Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

A lighter take on traditional tomato pie, this savory dish starts with cornmeal-crusted tomatoes layered with mozzarella, parmesan, and basil in a crunchy gluten-free pie crust. 

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

Three years ago today I posted a recipe for gluten-free pie dough. It was pretty good, and I was excited to find a magical blend of alternative flours (sweet rice, millet, and oat) that baked up flaky and crisp. That pie dough inspired a whole book on gluten-free, whole-grain baking that’s about to be released in just 5 days, complete with loads of seasonal pie recipes and a visual guide on how to make the perfect pie crust. (And if you’d like to nerd out on cookbook writing, hop over to The Dinner Special podcast to hear me ramble on about the whole process.)

But now, tomato pie!

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

Classic American tomato pie starts with buttery pie dough that gets a filled with unconscionable amounts of mayonnaise and cheese, with some token tomatoes thrown in for flavor. It’s tastier than it has any right to be. I’m not one to stand against massive amounts of saturated fat, but I was thrilled to learn about this lighter, more summery version that my friend Michelle made for me and Jay one evening many years ago.

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

The method came from her friend and landlord, a former caterer who knows how to make food taste amazing. In typical chef fashion, he would make the pie by feel rather than by recipe, and had given Michelle a rough guide without any exact measurements. When we arrived, Michelle was dipping slices of tomatoes into a mixture of seasoned cornmeal, and layering them with parmesan and basil in a pie crust. “I have no idea if this is going to work,” she said, sliding the pie into the oven.

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

But it did, gloriously. The result? Layers and layers of pure tomato goodness encased in a crunchy crust.

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

I’ve thought about this pie every year during the late summer when dry farmed tomatoes begin to crowd the markets. These deep red specimen are cultivated without excess water, which causes the plants’ roots to dive deep into the earth for nutrients and form small fruits that are dense with flesh and flavor. They are what all tomatoes aspire to be, and I knew they would rock this tomato pie.

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

Being not a chef but a baker, I cobbled together a recipe. I added mozzarella because cheese, and layered the components in my favorite GF pie crust. Like Michelle that first time years ago, when I slipped the pie in the oven, I didn’t know whether I’d pull out a glorious work of tomato art or an inedible pile of mush. Thankfully, it was the former.

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

The finished pie tastes a bit like eggplant parmesan, with the Italian flavors of basil, peppery olive oil, and sharp parmesan meeting roasted tomatoes and cornmeal. I took a tip from Sarah and salt the tomatoes first to draw off excess moisture; this makes for the most flavorful pie and helps keep the crust crisp. The cornmeal absorbs the remaining moisture, becoming soft in the oven, not unlike the breading in eggplant parmesan. Along with the cheeses, the cornmeal helps hold everything together.

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

Break through the crunchy top layer and the filling oozes with juicy (though not too juicy) tomatoes, fragrant basil, tender cornmeal, and gooey mozzarella. The crust shatters and flakes, buttery against a tangy, bright filling.

Who wants pie for dinner?

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}
Yields: 8 servings
 
Layers of cornmeal-dredged tomatoes fill a flaky, gluten-free pie shell kissed with the Italian flavors of parmesan, olive oil, and basil. Be sure to start the pie dough earlier in the day (or the night before) if you wish to give it extra turns to make it super flaky and easy to work with (recommended!).
Ingredients
  • 9- or 10-inch gluten-free pie crust, parbaked
  • 2 ½ pounds (1⅛ kg) dry-farmed tomatoes, ends trimmed, sliced a scant ½-inch thick
  • 2 ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided use
  • 1 cup (120 g) cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (100 g) lightly packed grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup (125 g) lightly packed grated mozzarella
  • a handful basil leaves, plus some pretty leaves for garnish
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375ºF. If you have a baking stone, put it on the rack (this will help cook the bottom of the crust).
  2. Lay the sliced tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels. Sprinkle the tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt, flip the slices over, and sprinkle with another 1 teaspoon salt. (Don’t worry – the salt will all drift away with the excess tomato juices.) Top the tomatoes with a double layer of paper towels and let sit to sweat out the excess juices, at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  3. Combine the cornmeal, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper in shallow bowl. Begin to dredge the tomatoes in the seasoned cornmeal, coating each side well and knocking off excess clumps, and layering the ingredients in the pie shell as follows:
  4. • ¼ of the Parmesan
  5. • ⅓ of the mozzarella
  6. • ⅓ of the tomatoes, dredged in the cornmeal mixture
  7. • ⅓ of the olive oil
  8. • ½ of the basil
  9. • ¼ of the Parmesan
  10. • ⅓ of the mozzarella
  11. • ⅓ of the tomatoes, dredged in the cornmeal mixture
  12. • ⅓ of the olive oil
  13. • ½ of the basil
  14. • ¼ of the Parmesan
  15. • remaining mozzarella
  16. • remaining tomatoes, dredged in the cornmeal mixture
  17. • remaining parmesan
  18. • remaining olive oil
  19. Transfer the pie to the oven and bake at 375ºF 35-45 minutes until the top is golden and the tomatoes are bubbling. Cool at least 10 minutes before slicing for the cleanest results. Top with small, pretty basil leaves if you like. Extra tomato pie keeps well, refrigerated airtight, for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 350ºF oven or toaster oven until hot for best results.

Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}

18 thoughts on “Tomato Pie with Basil, Parmesan + Cornmeal {gluten-free}”

  1. Another great recipe. The tomatoes look incredibly delicious. And your method of using salt to draw off excess moisture is greatly appreciated. I once had a grilled cheese sandwich at Whole Foods (of all places!) and it had slices of tomatoes in it, which made it much better than without. But when I tried to duplicate it at home, it came out too watery. I tried presses the moisture out with paper towels, but that really didn’t work. Now I know how to do that! Thanks, Alanna.

  2. Oh I am anticipating the summer tomato glut with glee on this rainy spring day here in Australia! I cannot wait to turn some ruby red tomatoes into this glorious pie for a perfect summer dinner! Also, I can’t wait for your book to find it’s way into my loving arms! So exciting. Congratulations on all of your hard work coming to life!

  3. I have been thinking about this non stop and with gorgeous tomatoes in my CSA basket, I just had to give it a go. Yay! I made it a two day process due to a scrunched schedule. Yesterday I got the crust ready/parbaked and salted my tomatoes and set them to drain in a colander in the fridge overnight. Put everything together today and am now in cheesy gooey tomatoey heaven. Thank you for so many years of inspiration and I am looking forward to many more!

  4. I’m so excited, just got a notice my pre-order of the cookbook shipped! Can’t wait to crack it open and start baking. I was one of your testers and loved the recipes I got to test so I know I will love the cookbook. Congratulations!

  5. OMG! I just saw this posting….. How did I miss it?
    I think once I fried the tomatoes after dredging in cornmeal, but it’s probably less oily with the salt method. Yay!!!

    1. Derp, sorry I didn’t send you the link straight away! We LOVED the pie! We tried frying a few tomatoes as a test, but it seemed to make our particular tomatoes a bit soggy, so we just drizzled them with olive oil instead. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with me and my readers Michelle! :)

  6. i’ve never heard of “dry farmed tomatoes.” but, given the lack of rain in new england this summer, that’s what may be in the markets. i’m assuming this recipe will work with any kind of tomatoes.

    trying to limit carbs, so i’m going to try this without the crust. hoping that greasing the casserole will prevent the cheese from sticking.

    1. Nice! Tomatoes with more dense flesh will probably work best. Let me know how this goes as a crustless casserole! Seems like it should work..

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