Mr. Veggie’s first question when I served him this tart was “What’s the brown stuff?”.
So, let’s just get that out of the way.
No, the sundried tomato & mint pesto which I lovingly made from scratch is not attractive, per se. Brown walnuts, red sundried tomatoes and green mint don’t exactly complement each other aesthetically.
In fact, it rather looks like sausage meat doesn’t it?
(If you’re a meat eater, you’re blatantly going to go off and make this with sausage now aren’t you?)
Now, his second question just made me laugh.
“What’s the cheese?”.
I mean, come ON.
This is not one of those situations where I paint him out to be the dim-but-lovable husband who is clueless about all things domestic. No WAY. I don’t even know where we keep half our cleaning products and I am pretty sure he is the first person to ever serve me a real caprese salad – so that is not our dynamic.
Of course I mocked him for his inability to recognize mozzarella, but then I went away and thought about it and I reflected on the fact that I used a block cooking mozzarella instead of a fresh one. Which does influence the texture. We may have just caught him off guard?
I mention the mozzarella because this is super important. You can not make this with a fresh mozzarella which is stored in water because that would have way too much moisture and make a huge mess. You need a block of cooking mozzarella, which is much more solid. It will be soft and shreddy, almost rubbery. You can get some terrible cooking mozzarellas which are basically string cheese so try to avoid those. I personally have tried this with both Galbani and Sainsbury’s own brand with great results.
Anyway, one thing we both did agree on was that this tart was an outstanding Sunday lunch. While simple to prepare, it uses some beautiful ingredients which come together beautifully.
The tomatoes were fresh and juicy, the mozzarella chewy and firm, the pesto intensely flavorful and the pastry light and flaky. Every bite is a little bit different.
The end pieces and middle pieces were quite different from each other too, with the middle pieces (my favourite) being much more dense and moist, and the outer pieces (his favourite) having more contrast from the crispy, flaky pastry.
We served this with a big leafy side salad, with my simple pesto salad dressing – using some of the sundried tomato mint pesto in this recipe. So it was very well matched.
If you make the full batch of pesto in this recipe, you’ll have leftovers. I had enough leftover to make the salad dressing + use it with some gnocci for dinner the next night. If you don’t want leftovers, you can halve the recipe.
- 1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
- 3 large beefsteak tomatoes (aka slicing tomatoes), sliced
- About 300g (10.5oz) low-moisture block mozzarella, sliced into rounds or squares about ¼ inch thick
- ⅓ cup of sundried tomatoes (about 8 individual sundried tomatoes)
- ¼ cup of walnuts
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- ¼ cup of fresh mint leaves
- 3 Tblsps of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tblsp of water
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 390F
- Make pesto by blending all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender.
- Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, and unroll your pastry on top. If you'd like to make it bigger, use a rolling pin to roll it out a little more.
- Now you're going to pre-bake the pastry to avoid it coming out soggy. Using a knife, cut a few slices into your raw pastry. Place in the oven for 10 minutes until it starts to puff up.
- Remove from the oven.
- Now place your tomato and mozzarella slices in slightly overlapping layers on top of the pastry, leaving about a 1 inch border. This border will puff up and form the edge.
- (Optional: you could brush the pastry border with egg white to make it golden and crispy. I didn't do this, but it would be a great touch if you want to make it more presentable and crispy!)
- Now top with blobs of the pesto. You won't use all of it, so just use as much as you'd like and save the rest for another day.
- Bake for another 15-25 minutes, until the mozzarella is melted and the pastry edge is crisp.
- Pesto recipe is adapted from Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano – a fabulous cookbook.