Italy is pretty easy to romanticize, especially the food. It is a country of grandmothers serving steaming bowls of saucy pasta, if you were to believe our collective imagination. I’ve only been to the boot once, but was there long enough to understand that it is an incredibly vibrant and complex food culture. I probably have more memorable/formative food moments from that one trip to Italy than on any other travels. But I still find myself attracted to recipes that play into my fantasies (or cliches).
I was excited when the current issue of Saveur exclaimed “Oh, Sicily!” from my mailbox. Sicily is high on my “places to visit” list, and the stories and recipes in the magazine are nice fodder for dreaming of travels there. I was immediately fascinated by the photo of this cheese and tomato pie, which appeared to be a lasagna wrapped in bread, or pizza dough.
Basically, it is. It is pretty genius: a simple pasta-like dough is folded into a neat (or not-so-neat) package and then baked in a hot oven. The outside gets charred and crispy while the dough inside steams into layers of pasta. It is delicious (although, I will admit to not tasting my pecorino before adding it and accidentally making this very salty. Not too salty, but very salty. Lesson: taste your ingredients) We ate this with a salad and were totally satisfied, although I suspect that this is more often used as a first course.
I love recipes like this, that seem really complicated and impressive, but are actually quite easy. I will make this again and will definitely experiment with the filling.
Tomato and Cheese Pie (recipe by Roberta Corradin via Saveur)
- 3 1/2 cups durum wheat flour (I used a mix of semolina flour and bread flour)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 10 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in center; add 2 tbsp. oil, salt, and 1 1/4 cups water, and stir until a dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 6–8 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and basil, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, to meld flavors, about 10 minutes. Discard basil, remove pan from heat, and set aside to let cool.
Heat oven to 500°. Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and using a rolling pin, roll dough into a 1/16″-thick rectangle. Dimensions aren’t important, just a huge rectangle of thin dough. Arrange the dough so that the long sides are parallel to you. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce over dough in a thin layer and sprinkle with 1 1/4 cups cheese; season with salt and pepper. Fold left third of dough toward center, spread top with 1/4 cup sauce, and sprinkle with 4 tbsp. cheese; season with salt and pepper. Fold right third over center to meet left edge, and repeat with sauce, cheese, and salt and pepper. Fold in top and bottom so they meet in center; spread top with remaining sauce and cheese; season with salt and pepper. Fold top half over bottom half, like closing a book, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400° and continue baking until dough is set and slightly charred, about 60–65 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving.
Seriously, do not sweat the folding process. The dough is really easy to work with and as the magazine points out, even an ugly Scaccia Ragusana! tastes good.
February 24th, 2011 at 1:01 pm
Oooh this looks beautiful and I love how easy it is. And how you could mix it up with different cheeses. I’ll be trying this soon, thanks!
February 24th, 2011 at 1:04 pm
Totally! Different cheese, pesto, I think it would be fun to play around with.
February 24th, 2011 at 1:07 pm
I just got this Saveur last night in the mail and now I can’t wait to dig into it. Many this looks good. Puts the broc/cheese soup I made last night and just reheated for lunch to shame.
February 24th, 2011 at 1:10 pm
Yeah, Whitney, it is a really good issue. I’ve already made three of the maple recipes too. All good stuff. Broccoli and cheese soup sounds pretty good, too.
the parsley thief says:
February 24th, 2011 at 1:32 pm
I have been drooling over this issue for a few days now! Cannot wait to make some of the maple stuff! This recipe looks amazing too!
February 24th, 2011 at 1:36 pm
This looks really exciting–almost like a cross between a calzone and a floury enchilada, with all the soporific layers of dough inside. I may have to make a version with some shredded chard and olives added to the filling. Lovely!
February 24th, 2011 at 1:40 pm
MMMMmm. This looks like a way more awesome calzone because of all of the layers. Can’t wait to try it!
February 24th, 2011 at 2:38 pm
This looks amazing. I always chose lasagna for my birthday dinner growing up and my love for it has never faltered. I can’t wait to try out this variation. I imagine you could mix it up add in any number of additions from sausage to sauteed vegetables but I may have to try the recipe as-is the first time around.
February 24th, 2011 at 5:22 pm
This looks so delicious! I love how the dough is crispy on the outside layer and soft on the inside layers.
Pam @ Sticks forks Fingers says:
February 24th, 2011 at 6:25 pm
I’ll simply say that my guests at Sunday night’s monthly soup gathering are going to get an extra treat. I can almost smell this now, and can imagine the crackly exterior giving way to the tenderness inside. Whoa.
February 24th, 2011 at 9:33 pm
I must say, that looks absolutely divine! I will definitely have to make it soon.
February 24th, 2011 at 10:06 pm
God this looks so good! Can’t wait to try it.
February 25th, 2011 at 10:01 am
Oh! I didn’t know Saveur’s latest issue was Sicily! I’ll definitely go buy it. Their issue on Rome was great.
