Make Philly Tomato Pie at home with this simplified recipe. This Philadelphia classic is made with bread dough, pizza sauce, and grated parmesan.
What is Philly tomato pie?
Philly tomato pie is a Philadelphia classic made with bread dough, a thick pizza sauce and topped with grated parmesan cheese. It is made without mozzarella cheese and is usually served chilled or at room temperature.
If you didn’t grow up with tomato pie this might seem SO odd, like, why not just have normal pizza? In my experience we had tomato pie at different times.
My family serves tomato pie as a part of an appetizer spread or as a snack.
Where was tomato pie invented?
Okay so I’m calling this a Philly tomato pie recipe BUT where did tomato pie actually come from? I guess if you want to be technical about it you could say it came from Italy, but tomato pie as we know it in the United States came from Philly.
Tomato pie fist appeared in the United States in Philly in 1910 when Iannelli’s Famous Brick Oven Bakery opened. Since then Philly tomato pie has spread to bakeries and pizza shops all over the city and surrounding suburbs.
Other names for tomato pie
Philadelphians have all kinds of names for tomato pie. If you grew up in Philly, but no longer live there or have Philadelphian relatives, they might call it gravy pie, church pie, red pizza, granny pie or red pie.
What kitchen tools will I need to make some church pie at home?
- Scale for weighing ingredients
- Large bucket or bowl for mixing and proofing dough – I use a 12qt bucket
- Sauce pan for preparing pizza sauce
- Immersion blender to blend pizza sauce
- Sheet pan for baking your tomato pie
Why should I measure ingredients by weight for this tomato pie pizza?
Measuring ingredients by weight is far more precise than measuring by size. This is especially crucial when working with bread dough.
Then more precise your measurements, the better your tomato pie crust will be. If you don’t have a scale to measure, you can use this handy chart to convert to measuring by size.
What ingredients will I need to make this Philly tomato pie?
The ingredients for tomato pie are simple. Just like bread, you only need flour, water, salt and yeast to prepare the fluffy crust.
- Flour – I used King Arthur’s All Purpose Flour
- Water – Your water should be warm not hot
- Salt – Salt quality matters! I like Redmond’s Real Salt
- Yeast – I use instant yeast, but you can use active dry or instant
- Whole peeled tomatoes – Look for the DOP logo on the can for the best tomatoes
- Olive Oil – For the sauce + extra for crust
- Garlic – minced and mixed into the sauce
- Oregano – optional
- Grated parmesan cheese – also optional
Active Dry Yeast vs. Instant Yeast
You can use either active dry yeast or instant yeast in this recipe. Active dry yeast needs to bloom in water before it is used and instant yeast can be mixed in with dry ingredients.
For this Philly tomato pie recipe we will be blooming the yeast in water anyway so you can use either type of yeast!
Let’s make a Philly Tomato Pie!
Step 1: Prepare the bread dough and proof
To begin, measure water and flour. Bloom yeast in water. Then, mix water and yeast with flour to create a shaggy mixture.
After 15 minutes you will fold the dough twice. Then, cover the bowl or bucket with plastic wrap and leave the dough to proof for 3 hours.
Step 2: Prepare the pizza sauce
Gently simmer the pizza sauce for 45 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat to cool
Step 3: Spread sauce over proofed dough and bake!
After the dough has proofed for 3 hours, spread olive oil onto a sheet pan with your hand. Spread the dough out as best you can. Then, cover the dough on the sheet pan with a clean dish cloth and allow to proof for another hour.
Preheat your oven to 475F. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil on top and spread it with your finger tips. Make small divots in the dough with your finger tips.
Then, spread a thick layer of the sauce you prepared earlier over the top of the dough. Place in the oven to bake at 457F for 30 minutes.
Finally, remove the tomato pie from the oven and allow to cool completely before topping with a generous shake of grated parmesan.
Step 4: Enjoy!
How should I store my tomato pie?
You can leave the tomato pie on the sheet pan that you baked it on and cover it with some tin foil. Then, place the tomato pie in the fridge for up to 1 week.
You can also freeze this Philly tomato pie. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in tin foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Allow the tomato pie to thaw in the fridge before enjoying.
You can find the full recipe below. If you make this recipe, please rate and review it in the comments, or share it with me on Instagram!
- 750g flour
- 540g warm water
- 3/4 tsp yeast
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- Measuring water and flour on a scale and place flour in a large bowl or bucket. Add yeast and salt to warm water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Pour water, yeast, salt mixture into the flour and mix with your hand until all of the dry flour is just mixed in. This is called a shaggy mix and should not be a smooth mixture.
- Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes you will fold the dough twice. Wet your hand, reach into the bucket or bowl and reach under the dough at one corner. Pull and stretch the dough over to the top. Repeat with all four corners of the dough. Then flip the dough upside down so the folds are at the bottom. Wait one minute then repeat this process again. At this point your dough should be smoother and stretchy. If it isn’t you can fold a 3rd time. Cover the bowl or bucket with plastic wrap and leave the dough to proof for 3 hours.
- While the dough proofs prepare the sauce by adding the whole peeled tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and minced garlic to a sauce pan, use an immersion blender to blend the sauce. It does not have to be perfectly smooth. Increase the heat to medium-high and wait for it to begin to simmer. Once it simmers reduce the heat to medium-low or low and continue with a low simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat to cool
- After the dough has proofed for 3 hours, spread olive oil onto a sheet pan with your hand. Using your oiled hand, grab the dough from the bowl or bucket and place on the sheet pan. Spread the dough out as best you can. It’s okay if the dough shrinks back without reaching the corners of the pan. Cover the dough on the sheet pan with a clean dish cloth and allow to proof for another hour.
- When that hour is almost up, preheat your oven to 475F. Remove the dish cloth from the dough and once again spread it over the sheet pan, this time it should be easier to stretch the dough. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil on top and spread it with your finger tips. Make small divots in the dough with your finger tips, but do not pierce the dough. This prevents large bubbles from forming.
- Spread a thick layer of the sauce you prepared earlier over the top of the dough, you will not use all of the sauce, but do not be afraid to use A LOT of it. You want a nice thick layer. Sprinkle oregano over the top. Place in the oven to bake at 457F for 30 minutes. Remove the tomato pie from the oven and allow to cool completely before topping with a generous shake of grated parmesan.
***use the images in the blog post for help with the dough