I adore tomatoes and everything you can put them in, like sauces, juices, cocktails, soups and stews. In the past few years, I've actually managed to grow quite a few of these nifty nightshades, and I love the smell of the plant itself. I first tried tomato pie while living in Montgomery, Alabama, and in my opinion, Southerners really know how to make the most of their harvest seasons.
Tomatoes appear in everything from versions of their distinctive relish to chow chow to spectacular barbecue sauces. But, for me, a perfectly ripe tomato can easily be the star of its own show, with little more than a simple sprinkle of salt. This pie is incredibly easy to prepare, especially if using a store-bought pie crust, and really celebrates the depth of flavor in a lush, ripe tomato without obscuring it.
This tomato pie combines well-loved and familiar flavors from foods such as pizza, with the appearance and fluffiness texture of a quiche. The mayonnaise in the filling acts as a great binder when blended with the cheeses in the recipe to create a dish that can stand on its own or is perfect served with a simple green salad for an amazing brunch. Feel free to use the tomato of your choice, but I love heirlooms for their distinctive colors and depth of flavor. Plus, some of the seeds can be saved and sprouted in a wet paper towel to plant a new crop!
Technique tip: Liquid is the enemy! So, after slicing the tomatoes, remove the seeds which hold much of their liquid. Salt them and leave on the rack for roughly 15 minutes to shed the liquid, then blot with paper towel or a clean dish towel. If tomatoes are still too moist, put them in a preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes. Reserve the excess tomato liquid and freeze it in cubes for use in sauces or to make flavor-intense ice cubes for bloody marys.
Swap options: 1½ tablespoons each of garlic powder and onion powder can be substituted for the garlic cloves and onion in the mayonnaise mixture. Parmesan can replace pecorino Romano cheese.
- 1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade
- 8 softball-sized fresh tomatoes (about 3 pounds), cored and sliced 1/2-inch-thick (heirloom tomatoes are preferred, ideally a mix of red, green and yellow)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1¼ cups mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
- 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 baseball-sized onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 bunch fresh basil (about 2/3 cup), sliced into thin ribbons, divided
Preheat oven to 375 F.2.
If using a frozen store-bought crust, thaw to room temperature and make sure it evenly lines the pie pan and that there are no thin spots. Double up the edge to make a thick border. No need to prick the dough.3.
Place a baking rack over a sheet pan and place tomato slices side-by-side on the sheet pan. Lightly sprinkle kosher salt over tomatoes and let them rest 10 to 15 minutes to draw out excess liquid. Lightly blot tomatoes with a paper towel or clean dish towel. If desired, save the excess tomato liquid for another use or discard.4.
With tomatoes still on the rack and cookie sheet, place into the preheated oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes to further dry them out, as too much moisture will ruin this dish.5.
In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, shredded mozzarella, shredded fontina, pecorino Romano, finely chopped onion, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Place in the refrigerator to combine the flavors while the tomatoes are draining. Set half of mixture aside before assembling pie.6.
When tomatoes are thoroughly drained, remove and discard excess liquid.7.
In the pie crust, spread a half-inch-thick layer of the mayonnaise mixture over the bottom. Shingle tomato slices into pie crust, sprinkling chopped basil between each layer and saving one slice of each color tomato for the end. Layer as you wish, but I like seeing every color in every slice, and do a layer of red, a layer of yellow and a layer of green.8.
When tomatoes are layered, top with remaining mayonnaise mixture, spreading evenly all the way to the edge of the crust. Shingle three remaining slices of tomato over the top and sprinkle with basil (you may want to save a pinch of the fresh stuff as a garnish for the end).9.
Bake on top rack of the oven for 40 minutes. Depending upon your oven, you may need another 5 to 7 minutes.10.
Pie may be served immediately but is best if left to rest for 45 minutes to an hour after baking.