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What Is Tomato Pie?

By Dee Jones
Updated: May 17, 2024

Many people use the name tomato pie to refer to pizza, but tomato pie is a distinct dish that likely originated in New York state in the early 20th century. Traditional tomato pie is a simple dish made with just a few ingredients. Tomato sauce is spread on a bread dough, which is then sprinkled with grated Romano cheese before baking. There have been many variations on the traditional recipe, however, with each cook feeling free to add his own personal touch to the dish. It is possible to find recipes that call for pie crusts, sliced tomatoes, shredded cheese, and other toppings that aren’t found in the traditional recipe.

While it has its roots in the kitchens of Italy, the tomato pie is considered by most to be a uniquely American creation. Many food historians believe the first tomato pie was sold in the early 1900s in East Utica, New York. Some, however, maintain that a version of the dish was being sold even earlier than that in Trenton, New Jersey.

This dish does have a lot in common with the pizza that is so popular throughout the world. Authentic pizza, however, is more like Neapolitan-style pizza found in Italy, while tomato pie is more similar to Sicilian-style pizza. Tomato pie is popular in Italian-American communities, and can be found in many food establishments throughout the Eastern United States.

The traditional recipe for this dish is simple. The base is focaccia-like dough, on top of which is spread tomato sauce. Grated Romano cheese is sprinkled on top of the dish, and it is then baked, traditionally in an aluminum pan. Unlike pizza, which is often considered best when served hot, tomato pie is often allowed to cool, sometimes to room temperature, before being served.

Since the creation of the first tomato pie, there have been many variations on the recipe, many of which use sliced tomatoes. In some of these recipes, an actual pie crust is used, like the crust a baker might use for an apple pie. After the crust has been pre-baked and cooled, grated cheese of the cook’s choice is sprinkled on the bottom of the crust. Tomato slices are layered on top of inside the pie crust. Finally, shredded cheese might be sprinkled over the top of the dish before baking.

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