Philly Tomato Pie

It's a Philly thing... Philly tomato pie is like a pizza, but with no (or very little) cheese. It's devoured cold and enjoyed every time!

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Tomato Philly Pie cut into squares on a cutting board with a bread knife and a red and cream kitchen towel.

What is Philly Tomato Pie?

Philadelphia Tomato Pie is a Philly thing, but it does have origins back in Southern Italy. It is basically a thick-crust focaccia-like pizza that has a tangy, thick, slightly sweet tomato sauce on top, just a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, and it is usually served cold. Now, that might sound odd to you, but it’s one of Philadelphia’s signature dishes and it’s delicious. 

Ingredients on a countertop to make the sauce for Philly tomato pie.

Sauce for Philly Tomato Pie

The sauce for this pie is intense. Intense in flavor, that is. It’s not complicated, but it has a strong tomato flavor, enhanced by tomato paste in addition to the crushed tomatoes, and is seasoned with chili flake, oregano, garlic and a little balsamic vinegar. Let it simmer for 20 minutes and then let it cool. Just like Philly – not complicated, but intense. 

A bowl with pizza dough inside and a red and cream plaid towel nearby.

Dough for Philly Tomato Pie

The dough for Philly tomato pie can be controversial. Some people say pizza dough is fine. Others insist on bread dough. I say, take a break and let’s not get caught up on definitions. This dough is what it is and if you make it yourself, you won’t be sorry. If you’re not up to making the dough for this Philly tomato pie, buy what you can – bread dough or pizza dough. Let it come to room temperature and then stretch it into a rectangle that fits your baking sheet. If it becomes hard to stretch, it’s telling you it needs a break. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then stretch it again, pulling the corners into the corners of the pan. Then, let it rest for a second time, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

A hand spreading pizza sauce onto a rectangular pizza in a baking sheet.

How to Bake Philly Tomato Pie

I bake this dish in two stages. The first stage has all but 1 cup of the intense tomato sauce spread on top. Spread it all the way to the edges of the dough and then bake it for 15 minutes at 450˚F. Then, spread the reserved sauce on top and bake it for another 5 to 7 minutes. This gives you two layers of tomato flavor – one more deeply roasted and one more tangy. It’s not critical, but it results in a more complex and delicious flavor. 

Philly tomato pie cooling on a cooling rack with a bread knife next to it and a red and cream plaid kitchen towel.

Cheese or Basil?

There is always a sprinkling of cheese on Philly tomato pie for the last 5 to 7 minutes of baking. You can choose to sprinkle on a little more with some fresh basil too if you like. You won’t see it that way in Philadelphia too often – remember, “uncomplicated” – but you might not be in Philadelphia and you can do whatever you want to in your kitchen! 

a hand holding a piece of Philly tomato pie up so you can see the nicely browned bottom with more pieces sitting on the cutting board below.

How to Serve Philly Tomato Pie

You can enjoy Philly tomato pie right out of the oven while it is still warm, but again, you won’t find it served that way in Philadelphia. We’ve been over this though – you are probably not IN Philadelphia! Traditionally, Philly tomato pie is served cold, but you can do what you like. I use the cold serving tradition to my advantage because it makes this a fantastic recipe to make ahead of time. It’s also a fantastic recipe to take to someone’s house because you don’t hijack their oven to warm up your contribution to dinner. If cold is good enough for Philadelphians, then it’s good enough for everyone else! Enjoy!

Tomato philly pie cut into squares with basil torn on top.

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Philly Tomato Pie

  • Prep Time: 30 m
  • Cook Time: 20 m
  • Rising Time: 2 h 33 m
  • Total Time: 3 h 23 m
  • Servings:


  • 4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour 560g
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • teaspoons instant or rapid-rise dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ to 1¾ cups water
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves optional
Tomato Sauce Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and olive oil in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer). Using an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment, a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, or by hand, gradually add the water until the dough comes together. Start with 1½ cups and add more as needed. Knead the dough for 5 minutes on low speed until the dough forms a soft ball. Alternatively, mix with a wooden spoon and knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and grease the bowl with a little olive oil. Return the dough to bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it doubles in size. (Or if making ahead, refrigerate overnight.)
  3. To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, dried oregano, and pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the tomato purèe, tomato paste, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and salt. Simmer sauce over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Generously grease a large sheet pan with olive oil. Stretch the dough and press it into the baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 30 to 60 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
  6. Reserve about ¾ cup of the sauce and set it aside. Spread the remaining sauce evenly over the dough. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Then spread the reserved sauce over the pizza and sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the grated cheese on top. Continue to bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned on the bottom. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the tomato pie cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool for at least 15 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on top of the sauce. If using fresh basil, tear up the leaves and sprinkle it over the pizza. Serve the tomato pie warm or at room temperature.
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Comments (4)Post a Reply

  1. We have this in Buffalo, NY, but call it Old World Style Pizza. It used to be sold at Italian bakeries and pizza places. I only know of two spots that make it now. Thanks for the recipe, Meredith! I’ll have to try it.

    1. This was made in a half sheet pan which is 18 X 13-inches. You can bake it in a larger sheet pan and don’t press the dough quite to the edges. You can also use a slightly smaller pan, but keep in mind the tomato pie would be a little thicker.

  2. 5 stars
    I’m in the process of making this for our Monday night football feast! Philadelphia Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers! Go Eagles! The sauce is made and cooling, it tastes AMAZING! Dough is in it’s first rising. This pie is an absolute must on football game days and I’m sure your recipe will be on repeat! Thank you BJC!

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