By: Alexander Ehasz, Columnist
Photo by Alexander Ehasz
One of my favorite Philadelphia classics is tomato pie. Tomato pie is one American evolution of the classic Sicilian pizza – a thick, almost bready type of pizza. On a national level, these pies are overshadowed by mainstays such as the classic New York “Round Pie” or Chicago deep dish. Still, they hold a solid and culturally significant foothold in Philadelphia. As well, many other cities have similar items such as the Long Island grandma pizza and Detroit-style pizza. In Philadelphia, these pies are composed of a thick, focaccia-like dough topped with a tomato gravy. There is a very satisfying dynamic at play between the shatteringly crisp bottom, light and airy center of the dough, and thick, sweet and savory sauce atop.
Tomato pie may be an important part of Philadelphia food culture, but undoubtedly, the essential icon of Philadelphia food is the cheesesteak sandwich. Unlike the bland, pallid, frozen beef-based sandwiches masquerading as “philly cheesesteaks” around countless cafeterias and restaurants nationwide, the genuine article has generous portions of fresh ribeye steak. While the debate over whiz vs. American cheese vs. provolone rages on, one thing nearly everyone can agree on is the importance of great quality meat.
With these dishes in mind, I created a hybrid of the two. While I am certainly not the first to create a cheesesteak pizza, this is a unique variant. Most cheesesteak pizzas are of the classic round NY variety. And whilst some may find this combination controversial, it is important to consider that it is not unprecedented. Many classic Philly steak shops include a variant called the “pizza steak” that adds marinara and mozzarella. Many pizzerias that also serve hoagies will make both from the same dough. It may not be perfectly authentic, but it is delicious.
Homemade Cheesesteak Pizza Recipe:
Makes: 1x 13×9 inch pizza
Total time: 6-8 hours
Active time: 1 ½ hours
- 250g flour, plus more for kneading
- 8g salt
- 3g yeast
- 155g water
- 10g olive oil plus ⅛ cup for greasing the pan.
- ½ of a 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 cloves of minced or pressed garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 chopped basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Pinch oregano
- 1 teaspoon sugar (if the finished sauce is too acidic)
- 6 thin slices provolone cheese
- ¼ cup shredded mozzarella
- 8-12 ounces ribeye steak
- Can substitute sirloin if ribeye is not available
- ¼ yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced into half-rings
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as vegetable or peanut)
- 1 tablespoon butter
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour, yeast, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Add the water and oil and stir by hand until a rough but coherent dough ball forms. Make sure the bowl used can contain multiple times the volume of the dough.
Cover with plastic wrap or foil and let rest for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, begin kneading the dough and continue for five minutes, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time if the dough becomes too sticky to work. The finished dough ball should be smooth and slightly springy. Lightly flour the outside of the dough ball and place it back into the bowl, covering again. Let it rest for five to six hours. Remember to move your steak into the refrigerator to defrost if it is frozen, at this point.
After five to six hours, the dough should be significantly larger in volume, and feel much lighter and more airy. Add 1/8 of a cup of olive oil to a 13 x 9 inch metal baking dish and rub or brush it into every corner. Pick up the dough ball and let gravity stretch it into an oblong oval/rectangle about a foot long. Lay the dough into the pan and lightly press it towards the corners. The dough will spring back somewhat, and will probably not yet fill the pan. Cover the pan with foil and let it rest for an hour.
Preheat the oven with a pizza stone (or flat pan as substitute) inside to 500°F. In a pot, add the San Marzano tomatoes and use a potato masher or wooden spoon to crush them. Chop the basil and mince or press the garlic and add to the tomatoes along with the salt, oregano, and oil. Turn the burner to medium-low and let simmer for 30 minutes, making sure it doesn’t get too thick and burn. Right after you start the sauce, remove the steak from the fridge and salt generously on both sides, setting aside.
After simmering for 30 minutes, remove the sauce from heat and taste it. Salt to taste (if needed) and if the sauce seems too acidic, add the sugar. On the stove, heat a cast iron or steel (not non-stick) pan over high heat. Add 1 tbsp neutral oil and, when it starts to smoke, add the steak. Sear it for two minutes, flip, and cook for another two minutes, and then remove from the pan and set it aside to rest. Let the pan cool, but do not wipe out the steak drippings.
Top the dough with a generous amount of sauce, making sure it is completely covered. There may be some sauce left over. Top the pizza with the provolone slices and fill the gaps with shredded mozzarella. Slide the tray onto the pizza stone and bake for 10 minutes. While it is in the oven, return the frying pan to a medium heat and add the 1tbsp butter. Once that melts, add the sliced onion and let it cook for five minutes until it starts to brown. Slice the steak into ½ inch strips, and then slice those strips into cubes. Add the steak and onions to the pizza and continue baking 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is golden with a deep brown edge.
Remove from the oven and let cool for five to ten minutes. Run a knife around the edge to separate the pizza from the pan. It’s ready to serve!