I can think of few things I enjoy more than the pure, vibrant flavor of sun-ripened tomatoes in peak harvest season. Those of you who’ve been following me may recall a time or two when I’ve gushed over what I consider the most quintessential summer food of all. For me, nothing beats a sweet, juicy heirloom, and I feel blessed to live in a climate where tomatoes thrive.
Living in such a bountiful, tomato-friendly region usually means I have far more fruits towards the end of the season than I know what to do with. This is especially true of cherry tomatoes, which never seem to end. I mostly eat them raw, but if there’s a particularly large crop, they get turned into sauce. Unfortunately, I’ve never been enamored with cherry tomatoes as sauce material. Because of their high seed and skin to flesh ratio, they’re just not built for it. It takes an entire day to simmer down to the thick consistency I desire, and it often leaves behind a bitter flavor from all the skin.
And then last year, after a particularly large haul, I decided to roast them overnight—long, slow, and low—and I practically kicked myself for not thinking of it sooner!
Now, of course I’ve roasted tomatoes many times in the past, but always at a higher temperature and for less time. This method produces deeply caramelized fruit literally bursting with juiciness. Though the results are great in their own way, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. My newfound low and slow method produced tomatoes that were a little less caramelized and much more dehydrated. The resulting fruit had a deep, rich, concentrated tomato flavor that I’d describe as midway between that of a fresh, vine-ripened tomato and a sundried one. It’s the absolute closest I’ve ever come to harnessing the true essence of a summer tomato for later use.
And the best part? This method develops the flavor of underripe and off-season tomatoes so they take on more of the sweetness and complexity of sun-ripened fruit. It’s an ideal way to satisfy your summer tomato cravings outside of the growing season.
I began using these tomatoes in multiple ways: as a base for sauces, tossed with pasta, stuffed in sandwiches, and eaten straight out of the container. Then along came this pizza, and all made sense in the world…
You guys—this pizza!! I can’t begin to describe how insanely good it is. Creamy but not heavy, and teeming with flavor. Every component leaves its own rightful mark, and it’s the most delicious way to showcase the slow-roasted tomatoes in both the simplicity of preparation and the complexity of flavor.
We start with a simple yeast dough. I then like to add some herbs, cracked pepper, and a wee bit of Parmesan cheese. Next is a drizzle of olive oil, a rub of fresh garlic, and layers of gooey cheese, each providing its own flavor and texture profile. This all takes the pizza to heavenly levels of delectable beauty—but then it gets even better with a healthy dose of the concentrated tomato goodness, a scatter of fresh basil adorning the top, plus a bit more cracked pepper. Blast in a super-hot oven, and dinner is on the table in under fifteen minutes.
I suggest making a couple batches of these tomatoes whenever you find them on sale. (The recipe below yields about two cups.) They’ll keep until the next fresh crop comes in. If stored well in a jar or Ziploc bag in the freezer, they’ll keep for at least six months.
Feel free to mix up the cheeses to suit your personal tastes, or just use whatever you have on hand. This pizza is a great way to use up small chunks of cheese left behind in your fridge. The dough can be used in other applications as well, including delicious baguettes, dinner rolls, and focaccia bread.
Six-Cheese White Pizza with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
Makes 1 (16-inch) pizza.
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus time for dough to rest
Cook time: 8 hours for the tomatoes, 15 minutes for the pizza
For the roasted tomatoes:
3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, left whole, or Roma tomatoes, cut in wedges
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt, cracked pepper, and fresh thyme
For the sponge:
¾ cup whole wheat or whole spelt flour
¾ cup tepid water
1 teaspoon honey
1½ teaspoons dry active yeast
For the pizza dough:
1½ cups whole wheat or whole spelt flour
2 tablespoons vital gluten (optional, for a chewier crust)
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
¾ teaspoon each dried basil and oregano
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
For the pizza:
1 recipe pizza dough
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups shredded mozzarella
½ cup shredded fontina
1½–2 cups slow-roasted tomatoes
½ cup crumbled feta
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
1 cup ricotta
1 small bunch fresh basil
Special equipment: Pizza stone (optional, but will create best results)
- Prepare roasted tomatoes: Preheat oven to 200°F. Spread tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss with garlic and a light sprinkling of salt (if you use too much the tomatoes can get overly salty as they shrink). Season generously with cracked pepper and a scattering of fresh thyme leaves. Roast about 6–8 hours, or overnight. If freezing for later use, place them flat on a baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer to a tight-lidded container or Ziploc freezer bag.
- Prepare sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in bowl of stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about an hour, until bubbly and about twice the size.
- Finish dough: Add remaining dough ingredients to sponge. Mix on second speed of mixer or knead by hand until gluten has formed (about 5 minutes with a mixer or 10 minutes by hand). To test, stretch a piece of dough with your hands. If it forms a thin, layer-like “window,” the dough is ready. Dump onto a lightly oiled counter and knead into a ball. Return dough to a lightly oiled mixing bowl and let rest until doubled in size. Alternately, you can refrigerate dough for later use. When ready, bring back to room temperature and let rise until doubled before making pizza.
- Make pizza: Place rack with the pizza stone in center of oven. Preheat oven as high as possible (usually between 500–550°F). Have all your ingredients ready: cheese grated, basil leaves plucked from stems, etc.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on an inverted baking sheet. Using oiled hands, press dough into a large circle about the size of your stone. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then rub garlic into oil. Add grated mozzarella and fontina to dough. Dot roasted tomatoes atop cheese, then scatter with feta, Parmesan, and Romano. Spoon dollops of ricotta among the tomatoes, then top with basil leaves. Season with cracked pepper.
- Once the oven and stone are heated through, carefully slide pizza off of the baking sheet and onto the stone, leaving parchment paper underneath. Bake pizza until bubbling and browned, turning after 5 minutes, about 7–10 minutes total. Let rest for 5–10 minutes before cutting.
Image from Briana Goodall.