Rustic Italian Tomato Pie

In the American South is a popular dish known as “Tomato Pie”.  Neither my husband nor I had ever heard of this before living here.  But lately I’ve seen it featured in Southern Living and on some of the food shows that I’ve been watching while laid up on the recliner healing my back.  We were really grateful for the kindness extended to us from our friends who are native Southerners when they baked one of these pies to give us this week . . . and that would certainly give my husband a night off from cooking while I’m on the mend from surgery.

A traditional Southern tomato pie
The tomato pie was delicious, but both my husband and I were taken back by the unexpected tangy flavor that resulted from combining mayonnaise and cheddar cheese baked on top of tomatoes and onions.  Really, really good and nothing like we’d ever had before.   We certainly appreciated the gesture, kindness, and friendship that was extended, however the unique taste in this version of tomato pie led me on a path to discover other presentations of tomato pie.  

lots of butter, mayonnaise, and cheese in the Southern pie

here’s another photo from eclectic recipes
Now that’s what I call a cheesy dream of a tomato pie!

From the Northeastern region of the States, I found that there is a thick pizza-focaccia bread based tomato pie that I’d like to make later on.  From the photos, it looks like a thick pizza with an equally thick layer of tomato sauce on top (not sliced tomatoes) and nothing else.  Already I could see a difference in the sub-cultural interpretation of tomato pie!

certainly MORE focus on tomatoes and not cheese!

Meanwhile within the pages of one of my Italian cookbooks, “Vegetables From An Italian Garden”, I found a photo and recipe for a ‘rustic’ tomato pie.  It doesn’t look like a pie at all, but since that’s what the title stated I set out to try it.

This recipe did not fail my expectations; even my husband ate a whole ‘slice’!

photo of the rustic tomato pie in my cookbook

 spread softened butter onto the baking sheet pan

saute’ green onions and sprinkle onto bread

generously layer tomato slices and sprinkle herbs on bread

place top piece of bread on,
pour egg/milk mixture all over, 
sprinkle with salt and pepper

place slices of pecorino cheese randomly on bread and
bake in the oven until golden brown

This rustic Italian tomato pie is indeed the opposite of the traditional Southern tomato pie.  The latter has a heaviness to it, maybe due to the all of the mayonnaise, cheese and butter, and the tomatoes seemed a bit lost.  But it had a tangy cheese flavor that cannot be beat . . . and anything with cheese gets my attention quickly!  
For the rustic pie on the other hand, the oregano and basil sang out, there was no greasiness at all, and the tomatoes really stood out.  A wonderful crunch is heard as you bite into the egg/milk baked bread.  I think that this tomato pie truly reflects one of the important principles of Italian cooking:  keep everything simple and don’t cover up the flavors, but rather — enhance them!  I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this recipe and know that it will be made quite often!
And now, I’ll just go have a piece of both tomato pies for some fresh summertime tomato bliss!

Rustic Italian Tomato Pie
(adapted from “Vegetables From An Italian Garden”)

butter for greasing pan
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 scallions/green onions, finely chopped
12 thin slices good quality Italian whole wheat bread, crusts removed (I left them on)
4 – 5 fresh tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
2 jumbo eggs (I doubled this from 1 egg)
1 1/3 cups whole milk (I doubled this from 2/3 cup milk)
8 oz. pecorino cheese, sliced very thin
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spread butter all over a baking sheet with sides.
Heat olive oil in a small pan, add the scallions/green onions and sauté over low heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Lightly season with salt.
Remove from heat.
Cover the bottom of the buttered pan with half of the bread.
Spoon the scallions/green onions on top of bread.
Place tomato slices on top.
Sprinkle with dried oregano and dried basil.
Cover with remaining bread slices.
Beat eggs with the milk in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.
Pour the mixture over the bread.
Cover with pecorino cheese slices.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown.
Do not burn the bread though.
Let cool slightly and then serve on a nice serving dish.

