A Tale of Two Parties: Utica Tomato Pie

Where to begin with Utica Pie…

Utica PieMy 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!

Utica Pie
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

The wet and dry ingredients for the crust.

The wet and dry ingredients for the crust.

Directions:
For the Crust:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
    Rolling the dough out into a large rectangle.

    Rolling the dough out into a large rectangle.

    Coating the top of the dough with a thin layer of softened butter will result in crispy, buttery layers of dough in the final pie.

    Coating the top of the dough with a thin layer of softened butter will result in crispy, buttery layers of dough in the final pie.

  4. 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.
    The dough cylinder.

    The dough cylinder.

    The long, thin cylinder, encapsulating lovely layers of butter.

    The long, thin cylinder, encapsulating lovely layers of butter.

    Divide the cylinder in half crosswise.

    Divide the cylinder in half crosswise.

  5. 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.
    Folding the two halves into thirds.

    Folding the two halves into thirds.

    The folded dough is then rolled and pinched into a ball.

    The folded dough is then rolled and pinched into a ball.

    One dough ball ready to become a Utica Pie.

    One dough ball ready to become a Utica Pie.

  6. 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:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic, sauteing until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.

    Mmmmm.... Oil and garlic...  Who needs more?

    Mmmmm…. Oil and garlic… Who needs more?  I was making a larger batch of the sauce here, so my proportions will be much larger than your’s.  I also have a lot of this in my freezer right now.

  2. 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…

    A flavorful sauce the cooks like hot lava.  Be ware of splashes!

    A flavorful sauce the cooks like hot lava. Be ware of splashes!

  3. 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:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. 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, this crust was baked for about 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not browned.

    From frozen, this crust was baked for about 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not browned.

  3. 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.
    You should still be able to see the crust peeking through the sauce.

    You should still be able to see the crust peeking through the sauce.

    A delicious coating of parmesan cheese...  I'm lucky that Little Man was sleeping or he would have stolen the cheese from my bowl.

    A delicious coating of parmesan cheese… I’m lucky that Little Man was sleeping or he would have stolen the cheese from my bowl.

  4. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese melted, about 15 minutes.
    One hot, bubbly pie.

    One hot, bubbly pie.

    And another...

    And another…

  5. Remove the pies from their tins and cut into squares. Enjoy!
Pile them high on a serving platter, and then be sure to elbow your way to the front before they disappear.

Pile them high on a serving platter, and then be sure to elbow your way to the front before they disappear.

Click here for a printable version of Utica Pie.

I hope this recipe can make converts out of you too!  🙂

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5 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Parties: Utica Tomato Pie

  1. Brian Grills

    Where can I go for tomato pie in Utica? I will be there over the next couple weeks on excavation.

    Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      Here is the favorite spot from my “sources.” ;). Their vote is for Roma’s (Bleeker St. in Utica, Oneida St. in Washington Mills), though most pizza places should sell it. At Roma’s you can buy a pie or a slice. Hope you get to check it out!

      Reply
    2. Jen

      Brian, when in Utica also try to go somewhere that you can sample “Utica Greens” and Chicken Riggies- two other not-to-miss Utica dishes. Most pizzerias and casual Italian restaurants in the area will serve both.

      Reply
      1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

        Mmmmm…. Utica Greens… Although Jen, you make the best Utica Greens. I don’t think I’ve seen escarole out here on the island. Maybe I’ll see if I can track down some seeds. In case I’m unsuccessful, are there any other greens that can be substituted for the ‘scrole?

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