Confession: I made this last night, with all best intentions to eat it for dinner alongside a simple salad. But a combination of decreased willpower, laziness, and incredible hunger laid those plans to waste. Instead we ordered an irresponsible amount of Mexican and watched several episodes of SVU. Our beautiful, savory, and slightly sweet tomato pie would have to wait – good thing it’s great as leftovers.
So this is tomato pie. If you’re not from the PA or NJ area, it may not be on your radar. You can read a more comprehensive history of it here, but it’s a hugely celebrated South Philly tradition. Similar to Sicilian style pizza – it’s a square, focaccia-like crust, topped with a thick, slightly sweet tomato sauce. The main difference being the lack of cheese, except for a final dusting of Pecorino Romano at the very end (my preference, but perhaps slightly inauthentic).
Things I love about it? It’s easier, and much less intimidating to make than traditional pizza, the sauce is addictive and will make your house smell amazing for hours, and the crust, which is baked in a sheet pan coated with a generous amount of olive oil, does this crispy, almost fried thing that will remind you of a certain red-roofed pizza place from your youth – in the best way possible.
Enjoy it the night you make it, or like me, the night after and then for breakfast the day after that. Either way I think you’ll love it. If you do, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you made any cool tweaks to the recipe!
Philly Style Tomato Pie
Servings: 6 Time: 30 MINUTES (+2.5 HOURS RISING TIME)
The components of this recipe are a little time consuming, but almost entirely hands-off. This is a great one for a lazy, Sunday afternoon. You can also make the dough and sauce as far as 3 days in advance. If you refrigerate the dough, add an extra hour of rising time (to take the chill off) once you’ve placed it on the oiled baking sheet.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Non-stick baking spray
1 Recipe Basic Pizza Dough (see below)
1 Recipe Tomato Pie Sauce (see below)
½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese (or to taste)
Pour olive oil onto a 13X18 rimmed baking sheet and spread to cover the entire surface.
Gather dough with your hands and tuck the ends underneath, forming a taut ball. Place dough ball on the oiled baking sheet.
Spray the top of the dough with nonstick spray and cover with plastic wrap.
Set aside, in a warm draft-free place for 2 hours to rise.
After 2 hours, turn your oven to 400°F and preheat for 30 minutes.
While the oven preheats, gently begin pushing the dough from the center out to the edges of the pan. This can be done a few times over the next 30 minutes (while the oven preheats) as the dough will continue to relax, making it easier to shape – it probably won’t make it all the way to edges on the first stretch. I keep the plastic wrap on for this step, as it makes it easier to stretch and push the slightly sticky dough.
Remove plastic wrap and place dough in oven for ten minutes.
After ten minutes remove the dough from the oven and cover with tomato sauce spreading evenly and maintaining a one inch border around the pie.
Put the tomato pie back in the oven and decrease the temperature to 375° F. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the bottom of the crust is a light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for ten minutes, then remove from the pan.
Sprinkle generously with grated pecorino romano, cut into squares and serve.
Basic Pizza Dough
Servings: 1 TOMATO PIE or 2 12 INCH PIZZAS Time: 30 MINUTES
(+2 HOURS RISING TIME)
If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can totally do this by hand. Combine the ingredients in a large bowl with your hands or a wooden spoon and rest for 10 minutes as directed. After adding the salt, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic. It’s ok if it’s a little sticky. The more times you make this, the better you’ll understand what it should feel like. Also the water/flour quantities may change a little bit based on how humid or dry a day it is, so have a little bit of each on hand to make any necessary adjustments.
2 ¼ C AP Flour
¾ C warm water
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp fine salt
Put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment
Combine water, honey, oil and yeast in a glass measuring cup and stir to combine. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. It should start to foam slightly
Pour the wet mixture into the flour and begin mixing on low speed until a rough ball forms
Turn off mixer and let rest for 10 minutes.
Add the salt and mix on medium speed for 6-7 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smooth and elastic. I tend to err on the side of a little sticky, rather than a little dry. At this point you can let the dough rise in a lightly oiled bowl, covered, until doubled in size (about 2 hours) and then use for any pizza recipe. You can also refrigerate it for up to three days. For tomato pie, follow instructions above to rise on a rimmed baking sheet.
Tomato Pie Sauce
Servings: 1 TOMATO PIE (ABOUT 2.5 CUPS) Time: 50 MINUTES
This is a recipe taken directly from the website, Serious Eats. I like it just as written, but if you find that it’s too sweet, or too spicy, feel free to adjust the quantities to your taste. Also, sometimes if I have only have a medium or large onion on hand I’ll just add a half or a quarter to the sauce.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater or pushed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly pureed in a food processor or blender
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
1 shallot or small onion (peeled)
Heat olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until butter melts. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, and whole shallot or onion. Bring to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until rich and thick, about 45 minutes. Remove onion and discard. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.