Homemade Pizza School

Updated: October 19, 2023

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

What is Tomato Pie? Is it Really Pizza?

Tomato pie has multiple meanings because it is multiple things depending on where you order it. We did a deep dive on tomato pie and learned all about this dish and the many variations of it. So, if you are like us and wondering, what in the world is a tomato pie? We can help you make sense of it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tomato pie has multiple versions depending on the region, with the Philly tomato pie being the most popular and resembling pizza the most.
  • While all versions of tomato pie have a similar base of dough, tomato sauce, and cheese, the variations come in the toppings, crust, and preparation method.
  • Southern-style tomato pie is not connected to Italian-inspired tomato pies and is made with a savory pie crust, fresh tomatoes, shallots, bacon, garlic, herbs, and mayonnaise, resembling a quiche more than a pizza.
homemade tomato pie with deep red sauce
Photo Ianelli’s tomato pie on Goldbelly

What is Tomato Pie?

There are three distinct versions of tomato pie. They all have the same basic ingredients: dough, tomato sauce, and cheese, but it’s how they are all put together that makes them unique.

Philly Tomato Pie

Philadelphia tomato pie is just another one of the great food offerings from the great city of Philadelphia. A Philly tomato pie has a thick focaccia-like crust and is covered in a tomato sauce with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Reggiano. It is made in a rectangular pan and cut into square or rectangular slices. It is generally served cold or at room temperature.

There is some debate over the exact origins of Philly tomato pie. Some give credit to  Iannelli’s Bakery in Philadelphia, where it has been on the menu since 1910. Others claim that it was being sold out of the basement in Utica, New York, a few years before 1910 by the family that later opened O’Scugnizzo’s Pizzeria in 1914.

It is hard to say because food history can be murky, but we think everyone can agree that tomato pie originally came to the U.S. by Italian immigrants who brought with them their food traditions and recipes.

The biggest migration happened between 1880 and 1920, which is right around the time the first New York pizza slice was sold and when tomato pie came on the scene. You could argue that tomato pie is just an Americanized Sicilian sfincione but without the guanciale or mortadella

tomato pie in a pizza pan
By Rino Porrovecchio – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

While tomato pie is not an exact copy of Sicilian sfincione, it may have inspired it. Some of the key differences between the two is that Sicilian sfincione is served hot with a brioche-style crust. And it can have other toppings.

One of the biggest differences between tomato pie and sfincione is in the sauce. Sicilian sfincione is topped with a rich tomato sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes and has anchovies and onion mixed into the cooked sauce.

While tomato pie uses a fairly simple sauce of tomatoes, either fresh and roasted or canned, and garlic, oregano, and basil. When it comes to cheese, a Sicilian sfincione is usually made with caciocavallo cheese, which is under the sauce, and tomato pie has very little cheese sprinkled on top.

Other Versions of Tomato Pie

delicious slice of tomato pie
Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr

In the city of Trenton, in the great state of New Jersey, there is another version of tomato pie. Their local, regional version is made with a thin crust but not quite a cracker-like crust like St. Louis pizza. The cheese is added directly to the dough with a thick layer of sauce spooned on top.

In the middle of the state of New York, there is another regional variation of tomato pie that is similar to the Philly version but does not skimp on the cheese. So it has a thick, airy crust with sauce and cheese, making it closer to looking like a Chicago deep dish than a New York pizza pie.

Southern Style Tomato Pie

round southern style tomato pie
Photo by Leigh Skomal on Unsplash

In the south, there is another version of tomato pie, but it is not really connected to the Italian-inspired tomato pies of the north. Instead, this tomato pie probably has its origins in the abundant tomato harvest and gardeners looking for ways to use up those juicy heirloom tomatoes that grow so well in the southern heat.

Southern tomato pie is made in a savory pie crust similar to a quiche crust with layers of fresh tomatoes, shallots, bacon, garlic, herbs, and mayonnaise. It is closer to a quiche than pizza. We have been lucky enough to visit the south and have tried southern tomato pie, and it is really good, but alas, it is not pizza.

Sometimes, it’s even called a tomato tart or tomato galette. Definitely not pizza.

How to Make Homemade Tomato Pie

We are going to share a recipe for a Philly tomato pie since this one seems to be the most popular and the one that most closely resembles pizza.

What you will need:

Tomato Pie Dough

This is the same recipe that we use for focaccia. You need to combine the ingredients and mix well with clean hands. Set aside for two hours and let it double in size. Next, press it into an oiled rectangular pan, press into the dough to give it dimples cover, and let rise again.

Wait two hours and then brush on more olive and par-bake at 450º F for five minutes. Remove, add sauce, and bake for another five minutes. Remove and let cool, then sprinkle on Parmesano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese. Let completely cool, then slice and serve at room temperature.

For Tomato Pie Sauce

Slice the Romas in half, place on a baking sheet with the peeled garlic cloves, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven at 400º F for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove, let cool, then blend with all of the other ingredients in a blender

Store any leftover pizza in the refrigerator for up to four days. We don’t recommend freezing it because when thawed, the sauce will be too wet and mushy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of tomato pie?

Tomato pie is believed to have originated from Italian immigrants who brought their food traditions and recipes to the United States. However, there is some debate over the exact origins of tomato pie, with some giving credit to Iannelli’s Bakery in Philadelphia, while others claim it was being sold out of the basement in Utica, New York.

What are the different versions of tomato pie?

There are three distinct versions of tomato pie: Philly tomato pie, Trenton tomato pie, and southern-style tomato pie. Each version has its own unique crust, sauce, and toppings.

How is Philly tomato pie made?

Philly tomato pie has a thick focaccia-like crust and is covered in a tomato sauce with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Reggiano. It is made in a rectangular pan and cut into square or rectangular slices. It is generally served cold or at room temperature.

Is tomato pie a type of pizza?

While tomato pie has a similar base of dough, tomato sauce, and cheese as pizza, it is not considered to be a type of pizza. Tomato pie has a thicker crust and less cheese than pizza, and it is generally served cold or at room temperature.

Can tomato pie be frozen?

It is not recommended to freeze tomato pie as the sauce will become too wet and mushy when thawed. Any leftover pizza should be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Now that you know exactly what a tomato pie is, have you tried it? What is your favorite version?

One of our Favorites

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DK & Eliana

DK & Eliana

Thanks for reading about our homemade pizza journey! We're a young married couple who started making pizza at home on our wedding night and haven't looked back yet. We've learned over countless attempts of trial and error how to make the perfect pizza sauce, pizza dough, and exactly which pizza accessories to buy for your home setup...

FYI When you make a purchase or, sometimes, carry out some other action as direct result of clicking on a link at Homemade Pizza School, we will receive a small commission. Gratzie!

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