This colorful heirloom tomato crostata layers buttery crisp pastry, homemade pesto, creamy cheese, and super-juicy heirloom tomatoes. It’s a memorable lunch or brunch dish you’ll want to go back to again and again!
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To me, there’s something magical about a perfectly ripe, super-juicy, meaty heirloom tomato. I only discovered these gorgeous specimens in recent years—for the longest time, I would see them in magazines and cookbooks but not in my local farmers’ markets.
Thankfully, the demand for heirloom tomatoes has grown over the years, and I can now find them easily year-round, thanks to new-generation farmers who grow them in hothouses throughout our cold, snowy Quebec winters.
Very little needs to be done to heirloom tomatoes to make them shine. My favorite way to serve them is tossed into a colorful Panzanella Salad. They’re also amazing as a topping for risotto or tossed with a simple aglio e olio pasta. Of course, I love them in a classic BLT sandwich, too!
But when I want to highlight these spectacularly curled tomatoes differently—and spark conversations in the process—I make this gorgeous Heirloom Tomato Crostata. This crostata—the Italian cousin to a French galette—looks amazing, yet it’s easier to make than you probably think. It all starts with my super-easy, foolproof shortcrust pastry. If you’ve never made pastry from scratch, this heirloom tomato crostata is the perfect opportunity to hone your skills. My shortcrust pastry recipe comes together within seconds in the food processor! The buttery flakiness of homemade pastry is hard to beat, but you could use store-bought, all-butter pastry as a shortcut as well.
The crostata is then slathered with pesto (homemade or store-bought, your choice!), dotted with creamy Boursin cheese (you can use goat cheese, too!), and topped with thick, colorful slices of heirloom tomatoes. This heirloom tomato crostata is the perfect combination of buttery, crisp, cheesy, herby, and juicy. It’s a memorable brunch or lunch dish you’ll want to go back to again and again—and your guests will request it, too!
Helpful Tips for Making Heirloom Tomato Crostata
Drain those tomatoes: Heirloom tomatoes are super juicy, so it’s a good idea to help them release some of that liquid before you use them in a crostata to keep it from turning soggy. To do so, cover a baking sheet with paper towels, set the heirloom tomato slices side by side, and generously sprinkle both sides with sea salt. Let sit for 15 minutes, pat dry with additional paper towels, then use as indicated in the recipe.
Take shortcuts: You can make the pastry and pesto required in the recipe from scratch—they don’t take much time at all to do, but there is some rest involved—so take shortcuts if need be and don’t feel guilty about it. Most grocery stores sell quality shortcrust pastry in the freezer section—just make sure to swing for an all-butter brand. Use your favorite pesto, or even skip it completely; you can substitute a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and garnish the crostata with fresh herbs instead.
Let that crostata rest before you dig in: When you take the crostata out of the oven, you’ll likely see a small pool of liquid over the surface of the tomatoes. Don’t panic—simply let the crostata rest until it comes down to room temperature, which is how this heirloom tomato crostata should be enjoyed anyway. The flavorful juices will settle back down into the crostata, which will make it easier to slice and enjoy, too.
For the crust: Follow the recipe’s instructions to make the shortcrust pastry. Transfer the pastry out of the food processor bowl and onto a lightly floured, clean working surface. Gather into a thick, flat round. Lightly sprinkle with flour, then roll out to a 14-in (35 cm) circle.
Let the shortcrust pastry rest for 15 to 30 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the components. (If your kitchen is very warm, transfer the rolled-out pastry to a baking sheet and refrigerate for the same amount of time. You can also make the crust in advance and refrigerate it for up to a half-day.)
For the crostata: Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels. Cut the heirloom tomatoes into ½-in (1 ¼ cm) thick slices and set flat, side-by-side, over the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with fleur de sel or sea salt, flip over, then sprinkle the second side with salt, too. Let rest for 15 minutes.
For the homemade pesto: To the bowl of a food processor, add all the ingredients, except the water. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. This pesto should be a bit thicker than one you would use for pasta, but it should still be easily spreadable. If the pesto seems very thick, or if you have trouble reaching a smooth consistency, add water 1 or 2 tsp (5 to 10 ml) at a time and process until you reach the right consistency.
To bake the heirloom tomato crostata: Preheat the oven to 425°F (210°C). If you refrigerated the shortcrust pastry, bring it back to room temperature 10 minutes before assembling the crostata. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then place the rolled out shortcrust pastry over this prepared sheet. (If you’re using a rectangular baking sheet, the pastry will hang over the sides at first, but the sheet will be just the right size once the galette is assembled and ready to bake.)
Spread the bottom of the crust with a thin layer of pesto, leaving a 2-inch (5 cm) border all around. (Refrigerate or freeze the remaining pesto for another use.) Dot the pesto with small chunks of creamy cheese. Pat the heirloom tomato slices dry, then add to the crostata, fanning them in circles. Bring the edges of the dough up and over the filling, creasing it and gently pressing it down onto the filling as you go. Brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with fleur de sel, or flaky sea salt.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Set the baking over a rack and let the heirloom tomato crostata cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
SERVING: Garnish with additional chunks of creamy cheese, some lemon zest, and fresh basil leaves. Use a serrated knife to slice and serve with a green salad.
STORAGE: Because of the high water content of tomatoes, this heirloom tomato crostata does not keep well. It's best enjoyed on the day it is baked.
Did you make this?
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