When women co-workers in our department gather for potluck lunches, an item they—sometimes secretly, but other times more openly—are hoping for is my tomato basil tart. It’s the simplest thing in the world to make, and far less gourmet in preparation than its presentation and its flavor would lead one to believe. At a recent holiday brunch I hosted, someone asked for the recipe, saying that she has attempted so many different tomato tarts but found mine the best.
I would credit the original recipe creator if I could, but I don’t even have that information anymore! I’ve made the dish so many times that I just know how to make it. (Sort of like not having the original recipe for your favorite burger preparation…) If the following dish sounds familiar and you know where the recipe came from, please feel free to comment so that I can give the proper attribution.
To start, I should confess that the secret ingredient is the crust. The person who attempted so many other tarts said that the crust always failed her somehow. Too sweet, too savory, too hard, too soggy. What was my crust recipe that held up so well under so much cheese and tomatoes? Pillsbury pie crust. Seriously.
Will keeps insisting that we should use a “real” crust for this tart—by which he means something that we hovered over the food processor with, dropping chilled tiny cubes of butter and iced lemon water, a teaspoon at a time. Normally, I would say that homemade crust is vastly superior, but I actually think the pre-made crust works well for what it’s designed to do for this dish. Besides, using the pre-made crust makes this dish the super-simple weekday meal that it is. You shred your cheese and slice you tomatoes while the crust pre-bakes, and you are practically finished with the dish already.
1) Pre-bake your pie crust (fitted into a pretty tart pan) for 5 minutes at 375 or 400 degrees, depending on your oven and also on what your pre-made crust package (or your own homemade crust) demands. Leave the oven on.
2) While the crust is pre-baking (not browning!—see the picture above), shred about 8oz mozzarella cheese, chiffonade about 2 T of basil, and slice 2-3 ripe tomatoes. I use full-fat mozzarella and multi-colored heirloom tomatoes in the pictured tart, but you can use any cheese and tomato combination you have around.
3) Cover the bottom of the slightly cooled crust with the cheese, then throw on the basil (picture above), and then squeeze in as many tomato slices as you can. Then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil (be generous, at least 2-3 T) and grind pepper and salt over the tomatoes. The uncooked assembled tart is pictured below.
4) Put back in the heated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes (or however long you need/want) until cheese is melted and browned in bits. Throw on some more shredded basil to top. Cool only slightly, and then slice and serve.
Trust me. Potluck attendees ALWAYS love this tart!