Roasted tomato pie with a cheesy crust amps up the Southern classic
I didn’t grow up on tomato pie. I had my first bite sometime as an adult and was immediately in love. No, I’m not talking about focaccia topped with tomato sauce, popular in Philadelphia, or the Trenton, N.J., thin-crust pizza with the sauce on top. Instead, I’m referring to the Southern version featuring mayo, cheese, herbs and the eponymous fruit baked in a pie crust. While there are much simpler ways to enjoy peak-season tomatoes, such as in a Southern tomato sandwich or Caprese salad, and even less-involved recipes of the dish at hand, my roasted tomato pie with cheddar-Parmesan crust is worth the effort.
The origins of the Southern tomato pie are a mystery. Some say its roots extend to the early 19th century, and others theorize it came about around the 1970s as a product of either magazine editors or mayonnaise manufacturer test kitchens. Whoever it was, thank you for developing this delicious dish.
The star of this recipe is, obviously, tomatoes. The issue with using tomatoes as a pie filling is their high water content. Looking to prevent a soggy bottom, some cooks salt the tomatoes for varying lengths of time to draw out moisture. Chef Ashley Christensen goes the extra step of running them through a salad spinner. “My mom taught me this trick; we like to save the drippings to make tomato vinaigrette or to throw into a vegetable sauté or pasta,” she writes in “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner.” Another method, which I’ve used here, is to roast the tomatoes, which has the added benefit of intensifying their flavor. They get roasted with a sliced shallot, but any allium, such as a yellow onion or leek, could be fun.
The other star of this recipe is the cheddar-Parmesan pie crust full of cheesy, umami goodness. Yes, this is an instance where store-bought could be fine, but if you want great, making this crust from scratch is a must. Once baked, it is reminiscent of the best cheese cracker, a sublime container for the tomato and cheese filling.
But if you decide against making your own crust, I implore you at the very least to grate your own cheese to mix with mayo and Dijon mustard to top the roasted tomatoes. “Bagged shredded cheese typically includes additives that prevent clumping. Unfortunately, they can also prevent melting,” Becky Krystal wrote in her list of kitchen shortcuts to avoid. After testing this recipe with pre-shredded cheese, I can confirm this to be true as I ended up with tough, chewy pieces of cheese instead of the gooey, melty result I enjoyed the first time. (Though, admittedly, I still ate multiple slices.)
Slices of tomato pie work great as a side dish or paired with a salad for a main course. Serve leftovers, if there are any, at room temperature or cold, straight from the fridge (as I know from experience).
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Roasted Tomato Pie With Cheddar-Parmesan Crust
Active time: 45 minutes | Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes
6 to 8 servings
Tomato pie is a Southern classic consisting, in its simplest form, of its namesake ingredient, cheese, mayonnaise and fresh herbs. In this version, the tomatoes are roasted to concentrate their flavor and release excess moisture to avoid a soggy filling. For the cheese, shred it yourself, if possible, for a smoother filling texture. What also sets this recipe apart is the cheddar-parmesan pie crust that adds a deeper dimension of umami (though you may use a store-bought crust to cut down on the effort). Serve tomato pie as a side dish, or pair with a salad for a main course.
Make Ahead: The unbaked dough can be prepared, tightly wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 days; set on the counter to soften until pliable before rolling out. To freeze, wrap the dough in a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months; defrost completely before rolling out. The crust can be blind-baked, loosely covered and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. The tomatoes can be roasted and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days in advance.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.
NOTE: You can use a store-bought crust instead of making your own, blind-baking it as directed. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the cheddar-Parmesan pie dough in a large bowl, using a pastry blender to cut the butter and cheese into the dry ingredients.
FOR THE CHEDDAR-PARMESAN PIE CRUST
1-1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
8 tablespoons (113 grams/1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup (2 ounces/57 grams) freshly shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (scant 1 ounce/25 grams) finely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) ice water, plus more as needed
FOR THE FILLING
2-1/2 to 3 pounds heirloom tomatoes (5 to 6 medium), cored and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon fine salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) freshly shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (1-3/4 ounces/50 grams) finely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves (from one 3/4-ounce package)
Make the cheddar-parmesan pie crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, butter, cheddar, parmesan, pepper and salt, and pulse until the butter is reduced to pea-size pieces. Add the ice water and process just until the dough almost comes together, adding more ice water, as needed, until the dough looks like wet sand that holds together when you give it a squeeze (see NOTE).
Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. Dump out the dough onto the work surface and shape it into a disc. (If you are working in a particularly warm kitchen, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes to keep the butter from melting.) Roll out the dough to about a 12-inch circle that’s 1/4-inch thick, rotating and flipping and dusting the dough with more flour, as needed, to prevent it from sticking. To transfer the dough, gently roll it up around the rolling pin, brushing off excess flour with a pastry brush, then unfurl it into a 9-inch pie plate.
Using kitchen shears, trim away the excess dough, leaving about 1/2-inch overhang around the outside edge of the pie plate. Tuck the overhang under, pressing gently to make it flush with the edge of the pie plate, and crimp as you like. Dock the crust along the bottom and the sides with a fork. Freeze, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, position racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 425 degrees.
Roast the tomatoes: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer as best as possible (it’s OK if there’s some overlap to make them fit), scatter the shallot over top, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Bake in the top third of the oven, rotating the pan halfway through, for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tomatoes have released much of their moisture. Let cool for 20 minutes.
Blind-bake the dough: Cut a square of parchment paper or aluminum foil slightly larger than the diameter of a pie plate, and press it into the base of the pie plate. Fill with pie weights to the top inner rim of the pie plate. Bake in the bottom third of the oven for 17 to 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to lightly brown. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights, and bake for 5 to 8 minutes more, or until the bottom of the crust appears dry and set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes before filling.
Assemble and bake the pie: Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. In a medium bowl, mix together the cheddar, parmesan, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until evenly combined.
Layer the roasted tomatoes and shallots in the cooled crust, reserving a few of the prettiest tomatoes to decorate the top, if desired. Tear the basil leaves into pieces and sprinkle on top of the tomatoes, reserving some for garnish, if desired. Top with the cheese mixture, covering the tomatoes and basil as best you can. If using, decorate with reserved roasted tomatoes.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown, the filling is bubbling, and the cheese is beginning to brown. Check after 30 minutes to see if the crust is browning too quickly, and tent loosely with foil, if needed. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes for the filling to set before slicing. (The pie will hold its shape better the longer you let it cool.) Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with the reserved basil, if using.
Recipe from staff writer Aaron Hutcherson.