Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Tart


There are very few things more delicious than tomatoes in season.  Sure you can buy them all year round, but these imports tend to be mealy and flavorless, so why bother?  This tart is a celebration of the tomato at the peak of its perfection, namely right now.

One important step will guarantee this recipe’s success.  You want to keep the tomatoes’ water content from sogging up the tart.  How to do it?  Salt and drain them.  This simple process not only flushes out their excess liquid, it also magnifies their tomato-iness.  For that matter, I also recommend lightly salting and draining tomatoes even when you plan to eat them raw in a salad.

Here we’ve paired up the tomatoes with some of their BFFs – mozzarella and basil – then stacked the deck by adding some ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano as well.   The recipe calls for full-fat mozzarella and ricotta, but you can lighten it up by using low-fat versions of each instead.

Also, if you don’t feel like making pie dough from scratch, go ahead and substitute store-bought pie dough.  (It’s usually sold already rolled out in a disposable pie tin.)  After letting the store-bought dough soften a bit at room temperature, lift it up gently and fit it into the tart tin just as you would using homemade dough.

By the way, a tart tin fitted with a removable fluted rim will make you look like a baking genius.  It automatically gives the dough a fluted edge — no shaping on your part required — and it’s designed for easy unmolding so it’s a cinch to cut out slices.  It’s really a worthwhile investment.

The finished tart is hard to beat – great right out of the oven or at room temperature, for lunch or dinner, at home or at a picnic.  Add a salad and call it a meal.

Start to finish: 5 hours (1 hour active)
Servings: 8

For the dough:
6 ounces (about 11/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

For the pie:
4 medium beefsteak tomatoes (about 1 ¾ pounds)
½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more for sprinkling on the tomatoes
1 cup packed basil leaves plus extra small leaves for garnish
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 ounce)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on the tomatoes

Make the dough:
In a large bowl, stir together the flour and the salt, add the butter and, working quickly with your fingertips or a pastry blender, mix the dough until most of mixture resembles coarse meal, with the rest in small (roughly pea-sized) lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water evenly over the mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Gently squeeze a small handful: it should hold together without crumbling apart. If it doesn’t, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring 2 or 3 times after each addition until it comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and with the heel of your hand, smear the dough in a forward motion on the work surface to help distribute fat. Gather the smeared dough together and repeat the process. Form the dough into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and let it soften for 30 to 40 minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400 F. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into an 11-inch round. Ease the round into a 9-inch tart tin with a removable fluted rim, trim the excess dough and prick the bottom and sides of the dough all over with a fork. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the shell with aluminum foil and fill it with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and pie weights, return the tart shell to the oven and bake it until it is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

Make the filling:
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Slice the tomatoes 1/3-inch thick, lightly salt the slices on both sides and transfer them to a large colander or cake rack to drain for 20 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the basil, ricotta and eggs and process until blended. Add the salt, mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano and pepper and process until combined.

Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels. Line the bottom of the pastry shell with the tomato end pieces, and spoon on the cheese mixture, smoothing it out with a spatula. Arrange the remaining tomato slices on top, in one layer, overlapping them slightly. Brush the tomatoes with olive oil and bake until the cheese mixture is set, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.



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