Where to begin with Utica Pie…
My best friend in graduate school would speak about this thing called Tomato Pie in reverent tones and I was so excited to try it when she brought me to her house for my first Easter in New York. Then I saw this under-dressed, plain, fluffy crust with just a little sauce and cheese, and was completely underwhelmed. Jen’s face, on the other hand, lit up and she edged a bit closer to the plate. I took a piece, not wanting to seem rude, and took a bite of what I only expected to be relatively tasteless cheese pizza… and was immediately hooked. The crust had great texture, crispy on the bottom and fluffy but flavorful throughout. It only needed a little of the intense sauce and cheese to round out the flavor profile, any more and it would have been cloying. In future trips to what I would claim as my New York home, one of the things I always looked forward to was to be sent home with extra Tomato Pie… and Roma Bacon, but that’s a different story.
I have to say that as I am posting these recipes I am faced with a trepidation that I didn’t feel when making them for our party guests. None of the guests at our party have every been to upstate New York, so I could have served up just about anything and stated that it was from upstate and no one would have been the wiser. Now, however, I know that some of my readers are from upstate and they know what these things are supposed to look like and taste like. I, however, am making these from memories and partial recipes that I’m piecing together as I go. The final dishes that result from these recipes are delicious, but it is possible that some of my tweaks in the kitchen may have pulled them away from the real deal dishes. For my family in New York, I hope you can look past any inaccuracies and just taste the love, since they were made with memories of all the love I experienced when in your homes. Miss you!
Adapted in part from Cook’s Illustrated Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
Ingredients: Makes 2 pies
For the Crust:
3 ¼ cups flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 pkg (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water (room temperature)
7 tbsp. butter, divided
4+ tbsp. olive oil, divided
For the Sauce and Toppings:
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cups freshly grated parmesan
For the Crust:
- Melt 3 tbsp. of the butter and set it aside. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add the water and melted butter, and mix on low speed until ingredients are combined. Then switch to medium speed (speed 2 on most models) and knead until smooth and glossy, about 4-6 minutes. Alternatively you can mix and knead the dough by hand.
- Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in a little olive oil in a large bowl so it’s coated with oil all around. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and set it aside to rise for 45-60 minutes.
- Soften the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and set aside. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface and shape it into a 12 x 15 inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula spread the softened butter over the dough’s surface leaving a ½ inch border free around the edges.
- Starting at a short end roll the dough up into a cylinder. Place the cylinder seam side down and roll it out into a 4 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half crosswise. Set one half aside and work with one at a time.
- Fold the rectangle into thirds. Then pinch the edges of the dough together forming a ball. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Place the balls back into the oiled bowl, covering them with plastic wrap and placing the bowl in the refrigerator to rise for 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- Coat two 9-inch pie pans with 2 tbsp. olive oil each. One at a time transfer each dough ball to your work surface and roll it out into a 13 inch circle. Move each dough circle to its respective pie tin by rolling it loosely around the rolling pin and then draping it into the pie tin. Using your fingers press the dough into the corners of the tin, forming it up the sides. At this point you can continue on making the Utica pies, or you can cover the dough thoroughly with two layers of plastic wrap and freeze them for up to four weeks.
For the Sauce:
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic, sauteing until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and dried herbs. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful, this might bubble like hot lava, and if it gets on your skin it will feel like it too! Yes, this is from personal experience…
- Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside to use with the crust, or refrigerate/freeze for use in the future.
Note: This sauce recipe makes more sauce than you will need for the two pies. The extra sauce can be frozen for use over the next couple of months. Try freezing it in ice cube trays so that you can defrost only the amount you need and keep the rest in the freezer.
For the pies:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- If using frozen dough, remove the plastic wrap and bake the crusts for 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not yet browned. Then follow the directions as for room temperature dough.
- From frozen/pre-baked and room temperature dough: Spread ½ cup of sauce over the dough, then sprinkle half of the cheese over top. Repeat with the second pie.
- Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese melted, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the pies from their tins and cut into squares. Enjoy!
Click here for a printable version of Utica Pie.
I hope this recipe can make converts out of you too! 🙂