Because I love them so, herbs dominated my vegetable garden this year—dill, oregano, lovage, lavender, parsley, French tarragon, lemon balm and lemon thyme, plus many kinds of basil, rosemary, and sage. Yes, all of those lovelies, plus a few veg essentials: including tomatoes! Waiting for the red globes to reach their peak, I first made these delicious savory hand pies with plump and pretty store-bought Campari (sometimes called “cocktail”) tomatoes, later switching to homegrown. Camparis are the perfect size for the recipe (less fleshy that big tomatoes, and less fiddley than cherries to slip the skins off of after roasting ) but the recipe works with any size of the fruit. (If you use big tomatoes, just cut them into eighths.)
Slow roasted with garlic for a good hour and a half, the tomatoes deepen to rich flavor that matches their hue. Tucked into crusts with freshly made basil pesto, two kinds of mozzarella, they are delicious (!) I used Jessica Battilana’s NYTimes calzone as my jumping off place for this recipe, learning from her that for crisp-perfect crusts, you need to bake at a raging 500 degrees. But while Battilana designed a drier filling to ensure that crispy crust, I prefer a little juicier filling, so added some cubes of fresh mozzarella to the whole milk mozzarella shreds, lots more garlic and some chili flakes for punch. And the crispy crust held!
You can use 24-ounces of store-bought pizza dough if time-pressed, but the home made crust is very good, so do try to make it if you can. To round out the meal, serve the pies hot from the oven with a fresh green salad. To round out the meal, serve the pies hot from the oven with a fresh green salad. P.S. If you are a hand pie aficionado like my husband, try our picadillo empanadas , or our sour cherry pies.
2 ½ lbs. Campari (sometimes called cocktail) tomatoes, washed and dried OR 2 ½ pounds any tomatoes (sliced into eighths if large; left whole if using cherry or Campari)
3 Tbsp olive oil
6 to 8 garlic cloves, small dice
½ tsp freshly cracked pepper
½ tsp salt
FOR THE DOUGH:
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp warm water
1 Tbsp pure cane sugar
1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
½ to 1 tsp chili flakes to add to tomatoes after they are roasted
FOR THE FRESH BASIL PESTO:
2 large bunches fresh basil, stems discarded, leaves packed to make four cups roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup pine nuts
Finely grated zest from 2 fresh lemons
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (plus more after pulsing pesto, as desired)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 heaping cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan) cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
TO FINISH PIES:
2 ½ cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella
1, 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cut into cubes
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbsp milk
Sea salt flakes
MAKE DOUGH: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment combine water and sugar; stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast over the warm sugar water and let stand 10 minutes until yeast is foamy. Add the flour, salt and olive oil, and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and continue mixing with dough hook until mass comes together in a ball. Remove dough from bowl, knead for three more minutes until smooth. Spray inside of mixing bowl with light vegetable-oil spray. Place dough ball inside and cover with kitchen towel. Place bowl in a draft-free spot and allow dough to rise for 1 hour and 15 minutes. While dough is rising, roast tomatoes and garlic.
ROAST TOMATOES & GARLIC: Preheat oven to 300. Place tomatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Scatter chopped garlic over all. Drizzle with 3 Tbsp of olive oil, rolling the tomatoes around a bit to make sure they are coated. Grind pepper over and sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or a little longer, until tomatoes are very soft and skins completely crinkled. Slip off and discard (or save to eat later) skins from tomatoes. Scoop tomato flesh and juices into a mesh strainer over a bowl, setting aside the garlic for a minute. Press tomatoes to release tomato juices into the bowl. (Note: Save the tomato juice to drink fresh, to make a Bloody Mary, or to add to your next batch of chili!) Dump strained tomatoes into a bowl, stir in the roasted garlic and add ½ tsp homemade or storebought red chili flakes. Set aside.
DIVIDE DOUGH: Flatten dough ball into a disk. Cut in half. Cut each half into thirds. Roll each into a ball. You will now have six dough balls. Cover dough balls with clean dish towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes while you make pesto.
MAKE PESTO: Combine basil leaves with pinenuts, garlic and lemon zest in a food processor. Pulse to break down into small bits, scraping sides of food processor bowl as needed. Add lemon juice and olive oil and pulse again. Add parmesan and pulse once more. Stir; add more olive oil as needed to make a rich sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more lemon juice, if desired.
MAKE PIES: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. On a clean work surface with a sturdy rolling pin, roll one of the dough balls into an 8-inch circle. Starting at center, spread with generous dollop of pesto, leaving the outermost inch of the dough circle bare. Sprinkle grated cheese over pesto. Place three cubes of fresh mozzarella along the center-half line of the dough. Top with a few spoons of the roasted tomatoes and garlic. Lift and fold right half of the dough circle over the left half to make a half-moon shape. Press top edge into bottom edge to lightly seal and then roll and crimp the edge of the half-moon to completely seal in the filling. Repeat until all six hand pies are finished. Coat each with egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with salt flakes. Very lightly grease sheet pan. Place pies on pan and bake at 500 for 15 to 18 minutes until deep golden brown. Watch closely during last few minutes to ensure crusts don’t get too dark. Remove from oven. Serve with fresh green salad.