In North Carolina, where I grew up, you can mark the changing of the seasons by the changing of the cuisine.
We make soups, chilis, and pies all fall long. In the winter, we turn to hearty stewed meats, such as pot roast and beef stew. In the spring, we reintroduce fresh vegetables to our diets, with asparagus and carrots.
And summer? Summer is all about the tomatoes. (OK, and the peaches … but the tomatoes are what really get us excited.)
BLTs! Caprese salads! Fresh tomato sauce canned for the winter months! There are oh-so-many ways to use the humble tomato.
But the most popular, the most talked about, the most beloved Southern way of all? Tomato pie.
Variations on a Classic
Tomato pie couldn’t be simpler to make.
Most Southern home cooks start with a store-bought, pre-cooked crust and load it up with a mix of mayonnaise, Cheddar cheese, basil, garlic powder, and tomatoes. A thick layer of cheese goes on top, and it’s baked to bubbly, gooey, tomato pie perfection. If that doesn’t sound delicious to you, it’s because you’ve never tried it. Trust me, it works.
In the summertime, every grocery store, market, and little local restaurant sells their own version of tomato pie. Going to a potluck and no time to cook? Grab a tomato pie on the way over.
When I set out to create my own version of the classic, I asked two of my favorite tomato pie connoisseurs for their recipes. My uncle Jim loads his pies with his epic homegrown tomatoes in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and my mother-in-law Marsha picks up vine-ripened “‘maters” at the farmers market to bake hers in Charlotte, North Carolina. The two have never met, but their recipes are nearly the exact same except for one ingredient: Marsha adds a sprinkle of dried basil to her mayo mixture; Jim sticks to fresh basil only.
I found several popular versions on the internet, and sure enough, they all had just a small difference here and there.
I knew two things about my recipe in the making: I wanted it to be truly unique, not just a slight variation of the version that was already out there and so beloved, and I wanted to use a homemade pie crust. The trouble with that? Making pies can be tricky!
Breaking It Down
Enter: the galette. A galette is essentially a rustic, hand-formed pie with no pie dish. There’s no picking up the crust and laying it perfectly in the dish; no “par-baking” to ensure you don’t have a soggy crust. You simply lay a pie crust flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet, fill it up with goodies, then crimp the sides of the crust over the filling so that it doesn’t spill out. You can make savory or sweet galettes, as I do, often!
After first testing this recipe with a typical pie crust using only all-purpose flour, I decided to mix in some whole wheat flour to give it a nutty, earthier dimension. I love what the whole wheat adds, but feel free to use only all-purpose.
For the filling, I knew I wanted to replace the mayonnaise with ricotta from the get-go. The mayonnaise is delightful in the original tomato pie, but I wanted something that wouldn’t terrify half of my readers (some people really hate mayo) and that would give the galette more structure.
I kept the cheddar, basil, and garlic powder, but I also added sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan. Those two ingredients add an incredible amount of flavor, and I love the double tomato action with the two kinds of tomatoes.
Speaking of tomatoes, picking perfectly ripe tomatoes is crucial here. When you hold a tomato in the palm of your hand, it should feel very heavy for its size—this is from all of the juices inside! Don’t squeeze it—you’ll ruin it for yourself, or for the next shopper who comes upon it. Instead, give it a sniff; it should have a strong earthy smell. If you smell nothing, move on to the next tomato.
Dehydrating those perfect tomatoes before using them in the galette is also crucial. To do so, you simply lay them on a clean dish or paper towel, salt them, and let them release their excess liquid. That way, we don’t end up with a soggy galette.
My husband George, who grew up on his mother’s tomato pie, absolutely loves my version. This one took me a few tries to get right, so we wound up eating tomato pie for several meals a day for far too many days, but he didn’t mind one bit. He felt like he was back in North Carolina, where tomato pie is a food group of its own in summertime, and there was always one in the refrigerator, waiting to be dug into.
Whole Wheat Heirloom Tomato Galette
Serves 4 to 6
For the Whole Wheat Crust
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, very cold, cut into 16 pieces
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup ice-cold water
For the Tomato Galette
- 1 pound heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup grated aged Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, loosely packed, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil or dry-packed)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- Flaky sea salt
To make the crust: Add the flours, salt, and butter to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10–15 times, until the butter is the size of peas. Pour the water in slowly, and continue pulsing until you have a dough that sticks together when you pinch it. No food processor? Add the flours, salt, and butter to a large bowl and use your fingers to pinch the butter into the dough, until the buttery bits are the size of peas. Pour the water in slowly and mix it in with a fork until you have a dough that sticks together when you pinch it.
Gather the dough into a ball and place it between two large squares of parchment paper. Roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about getting the exact size, or if it turns out more like an oval than a circle! The edges will be rough and uneven and that’s OK, too. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, place the sliced tomatoes in an even layer on clean dish towels or paper towels. Sprinkle generously with about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Let them sit and drain their moisture for at least 1 hour. Pat the tops dry and gently squeeze out any excess moisture before using.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Clean the bowl of the food processor. Add the cheddar cheese, ricotta, all but 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, 1/2-teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4-teaspoon black pepper and process until combined, 10–15 seconds. No food processor? Finely chop the basil and sun-dried tomatoes and mix everything together by hand in a large bowl.
Take the crust out of the refrigerator and remove the top piece of parchment paper. Spread the cheese mixture over the crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Add the tomato slices over the top, overlapping them slightly. Fold the border of the crust over the tomatoes, crimping it tightly to seal the edges. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water and brush over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan over the tomatoes.
Bake until golden brown, 30–40 minutes. Let cool at least five minutes before serving. Slice and serve sprinkled with flaky sea salt, more pepper, and basil leaves.
Wrap any leftovers tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Enjoy at room temperature, or reheat on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.
You can absolutely use a store-bought frozen pie crust to save time. The kind you roll out, not the kind in a pie tin!
George and I love this tomato galette for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s fabulous alongside a simple arugula salad for lunch, or as a side in addition to grilled veggies and chicken for dinner.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to dehydrate your tomatoes. They are full of water and will lead to a soggy galette if you don’t dehydrate them for at least an hour before using.
Want to use mayo? Go for it! Swap in equal parts mayo instead of the ricotta.
Try it Marsha’s way: add 1/2-teaspoon dried basil to the filling.
Caroline Chambers is a recipe developer, food writer, and author of “Just Married: A Cookbook for Newlyweds.” She currently lives in Carmel Valley, Calif., with her husband George, and son, Mattis. Follow her on Instagram for cooking tips and snippets from her life in Northern California. @carochambers