During my first summer living in Charleston, I decided to do a deep-dive into the famous tomato pie. I had eaten it before then—in fact, I used to make it when I lived up North—but frankly, nothing compares to local ingredients. It must be those low-country breezes that make Southern tomato pie such a delicacy.
In my research, I found versions made with everything from tomatoes simply mixed with mayonnaise and then baked, to more elaborate combinations with added layers of bacon, greens, okra, crackers, and even cornbread. Some versions called for spreading Dijon mustard on the pie shell to add an extra layer of flavor.
I tried, tested, and tasted, and decided that this recipe is my favorite version. Roasting the tomatoes first gives them an incredible depth of flavor, concentrating their natural umami, while making sure the filling is not too wet. Pre-baking the crust before filling also helps ensure a crisp, not soggy texture. You can certainly make your own crust, but I often opt for good-quality frozen puff pastry for the sake of effort and time. Be sure to use really good cheddar cheese.
Served hot or at room temperature, this pie is perfect for a weekend lunch with a crisp green salad and sweet lemon tea. Recipes that stand the test of time are almost always made with simple, local, and seasonal ingredients, and not much more. This recipe is just that.
Makes one 9-inch pie
- 1 store-bought frozen pie crust or puff pastry sheet, thawed at room temperature
- 3 pounds beefsteak tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
- 2 large shallots, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups good-quality grated white cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (such as Duke’s)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To prepare the crust: Butter a deep, 9-inch, oven-to-table pie dish. Roll out the thawed pie crust and press it into the dish, trimming the edges to fit. Prick it all over with a fork and bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Slice one tomato, about 1/2-inch thick, to use for the top of the pie and set aside.
Slice the rest of the tomatoes and place them in a single layer on a wire rack or on paper towels. Season evenly with salt and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, to draw out some of their juices. Pat dry with paper towels and transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or leave them on the wire rack). Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until slightly shriveled and dried out. Set aside.
In a sauté pan, cook the bacon with the garlic and shallots until cooked through and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
In a bowl, mix the cheese and mayonnaise until combined. Add the bacon mixture.
To assemble the pie, spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture on the bottom of the crust. Layer with half the roasted tomato slices and then another 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Add the rest of the roasted tomatoes and the last layer of cheese mixture, and top with the reserved fresh tomato slices.
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the liquid is bubbly, the cheese has melted, and the top layer of tomatoes is nicely browned. Let rest for a couple of minutes before slicing. Serve garnished with fresh basil.