Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tomato Pie, How to Bake an Empty Pie Shell, Oh & How to Stop a Soggy Crust

 My daughter-in-love Sandy asked me to make Tomato Pie for a party they had this past weekend. This is her favorite of my recipes.  It is so rich that it can be a main course, and no one will ask where the meat is.

It took me a while to perfect this one, since people are a bit secretive about their tomato pie recipes. Sort of like Marie on "Everybody Loves Raymond", they tend to leave out a single important element or direction. Then one makes it, and it is "almost" perfect... except for that little flaw! Well, that little flaw in Tomato Pie is the soggy crust. I have two solutions that both work well.

Here's my recipe, with complete instructions :-)

Tina's Tomato Pie

1 Deep Dish Pie Crust, pre-baked (see instructions below at the end of the post)
2 pounds fresh tomatos, peeled (see instructions below at the end of the post) - In the winter, use canned whole tomatoes.
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, minced, or 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
1 teaspoon Salt
Pinch of sugar
Couple of grinds of fresh ground black pepper
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of Real Mayonnaise (do NOT use "lite" mayo or yogurt or any substitutes!!!)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar Cheese

Pre-bake your pie shell. For tomato pie, when you remove the pie weights, sprinkle the bottom of the crust with shredded cheese to cover, then return to the hot oven to finish baking.

Baking some shredded cheese onto the crust is an important step that will help keep the crust from getting soggy from the tomatoes. I tried several things when I first made this. Brushing the inside of the crust with egg white and then popping back into the overn for the last 5 minute of baking is a good technique too. But the thin layer of melted cheese seems to work best for this dish.

Peel your tomatoes, and chop them coarsely. Sprinkle with salt and put them into a colander to drain for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. I like to set my colander over a bowl to catch the juice. It is good to drink right then, or freeze and add to soup later.

 After the tomatoes have drained, stir in a pinch of sugar, then put the tomatoes into the baked pie shell. That "pinch of sugar" is what my grandmother added to every tomato dish - she said a pinch of sugar will "cut the tomatoes", and it does do something that really rounds out the flavor. I can tell the difference without it.

 Mince the basil and sprinkle it over the top of the tomatoes, along with a grind or two of black pepper.


 In a bowl, blend the mayonnaise and cheese, then spoon the mixture on top of the tomatoes. Use a knife of spatula to spread it out and completely cover the top of the pie.

 Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and bubbly. 

You can serve it warm, but we serve it fresh baked and cooled to room temperature. And some of us like it leftover for breakfast too!  Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers, as this pie will spoil if left out too long. 


As promised above, here are the instructions for pre-baking your pie shell, and for peeling fresh tomatoes:

How To Pre-bake a pie shell:  Line the pie pans with crust and flute your edges. Make sure there is plenty of dough for overlap on the top edge as the crust will shrink a little. Fork the bottom and sides of the crust all over to make little holes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, then line the pie crust with aluminum foil (or waxed paper or parchment). 

Next, either push another, empty pie pan in on top of this one, or fill your foil-covered crust with dry beans or rice (use some old beans that you will never cook with and save them for this purpose). This will help keep the crust from shrinking and from bubbling.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove from oven and cool slightly but leave the oven on. Lift the foil & beans out of the crust or remove the other pan. Use your foil to make strips and cover the edges of the crust to keep them from overbrowning.

Then, return the crust to the hot oven for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the bottom is baked. Cool before filling.

How To Peel Fresh Tomatoes:  Bring a 2 quart pot of water to a rolling boil. Keep the heat on high and, using a slotted spoon, put each WHOLE tomato into the boiling water. Turn & poke down if necessary to be sure the tomatos all get time under the water.

Leave in for one minute only, then remove each tomato using the slotted spoon. Put these tomatoes into a bowl of cold tap water. Now the skins will just peel right off with your fingers.


  1. This looks absolutely fantastic! I am definitely making this next year (bookmarked already!) when I have tomatoes to use (I'm trying to limit what I buy from the supermarket and my farmer's market doesn't have tomatoes now. Of course, heh).

    Do you freeze your tomatoes? I tried it with my cherry tomatoes this summer, but they turned to watery mush when I thawed them. I didn't blanch them first, so maybe that was the problem? I'm counting on a vast bounty of tomatoes next year (yeah, right, lol), so really need a tried and true way to store them. I haven't started canning yet, but that's on my near-term list of things to learn asap (I just haven't had anything "left over" to can yet).

  2. Hi there, thanks so much! :-) Our Farmer's Market Manager says people start wanting tomatoes the minute they open in the spring and she has to educate them about what "Local, in season" means, heh. :-)

    I store green tomatos fresh, to ripen over the winter, and I can fruit and freeze most veggies (the vaccuum sealer was our best investment - produce & meat will keep for years), but have found that the best way to freeze ripe tomatoes is to make them into something first - even a simple tomato sauce. They freeze great when already cooked. I have a pressure canner that I will be using the first time in 2014 to can plain whole tomatoes IF I am able to actually grow enough tomatos to put up. They are a problem veggie for me to grow!

  3. Of course! Why didn't I think of just making a sauce? Gaaahhh, I'm so new to this, it's painful. I so appreciate your blog and advice :)

  4. This is the kind of thing that makes the net such a wonderful tool. The folks who helped me learn the basics of canning and preserving are all gone now, but through the internet we can all keep learning and sharing best practices. Have a lovely week! :-)



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