me.
My most recent challenge involved Tomato Pie. Tomato Pie is not like pie pie. There’s no pastry crust, no mayonnaise, no raw tomatoes decoratively placed on top. No, Tomato Pie is more like a Sicilian-style pizza but without the cheese on top. It’s a simple pleasure of thick, soft crust, and sweet, tangy tomato sauce.
I’ve discovered how difficult it is to find it outside of the Philly area (and Utica, NY, so I hear) and it appeared I was not alone in my quest for a decent recipe. Years ago, I tried my hand at making homemade Tomato Pie and posted about it. Blogger friends, you know how you sometimes go back and read your earlier posts and cringe? Well, the cringe for me on this one was that I knew I could do better. The sauce was spot-on and needed little tweaking, but the crust. Sigh. The crust I was not satisfied with.
I recently received an email from a reader who had moved from Philly. Her family missed Tomato Pie terribly and she wanted to make it for her daughter’s 4th birthday party. This was just the motivation I needed to master this Tomato Pie crust, once and for all.
The pie from Corropolese is my gold standard. Their crust is soft and spongy, airy and chewy. That’s the kind of crust I wanted. It was more like focaccia than a regular pizza dough, so that’s where I started. I cross referenced multiple recipes, experimented with bread flour, tested different proofing times, baking temps, and saucing techniques…I got a little nuts. Three flour runs and one messy, sticky, dough explosion later and I nailed it.
The crust I ended up with is adapted from Tyler Florence’s Fabulous Focaccia. It results in a crust that is airy, soft, and chewy inside. I’m definitely keeping this recipe on hand for times when I just want to make straight up focaccia.
For my Tomato Pie modification, I ended up baking the crust about 2/3 of the way done before adding the sauce, to prevent the dough from collapsing and getting too dense. I found that if I added the sauce first, the dough didn’t rise as well, probably because of the weight of the sauce. Best of all, this recipe requires no overnight proofing, no multiple proofing, and I discovered an easy clean up trick with the use of some parchment paper.
The sauce I simply updated to vine-ripened tomatoes, and used more of them than in my first version.
It is with pleasure and pride that I present to you, Tomato Pie 2.0! Enjoy!!
Recipe: Tomato Pie 2.0
A simple pleasure of thick, soft crust, and sweet, tangy tomato sauce. I’ve updated (and vastly improved) my old recipe for Tomato Pie, and could not be happier. The crust is airy, soft, and chewy, as it should be. The sauce is just right. Enjoy, new and improved, Tomato Pie 2.0!
Prep Time: 2 hour, 15 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Yield: (1) 13×18 inch pie; 12 servings
FOR THE CRUST
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast 1 cup water, heated to 110 degrees 2 tablespoons sugar 3 1/2 cups (1 lb 2 oz) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for greasing pan grated Parmesan for garnish
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast with the warm water and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let stand 5 minutes until it looks foamy.
- Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the flour to the bowl. Dissolve salt in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should be like warm, elastic play-doh when it’s done. (Note: If you don’t have a stand mixer with dough hook, just knead it old-school by hand until you’ve reached the right consistency).
- Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn’t form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
- One hour before baking, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. (Note: If you don’t have a baking stone, use an overturned rimmed baking sheet.)
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the dough on the baking sheet, slide it around to coat the bottom and sides with oil, then flip dough over and slide it around again. Using fingertips, press dough out toward edges of pan, taking care not to tear it. (If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes before trying to walk it out again.) Using a fork, poke entire surface of dough 25-30 times, popping any large bubbles. Cover pan with plastic and let dough rest for 30 minutes. The dough should become slightly bubbly.
- Place pan on baking stone (or overturned baking sheet) and lower oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes (or until top is lightly golden). Top with tomato sauce, rotate pan, and bake for another 10 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the tomato pie from the pan by lifting the overhanging parchment paper and return to the rack to finish cooling. (Note: If you didn’t use the paper, loosen the pie from the pan using a metal spatula while it’s still warm to prevent sticking). Top with some grated parmesan and serve warm or at room temperature.
FOR THE SAUCE
2 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 6) 29 oz tomato puree (3 cups) 3 tablespoons tomato paste 4 cloves garlic, finely minced 3 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon dried basil 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the tomatoes in half, or quarters if they’re large. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and roast in oven for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in a large saucepan and let simmer until thickened. Add roasted tomatoes when they’re done and mix until there are no large chunks (you can puree the roasted tomatoes first if you want to get precise about it). Continue to simmer until most of the water has evaporated and the sauce is thick. Set aside for the tomato pie. (Note: This can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator in an air-tight container until ready to use. You’ll have more sauce than you need for the pie.)