With its thick, tender crust, rich tomato sauce, and post-bake dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, this is the tomato pie dreams are made of.
A Tri-State Area Treasure
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 a few years 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 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Differing Opinions About Tomato Pie Crust
There are different schools of thought when it comes to the crust. Some like their tomato pie with a fluffier, bready foundation (like this one). Others like a chewier, more focaccia-like version. If you want to try the latter option, use one full recipe of my Slow-Rise Pizza Dough instead, let it rise for 18 to 20 hours, then press it out in your baking sheet and let it rest for 1 hour before topping and baking.
Philly-Style Tomato Pie
- large rimmed baking sheet
To prep the dough
- Mix the Sheet Pan Pizza Dough and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it about doubles in volume.
- Grease a large (13 x 18-inch) rimmed baking sheet (preferably dark metal) with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the dough in the pan and press it out with your fingers until it reaches all the way to the edges and corners of the pan. If the dough keeps shrinking back, let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes and try again. After the dough is pressed out all the way to the edges of the pan, cover the whole pan with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let it rest (proof) for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. (The longer the dough proofs, the fluffier your finished pizza crust will be.)
To top and bake the pizza
- If you haven't already, make the sauce while the dough proofs/rests.
- Preheat the oven to 500°F with a rack in the center position.
- When the dough is finished resting in the sheet pan, dimple it with your fingers to prevent big bubbles from forming in the oven. Then, slather on the sauce, spreading it evenly and leaving a ¼- to ½-inch border all around.
- Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway mark, until the crust is evenly browned on the bottom. (Use an offset or other spatula to check the bottom for doneness.)
- Remove the pizza from the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes, then season with a few pinches of salt and a grind or two of black pepper, drizzle with olive oil (if desired), and dust with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.
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