Sheet Pan Philly Tomato Pie

Philly tomato pie hails from —you guessed it— Philadelphia, and has a bread dough crust based that is one part focaccia bread, one part pizza with mozzarella cheese. Topped with a thick spread of zesty tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, tomato pie is perfect alongside a fresh green salad or as an appetizer for a party.

full Philly tomato pie in a sheet pan with bowl of parmesan cheese and spoon

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What is Philly tomato pie anyway?

Philly Tomato Pie comes to us straight from the city of Brotherly love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Unlike its cousin, the traditional pizza, tomato pie (or, sometimes as it’s known, red pie) has only three components.

  • A bakery bread crust that is a both light and a thick base for the sauce
  • A beyond easy-to-make tomato sauce, that boasts big slow-cooked flavor.
  • A tiny smattering of parmesan cheese lightly sprinkled over the sauce (that’s it for the cheese!

How’s that for simplicity?

Other simple recipes like this you’ll ♥️: potato focaccia, homemade Italian red sauce, and super quick and easy marinated mozzarella balls. Or serve tomato bread alongside my summer panzanella for an easy summer menu idea …so good!

Recipe highlights

The secret sauce

As they say, the secret is in the sauce. It all starts with a flavorful herb blend that helps create a souped-up version of this popular tomato, butter and onion sauce.

Double proofing

The dough will proof twice —once in the bowl and once in the sheet pan giving you time to do other things

Better than a no cheese pizza

All you’ll do is grate a wedge of parmesan cheese over top of the baked tomato pie after it comes out of the oven. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Key ingredients

dough and tomato sauce ingredients for Philly tomato pie on dark background
The ingredients for Philly tomato pie are simple and include flour, yeast, olive oil, whole tomatoes, onion, butter, seasonings and parmesan cheese.
  • Instant yeast. You can use active dry yeast too. I don’t recommend fast acting yeast for this red pie recipe.
  • All purpose flour. Produces a denser crust due to the winter wheat it’s made with. A dense, thick crust holds the rich tomato sauce better.
  • Canned tomatoes. I prefer San Marzano canned tomatoes —read more below!
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese. The best parmesan cheese you can afford. The dry and crumbly parmesan. No green cans please!

⇢ You can find the full ingredient list + measurements in the recipe card directly below.

Ingredient Spotlight: tomatoes for red pie tomato sauce

can of whole Italian tomatoes and ingredients around it to make Philly tomato pie sauce recipe
Whole San Marzano tomatoes are the best choice for tomato pie and are easily found in the grocery store.

If you have an abundance of garden or heirloom tomatoes, feel free to use them to make the tomato sauce for tomato pie!

I suggest using a high quality canned tomato, preferably from San Marzano as they are lower in acidity and have a rich sweet flavor. Be on the lookout for certified San Marzano tomatoes with my easy guide on how to know if cans labeled San Marzano are really from San Marzano.

Some of my favorite, certified San Marzano canned tomatoes are from:

How to make red tomato pie

dark bowl of flour to make Philly tomato pie crust on dark background
Mix the dry ingredients together and separately proof the yeast in water.
white bowl of yeast dough before being mixed
After proofing the yeast, add it to the dry ingredients and mix.
white bowl of tomato pie dough on a dark background
The dough after mixing with a stand mixer or by hand.
white bowl of risen tomato pie dough on dark brown background
Allow the dough to rise for at least 2 hours, covered.

Step 1: First rise

If using active dry yeast: To a large mixing bowl, add the warm water and sprinkle over the yeast. Stir lightly. Add the sugar and let sit until bubbly for about five minutes to activate.

If using instant yeast: Mix all the dough ingredients together taking care to add the yeast to the flour first and then add the salt last so as to not kill the yeast

Fast acting yeast isn’t recommended for this recipe.


Active yeast vs. instant yeast

Active yeast requires activation via warm water to bloom. Instant yeast can be immediately added to dough ingredients as long as it doesn’t come in direct contact with the salt.

-Josie + Nina

  • Use a stand mixer if available to mix the dough until it comes away from the sides. You also can hand-mix with a strong wooden spoon.
  • Turn the dough into a bowl wiped with olive oil. Cover the dough first with plastic and then a clean dish towel and set in a warm place to rise, about 2-3 hours.

Step 2: Second rise

sheet pan of tomato pie dough on a dark background
After rising, pour the dough into a sheet pan and spread to the edges.
risen tomato pie dough in a sheet pan with saucepan of sauce
Rise for a second time.
  • Pour olive oil into the large sheet pan.
  • After a minimum of two hours has passed, slide the dough into the sheet pan and work the dough to the edges of the pan. It will be very loose so this should be easy to do.
  • Allow to rise in the sheet pan for 45 minutes or longer.

Pro Tip

Spreading a layer of olive oil in the pan before adding the crust helps create a crispy bottom and edge.


Step 3: Make the sauce

saucepan of butter and onions on a white napkin with bowls of salt
Melt the butter and add the herbs followed by the garlic and onion.
tomato sauce in a saucepan for tomato pie
Cook along with the tomatoes for 45 minutes.
  • Blend tomatoes in a blender until slightly smooth. You want a few chunks of tomato.
  • Melt butter in a saucepan and add the herbs. Add the garlic and allow to cook for about 30 seconds.
  • To the butter, add the quartered onion along with the blended tomato. Simmer the sauce on low for 45 minutes.

