For a long time, I thought all pizza was supposed to taste like Domino's/Pizza Hut/etc. Oddly enough, I don't remember the first time I discovered differently. As best as I can figure, it was sometime before I lived in Charlotte, but likely after I left Cleveland; that would put my pizza discovery squarely in Washington, DC - but damned if I know when, where, or what kind of pizza was involved.
Suffice to say, I have no shortage of "real" pizza these days and I'm real glad for that. If I don't make it myself, it's just a short walk to one of two shops or a simple phone call to another shop a half mile away.
There's a lot of pizza 'round these parts.
I have two favorite styles of pizza - one of which isn't even technically pizza.
New York style is how I prefer my pies; I love the thin crust and the monstrous slice size. Oh sure, Chicago deep dish pizza is good, don't get me wrong here, but I like the balance between bread and toppings in NY pizza.
My toppings of choice? Pepperoni, onion & black olives.
Second to NY pizza is something I didn't discover until I moved to Philly, and it can barely even be called a pizza.
Tomato pie is a regional thing found almost exclusively in the Northeast United States, most commonly in cities with a large Italian-American population. It's kinda-sorta like a pizza in that it uses pizza dough and tomato sauce, but it looks nothing like a pizza, nor does it taste a lot like one. In fact, tomato pies taste different from town to town, and even from shop to shop - much like there are different ragù recipes from family to family, there are different tomato pie recipes.
I first had tomato pie at a local pizza shop. It's not on the menu but, being regulars, we could special order it sometimes. It ain't cheap though.
What else to do but work up my own recipe for it?
The first thing one might notice about tomato pie is that it's not round. It's square or rectangular. The next thing you'll see is that this pizza-esque dish isn't dripping with cheese; depending on the version, you'll see anything from no cheese at all to a bare sprinkle of grated parm to a very thin layer of provolone or mozzarella. This "pizza" is about the tomatoes, not about the cheese.
Chellie's Tomato Pie
makes 1 large rectangular pie
special equipment: 1 large cookie sheet or half sheet pan
2 cups warm water
1 T + 1 t active dry yeast
1 t sugar or honey
5-6 cups hi-gluten flour, bread flour, or AP flour
4 T olive oil
2 t salt
Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until frothy.
Add the salt, olive oil, and 1 cup of flour. Mix until smooth.
Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough comes together in a smooth, slightly sticky ball.
Knead for 5-10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes by mixer, until the dough is soft, supple and very springy.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled - about 1 hour.
While the dough rises, make the sauce.
Over low heat, saute 1 T of crushed garlic in 1 T olive oil. When the garlic browns slightly, add 1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, and a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar.
Raise the heat to medium.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.
Let the sauce cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated - about 30 minutes.
Let cool to warm room temperature.
Preheat oven to 425*.
When the dough has risen, punch it down, knead it a couple times, and let rest for 5 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangular shape. Transfer dough to a lightly greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet or half sheet pan and stretch the dough to fit the bottom of the pan and slightly up the sides.
Let rest for 5 minutes.
With your fingertips, press indentations halfway into the slightly risen dough on the bottom of the pan. You should have a relatively flat rectangle of dough surrounded by a slightly raised crust along the edges.
Top the dough with the tomato sauce in a thick layer.
Bake at 425* for 17-22 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and, if desired, top with a bit of shredded parmesan, provolone, or mozzarella cheese. Remember this pie is about the tomato sauce, so don't douse it in cheese.
Let the pie cool almost to room temperature.
Slice into squares and serve.
The dough recipe can be divided in half and used to make a standard 16" round pizza.
The dough recipe can also be used in the same proportions or halved to make focaccia - after the dough has risen once and been punched down, shape as desired. Let rise a second time, covered, for 30 minutes.
When the dough has risen a 2nd time, again use your fingertips to press indentations all over the surface of the dough. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt and the herbs of your choice. Bake at 425* for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the outside.