And now here’s the recipe for the traditional Southern Tomato Pie

Southern Tomato Pie

1 pre-made pie crust
1 large sweet onion, diced
5 – 6 very fresh, preferably farmer’s market or garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced
(Tip: Slice tomatoes in half first and squeeze out excess juice before slicing to reduce water in the pie)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup sliced fresh Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place pie crust in pie plate.
Arrange onions in the bottom of the pie in a circular formation.
Then arrange sliced tomatoes, around in a circle, and some in the middle.
Add salt and pepper.
Combine mayonnaise, cheddar cheese and dried Italian seasonings in a small bowl.
Mix well and spoon over tomatoes, leaving about 1 inch gap in between mayo and the edge of the pie so you can still see the tomatoes.
Place sliced cheese on top of mayonnaise layer.
Bake for about 30 minutes, at 350 degrees, or until cheese is golden.

Mangia!


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Comments

  1. says

    Roz, I have that book and wondered how that tasted, I’m so making it after seeing your post with your recommendations.
    Wishing you a very speedy recovery and congrats again on your recent good news!

  2. says

    Marie, what a compliment coming from you and your cooking expertise! Thanks and let me know what you think when you prepare this recipe too!

  3. says

    Oh Helen, yes, I was thinking the same thing! Perfect for a picnic! And I’m sure you’ll select a perfect wine to accompany it! Cheers!

  4. says

    Sam, I love both versions, but need to watch the fat intake in my life more these days! If I were a young man with high metabolism and high physical activity, I’d eat several of each version of tomato pies! So tasty with fresh summer tomatoes!

  5. says

    Oh Roz – that does sing of fresh flavors. The kind of recipe you only make when the tomatoes are in season. I definitely must try it. Wishing you a speedy and comfortable recovery. Back pain is horrific and your neighbors are indeed kind. Bringing food allows people to check one thing off their list! Thank you for the kind comments on my blog.

  6. says

    I wouldn’t refuse any of these gorgeous tomato treats! Time to stock up on tomatoes at the farmers’ market…you’ve put me in the mood for tomato pie. I’ve made the mayo one before, but your rustic version looks just as wonderful.

  7. says

    Lizzy, you’re way ahead of me, girl. I’d never heard of the mayo-cheese tomato pie before! I’ll have to try to make it someday!

  8. says

    i have never made a tomato pie and may never have wanted to make it but now, after seeing these mouth watering pictures… i want this pie for dinner tonight!!! hehe

  9. says

    Hi Joanne, It was all new to me and now I’d like to make some adjustments to each version and come up with my own twist on the tomato pie. Both completely different huh?

  10. says

    Hey Cakewhiz,

    I’m with you and like I said to Joanne, now I’d like to come up with my own version of the two. I don’t know if that’s possible, but we’ll see. Happy Summer!

  11. says

    Thanks AguiLeon for finding and following. I visited your blog too and it’s chock full of great info that I’m glad I will no longer miss! Following back!!!

  12. says

    Take care of yourself after that surgery!

    I’m making a tomato pie tomorrow – no mayo in this one . . . instead it will have ricotta, basil, parmigiano, and an egg . . . Really, with the amazing taste of a ripe toomato all are good . . .

  13. says

    Hi Roz, Hope your mending rapidly! I jumped when I saw this post in my reader! I love tomatoes and tomato pie as well. I’m accustomed to the northern variety, served cold or room temperature. The southern version looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    As for your rustic tomato pie, fabulous and very familiar. My grandmother did a similar recipe. That adds two more recipes to my must try list!

    Have a wonderful week my friend.

  14. says

    Katherine, I hope that you enjoy! The egg-milk mixture makes the bread so crunchy good! I froze half of the batch and re-heated one yesterday in the oven and it was so good!

  15. says

    I have my own version where I combine the two! I grew up in the south eating this type at church pot lucks etc…but my Dad is from Italy and I ate the rustoc Italian version at home. In the end I kind of liked something about both pies : ) I am going to post my recipe to my blog now, thanks for reminding me of this simple lovely recipe!

  16. Lorraine says

    I made tomato pie, and I really can’t stomach the mayo, and I’m from the South! I’m gonna substitute bechemal sauce for the mayo and see how it turns out. I also used mozzarella instead. My recipe cals for basil as well.

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