Step 3: Prep the tomato pie for baking

prebaked Philly tomato pie topped with red sauce in sheet pan
Spread a thick layer of sauce on risen crust.
baked no cheese Philly tomato pie in a sheet pan
Bake (without cheese!) until golden.
  • Spread a thick layer of tomato butter sauce over the risen crust. Leave about 1/2″ edge all around.
  • Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cool to room temperature before serving.

Cook’s tools for tomato pie

Here are some kitchen tools that will come in handy as you prep and bake the Philly tomato bread:

  • High Speed blender or hand immersion blender. The Vitamix is one of my most used small appliances in my kitchen so I prefer that over an immersion blender but either work!
  • 4 qt saucepan. Used to make the tomato bread sauce recipe. The All-Clad 4 qt. saucepan is my recommendation and will become an essential tool in your kitchen! You’ll never have to replace it (unless your kids “borrow” it)!
  • Large baking sheet. I really like the large baking sheet from USA Pan. It’s a great value and everything you’ll bake on it cooks evenly.
  • Offset spatula. Makes it easier to spread the tomato sauce evenly by using an offset spatula.
  • Pizza cutter. Not all pizza cutters are the same. Don’t waste your money on inexpensive pizza cutters. Spend the extra money and invest in all stainless pizza cutter.

Insider tips

baked Philly tomato pie with sprinkling of cheese
Baked Philly tomato pie is best at room temp but good anytime!

Following are a few insider top tips to Philly tomato pie success. The dough is really forgiving and easy to work with and because you’ll literally pour and stretch it in a sheet pan, you don’t have to worry about shaping it.

  • Tomato pie is best served at room temperature. A pan of it makes the best party appetizer!
  • Make your sauce the day or two before you plan to serve it. The flavors in homemade tomato sauce bloom and intensify a bit after they sit for a day or two.
  • If you have more time for the dough to rise, use it! You can even make the dough the night before and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

Storage, reheating and freezing

Wrap any leftovers in a plastic wrap and then place in a sealed storage bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. Can be warmed in a low temperature oven (300˚).

Philly tomato pie can be frozen after being wrapped as described above and placed in a freezer safe bag or container for up to 3 months.


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baked Philly tomato pie with sprinkling of cheese
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Philly Tomato Pie

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Equipment

Ingredients
 

For the crust

For the sauce:

Instructions

PROOF #1

  • In a large mixing bowl, add the warm water and sprinkle over the yeast. Stir lightly. Add the sugar and let side until bubbly for about five minutes.
    415 grams warm water, 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • Layer the flour, olive oil and salt in that order. [see note below]
    4 ¾ cups ap flour, 1 Tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon olive oil plus ¼ cup oil for bottom of pan, 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Mix by hand with a wooden spoon or by machine (with a paddle attachment) until all the flour is mixed together. The dough will come away from the sides of the bowl in the mixer.
  • Turn the dough out to a floured surface. The dough will be very wet which is fine. Knead it together for about 4-5 minutes until the dough is fairly smooth.
  • Flour the dough as needed with the extra ¼ cup of flour.
  • Pour the dough into a mixing bowl wiped with a little drizzle of olive oil turning over to coat the underside.
  • Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and place into an unheated oven or warm place to rise for up to a minimum of 2 hours (3 is better if you have the time!) until doubled in size.

PROOF #2 (in sheet pan)

  • Add oil to bottom of pan first and then spread dough to the edges. Allow to rise for 45 minutes.

For the sauce

  • In a blender or with a stick blender, blend tomatoes to desired consistency. I prefer my sauce smoother. You certainly can leave them whole and crush them right in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon.
    2 cans tomatoes
  • In a medium saucepan, saute herbs in butter until butter is melted and herbs are fragrant.
    10 T butter, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Peel onion, cut in half or quarters depending on the size of the onion, trim shaggy roots and add the onion to the pan along with blended tomatoes.
    1 extra large onion
  • Add a little salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of salt and maybe ½ teaspoon of pepper to start).
  • Simmer for 45 minutes uncovered until the fat starts to separate from the tomatoes.
  • Adjust seasonings with salt and a little black pepper as needed. Add a little sugar if the sauce tastes too acidic about 1-2 teaspoons to start.
    1 teaspoon kosher salt, Add sugar as needed

Prepare the tomato pie

  • Preheat oven to 450˚.
  • Spread thick layer of sauce over the crust of the tomato pie leaving a little edges. The onions are really good too so put them on, if desired!
    Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes or completely to room temperature if you can wait. Cut into thick pieces and sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving.

Notes

*Yeast note. If using instant yeast, you can omit the step for letting the yeast bloom in the water and add it along with the water to the flour. Just make sure the yeast is mixed in before adding the salt. If the salt directly interacts with the yeast, the salt will kill the yeast.
NOTE: Fast acting yeast isn’t recommended for this recipe.
Storage. Wrap any leftovers in a plastic wrap and then place in a sealed storage bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving. Can be warmed in a low temperature oven (300˚).
Philly tomato pie can be frozen after being wrapped as described above and placed in a freezer safe bag or container for up to 3 months.
Course: Appetizer, bread, brunch, Main Course, Pasta, Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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