Tomato Pie, like Pimiento Cheese, is one of many fabulous culinary treasures of the South. Basic tomato pies combine the goodness of ripe tomatoes, with melted cheese and a crunchy pie crust. If you add to that bacon, onions, basil, and cheese in the crust, now you’re talking about a DELUXE and savory tomato pie.
Like for pimiento cheese, there are many ways to make a tomato pie. Some have the cheese on the bottom, and the tomatoes on top and some have it reversed.
The key to making a great tomato pie, in fact, the only must-do after you gather colorful heirloom tomatoes (see Tomatoes: The Crown Jewels of the Summer Kitchen Garden)
is to core, slice, salt, and drain the tomatoes to divest them of their watery juice and thereby prevent a soupy, soggy, messy pie.
My favorite way to make tomato pie is with a crunchy cheese crust and tomatoes that are piled high and deep on top.
This pie’s problems are that there is never enough to go around, definitely not enough for seconds, and too many calories in the crust for an “everyday” meal. To fix these problems, I first tried to develop a larger pie (lasagna pan-sized) without a crust. However, I found the soft texture of the tomatoes and melted cheese demanded a crunchy crust, so I added the crust back, but only on the bottom, and loaded the dough with nutty parmesan cheese. My family loved it.
Yield: Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan, 10-12 servings
Pie Crust Ingredients
¼ cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup grated parmesan, somewhat packed
1 stick (½ cup) very cold or frozen butter, sliced into many pieces
4 tablespoons ice-cold water
Tomato Filling Ingredients
5 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces unflavored bacon, about 12 strips
1 pound sweet onion (red or yellow), sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup homemade breadcrumbs
20 large or 30 medium-large leaves basil, chiffonade
½ cup mayonnaise (not the low-fat, sweet, or whipped varieties)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
I’m not going to lie about the amount of prep work needed for this recipe; this pie takes time. I streamlined the process by buying already shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and by using homemade breadcrumbs from a stash in the freezer. As a time-saver, you could forego the homemade cheese crust and use a single layer, pre-made roll of uncooked dough, reshaped to fit in a 9 x 13 pan. Or, you could make the cheese crust version the day before and store it uncooked in the fridge.
1) Prep Mise en Place for Pie Filling
Slice tomatoes about ⅓ inch thick. Place in a colander, add 1 teaspoon of salt and gently mix to distribute the salt. Place a weighted object on top of the tomatoes to help squeeze out the juice. I put a collection bowl under the colander to capture the juice and save for something else (like soup broth). Gently stir and squeeze the tomatoes every 5 or 10 minutes. Let them continue to drain while you finish the prep work.
Chop the bacon into two-inch pieces. Sauté until cooked, then drain the fat, and pat the bacon dry with paper towels.
Thinly slice the onions. Salt very lightly with a pinch of salt and sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.
If you don’t have a stash of homemade bread crumbs in the freezer, make some now in the food processor.
Stack, roll and cut basil into thin ribbons.
2. Prep Mise en Place for Pie Crust
3. Make the Pie Crust
Add the flour, cornmeal, and salt to a food processor with the regular blade attached. Pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter slices and pulse 7 or 8 times until you can see little chunks of butter covered in flour and meal.
Add the chilled water and pulse a few more times until dough is just blended and forms pea-sized balls. I know this doesn’t look like it is blended enough, but as those little balls melt they are what produce a flakey crust. We want them to melt in the oven and not in the food processor which is why we keep the dough cold and underworked.
Dump the crumbly dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the right side of the paper over the dough and roll it with a rolling-pin. Now fold the left third of the paper over the dough and roll again. Notice how you can still see the chunks of white butter in the dough in the third picture.
Roll the dough out, between two sheets of parchment paper until it is at least 9 x 13 inches. Test for proper size by laying the pan over the dough to see if it fits.
Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and flip the dough over into the baking pan. Center the dough in the pan by using the edges of the top sheet of parchment paper. Once centered, remove the top sheet of paper.
Trim the dough and use the trimmed pieces to patch the crust until it fits in the pan neatly. Use the tines of a fork to poke holes in the crust. Lots of holes. This allows air to escape while baking, so you don’t end up with a lot of air bubbles.
Preheat the oven 375º. While it heats, place the dough-lined pan in the fridge to chill for the 15-20 minutes it takes to heat the oven. This is a necessary chilling period.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. About 10 minutes into cooking, open the oven door and add a few more fork pricks into any bubbles that have formed in the crust. Allow crust to cool for 5-10 minutes before filling. Remember, the goal is not to have a soggy crust once we add the filling. Therefore, some cooling down is necessary.
4. Prepare the Tomato Pie Fillings
While the crust is cooking, remove the tomatoes from the colander and gently squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands. Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels.
Combine the mayonnaise, cheeses, and basil in a mixing bowl. Stir in the onions (red or yellow) and bread crumbs.
5. Assemble and Bake the Pie
Here’s what you have now: tomatoes, cheese and onion mixture, bacon and cooked cheese pie crust.
Add the cheese filling to the cooled crust and then add the bacon.
Arrange the tomatoes over the top. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes and some cracked pepper and sea salt.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. Pie is done when the filling is bubbling, and the tomatoes are lightly browned.
Dinner is served!
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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.