You know those classic dishes or sayings or restaurant chains that were so second nature to you growing up, you just assumed they existed everywhere else in the country? And then you're talking to people at summer camp or college or a work conference far from home, and they haven't even heard of [insert familiar, regional institution / saying / dish]? It's safe to say we've all been there. Staring blankly, half befuddled, half embarrassed that we assumed our childhood is the universal standard. Well, for me, those institutions were "hoagie" and "soda" (until a family reunion decades ago, when my Washington State cousins introduced me to "sub" and "pop"); Wawa (until college, when I discovered it was a regional chain); and tomato pie (until two days ago, when I stumbled upon this article in my research).
For most of my life, I've known a place nearby with good tomato pie—often hacked into generous squares, wrapped in plastic, and displayed under a cake dome right at the register. And now that I'm enlightened to its regional exclusivity, I realize how lucky I've been. Never once did I miss the cheese as I sunk my teeth into its focaccia-like crust and thick layer of simmered, subtly sweet tomato sauce. A dusting of Parmesan cheese was a welcome—but unessential—afterthought. And since tomato pie actually tastes better cold or at room temperature, it has always been one of my summer faves. Trust me: if you've never tried tomato pie, this is your moment to be an honorary tri-state region-er.
It's really pretty simple to make, so long as you remember to start the dough far enough ahead of time and get the sauce simmering while the dough rises or proofs. Then the only other ingredients left to gather are olive oil, salt and pepper, and grated Parm.
PS: There are different schools of thought when it comes to the crust. Some like their tomato pie with a fluffier, bready foundation, but I like the more focaccia-like version, where the sauce sinks into all those nooks and crannies. If you want to try the latter option, check out this recipe over at Serious Eats.
Philly-Style Tomato Pie
- 1 recipe Slow-Rise Pizza Dough
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 recipe Slow-Simmered Pizza Sauce (about 2 cups)
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
To prep the dough
- Make the Slow-Rise Pizza dough the night before. Once it has finished rising, do not divide it into balls. Instead, transfer it to a floured work surface and form it into a rectangle.
- Coat a large rimmed baking sheet liberally with olive oil. Place the dough rectangle in the baking sheet and turn to coat it in the oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.
- When the dough is finished its second rise (it will have about doubled in volume), use your hands to stretch and press it out to fit the shape of the baking sheet. Keep as even a thickness as you can, and make sure to get it all the way into the corners and edges. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the center position. (If you haven't made it already, now's a great time to start the sauce.)
To top and bake the pizza
- Once the proofing time is up, remove the dish towel and use a fork to poke holes all over the dough. (This will keep air bubbles from forming.)
- Spread the sauce liberally over the dough, leaving a ½ to 1-inch border of dough all around.
- Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet around the halfway mark, until the crust is golden brown.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and let it cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then season with a few pinches of salt, drizzle with olive oil (if desired), and dust with the grated Parm. Cut into squares and serve at room temperature.