Four summers ago, on a family vacation off the coast of Maine, I took some leftover spaghetti, a few slices of tomato, and I made a pie.
I didn’t measure anything. I am not even sure that I preheated the oven. And I most certainly didn’t think it was anything special. Everyone tried a slice and whatever was left was eaten as a late night snack, even cold the next day straight out of the fridge. It is forever talked about as the spaghetti pie I made in Maine.
I think most recipes start off this way. First they fill a need, and then take on a entire life of their own, creating a culture of eating, and a flavor that tastes like a memory. They become part of the family.
Heirloom recipes, just like heirloom tomatoes, are a beautiful representation of history. Unique and changing slightly over time, gradually becoming the map of our very own family tree.
For me, Christmas would not be the same without my mother-in-law’s crabby patties, and eggplant parm without my dad’s tomato sauce, (yes, I said sauce, save the gravy for your turkey), might as well be someone’s sneaker covered in mozzarella. There is no restaurant or chef in the world that can recreate it.
Like my mom’s stuffing: an unmeasured mass of white bread, celery and onions dusted with a generous amount of Bell’s seasoning. I only know this because three Thanksgivings ago she taught me how to make it, with my eyes and my hands. No written recipe.
Here is that pie I made that summer in Maine, cheesy and simple, and basically an adult excuse to eat mac & cheese. This time with heirloom tomatoes to make it twice as memorable, but feel free to make it your very own family heirloom by adding your own spin on it.
Heirloom Tomato Spaghetti Pie
- 1 lb. dried spaghetti, bucatini, or linguini pasta
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups freshly shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 tsp red pepper flake
- 3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 Tbs butter
- 3 large to medium sized heirloom tomatoes, varying in color
- A handful of cherry tomatoes, varying in color
Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions, in generously salted boiling water. (I used whole wheat pasta here, but here I tried using regular bucatini and it is really great also.)
Preheat the oven to 375° F and cover the outside of a 9-inch spring form pan with tin foil and place it on a sheet pan. Coat the bottom and sides of the spring form pan with butter. Slice the larger tomatoes into 1/4 thick slices and arrange them in a design, cut side down, on the bottom of the pan. Try to cover the entire pan in one layer, using the smaller tomatoes, cut in half, to fill in the gaps.
Whisk the milk, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and red pepper flake together in a small mixing bowl. Pour this mixture over the pasta after it cools, tossing it gently with a pair of tongs.
Sprinkle the layer of tomatoes with a pinch of the shredded cheese and a pinch of the grated cheese, then mix the remaining cheese into the pasta mixture. Pour the pasta carefully over the tomato layer, and press it down into the pan.
Bake the pie for about 30-40 minutes or until the edges of the pasta start to brown. Let it cool slightly before carefully unmolding and inverting the pan onto a large serving dish. If any tomatoes get displaced, just carefully place them back onto the pie. Cut and serve immediately, or eat it cold the next day.
Note: You can make this recipe in a regular large pie dish, just place tomatoes on top instead of at the bottom of the pan.