Tomatoes are at their peak right now, and if your garden runneth over and you’ve runneth out of ways to serve them, you can’t beat this Southern summer favorite for flavor. I’ve adapted my recipe slightly from one in Saveur magazine.
No one will give you a second look if you use a store-bought pie crust—just treat a store-bought crust the same way you would the scratch crust by blind baking it and proceed from there. If you make your own, you’ll notice my recipe includes vodka. The alcohol evaporates during baking and leaves a flakier crust, and because this can be a wet pie, you need flaky crust.
Another trick: if you’re going to all the time and trouble to caramelize onions, don’t cook just one. Cook up a big batch of them—I make mine in the slow cooker. They keep well and add amazing flavor to any dish. Just measure out 2/3 cup from the batch to use in the pie.
Southern Tomato Pie
Makes one 10-inch pie
Time: 2 1/2 hours
For the crust
- 11⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
- 21⁄2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1⁄2 tsp. salt
- 6 tbsp. cold butter cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp. plus ice-cold water
- 1 tbsp. ice-cold vodka
For the filling and topping
- 2 1/2 lb. vine-ripe tomatoes (about 5 beefsteak tomatoes), cored, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2-inch dice (divided)
- 1 large pint of yellow grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half (other colors are fine too)
- 2 tsp. salt, divided
- 1 tsp. sugar, divided
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced with the grain
- 1 tsp. picked thyme, or ½ tsp. dried
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄3 cup whole basil leaves, packed
- 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s brand)
- 1⁄3 cup grated Fontina cheese
- 1⁄3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 large Roma or heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced and blotted dry with paper towels
- Make the piecrust: place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium for a few seconds. Begin adding the butter one cube at a time. Continue until the flour is speckled and crumbly, about 4 minutes. With the mixer still running, add the water and vodka until just combined. Do not overmix. Press the dough into a 6-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
- Bring the crust to room temperature and lightly butter a 10-inch pie pan. Preheat the oven to 400°. Dust your counter and rolling pin lightly with flour and roll the crust slightly larger than your pan. Lay the crust in the pan and press gently into its edges. Cut off the edges that hang over and discard. Freeze for at least 15 minutes or until you’re ready to blind-bake.
- Lay foil or parchment paper on top of the crust and weigh that down with dried beans or rice. Blind-bake the shell for 30 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil or parchment and bake 5 minutes more. Set the cooked crust aside as you prepare the filling.
- Make the filling: Toss half of the diced tomatoes with 1⁄2 tsp. salt and 1⁄2 tsp. sugar. Set them over a colander to drain while you get everything else ready, at LEAST an hour. Stir occasionally and make sure they have room to drain freely. You want them as dry as possible.
- Lower the oven to 375°. Toss the remaining diced tomatoes, and the halved grape tomatoes with 1⁄2 tsp. salt, thyme, and olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper with as much room separating the individual pieces as possible. Slide the tray onto the middle rack of your oven and roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring halfway through. You’re looking for the tomatoes to dry out and brown slightly. Let them cool slightly before adding to the drained tomatoes.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, in a medium sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter and then add the onion and 1⁄2 tsp. salt. Cook over medium-low heat until deeply caramelized. This will take about 30-40 minutes. If the onion gets away from you and burns a little, add 1⁄4 cup of water to the pan, scrape up the overbrowned bits, and keep going. In the end, you have a scant 2⁄3 cup caramelized onion.
- Once all the individual components are done, stir together the caramelized onion, the fresh and roasted diced tomatoes, the remaining salt, sugar, black pepper, and basil. Taste for seasoning.
- Make the topping and finish the pie: In a separate, smaller bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and Fontina and Parmesan cheeses. Spoon the tomato filling into your blind-baked crust. Top with the cheese mixture and fresh tomato slices. Bake in the middle of your oven for 30 minutes.
Let the pie cool for at least 30 minutes or it won’t hold its shape when you try and serve it. Serve warm or at room temperature. I usually can’t wait that long and make a mess of it, but it still tastes delicious.