I was in Sicile a couple of years back and just blogued about it actually! It’s all in French but there is a Google translate button if that is of any interest to you. I loved the place! And I ate a lot of those “square pizzas” while I was there. It was a perfect lunch and they are really everywhere.
February 26th, 2011 at 6:19 pm
This is exactly what I want for dinner!
February 27th, 2011 at 6:46 pm
Made this tonight and it was delicious! I wish I’d known how big your rolled-out dough was, because I’m not a very experienced cook and I couldn’t estimate 1/16 inch… I think my dough was far too thick.
February 28th, 2011 at 6:30 am
exactly the sort of thing that I love to make at home. Thanks for the recipe.
February 28th, 2011 at 6:38 am
Hey Allison, yeah, 1/16-inch is very, very thin. Thin like pasta dough. I didn’t measure but my rectangle seemed like it was at least 3-feet by 2-feet, maybe bigger.
heather @ chiknpastry says:
March 1st, 2011 at 12:26 pm
i need to just break down and get Saveur, but then i’d have 4 food mags in my mailbox. i guess that’s not a problem, right?
March 1st, 2011 at 7:47 pm
Tim – thank you so much for the size estimate! My second batch (tonight) came out just about perfectly, and my in-laws were very impressed… so thank you again for sharing this recipe.
March 1st, 2011 at 9:02 pm
Allison, yay! So glad to hear that the second go was a success.
K and A says:
March 2nd, 2011 at 10:43 am
Made it last night. Sooo Goood. I liked the simplicity of the filling. I would think you’d need to be careful any filling substitutions still had high moisture content so the inside dough gets steamed to pasta-like goodness, yes?
March 2nd, 2011 at 4:21 pm
K and A: I don’t know. My guess is that this recipe is pretty resilient. I think adding some stuff (olives, salami, etc) to the current recipe would work just fine. I’m definitely going to try.
March 2nd, 2011 at 8:23 pm
I made this last night and it was so very good!
March 4th, 2011 at 7:45 pm
Tim, this was so good! I made it with pepperonis and three different cheeses as I didn’t have pecorino and will probably will make it again this weekend. I’m so happy I came across your blog! Can’t wait to try the apple jellies too! Yum!
Claire Zulkey says:
March 5th, 2011 at 5:02 pm
This caught my eye in Saveur (as did the maple tomatoes–we must have similar tastes) and the fact that you executed it inspired me to actually pull the trigger. I bought Red Mill whole wheat flour–I hope that works. Did you add salt in addition to the pecorino? How were the leftovers?
March 5th, 2011 at 6:05 pm
Hi Claire- Yes, I added salt in addition the cheese. The leftovers were okay. Fair. Not nearly as good as the fresh pie.
I’m not sure whole wheat flour is a good substitute for durum. They are different things. I think the whole wheat will be too heavy. I think that you’d be better off trying all-purpose, you could try adding a little whole wheat to the AP. I used half all-purpose and half of the Bob’s Red Mill Semolina flour. In any case, good luck!
March 11th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
I just made this and ate twice as much as I should have. Absolutely delicious! I would use less salt next time. (In addition to the 1 tsp. of salt added to the dough, I only added 1/4 tsp. to my tomato sauce and none to the pie when I was folding it and it still came out a bit too salty. Next time I’ll cut the salt added to the dough in half.)
March 11th, 2011 at 8:25 pm
Thanks for checking in. Mine was salty too, so I guess we all need to be careful with salt and this recipe. Glad you enjoyed it!
March 14th, 2011 at 8:44 pm
This is awesome – made it tonight and will make again without a doubt. Omitted the salt – no need as the sauce was left over from making pizza.
October 27th, 2011 at 8:21 pm
Made this today and am in love! I’m surprised this isn’t a better-known dish here in the states, as it tastes similar to many Italian foods we Americans love, like a mash-up of pizza, calzone, and lasagna. I used a tomato sauce full of roasted eggplant, olives and capers. Since the sauce was so flavorful, I decreased the salt in the dough by half, and didn’t sprinkle any more over the cheese during the layering process, and found the level just right. I used half each semolina and kamut flours, as I couldn’t find durum flour and wanted some whole-graininess in there. I halved the recipe and was glad – not sure my countertop would have accommodated such a giant rectangle of dough. I will likely swap out half of the pecorino for parmesan next time, as I found the bite a little too sharp with the piquant sauce. We are loving the crispy edges and gooey center. Thank you for another beautiful and inspiring post, and for spreading the gospel of scaccia ragusana.
October 28th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
I noticed there is no yeast in this recipe. Is that correct? My grandmother’s and mother’s recipe from provine of Ragusa used yeast, will this work without the yeast? It sure would cut down on the wait time. Let me Know.
October 28th, 2012 at 5:32 pm
Hi Jackie- the recipe above is correct.