Tomato Tamale Pie

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Tomato Tamale PieBack in 1993, Greg and I took our first road trip together from Santa Barbara to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon! I had only just begun to appreciate the cuisines of the Southwest, having been raised in New York and New Jersey. To repair me, we took every opportunity to stop at a roadside stand in the desert and try whatever was on offer. Tamales altered my universe in profound ways. I truly appreciated the fine detail that went into crafting each scrumptious little steamed husk packet of corn meal and savory goop. That’s a whole lot of work. This is much easier.

  • Yield: 6 to 8 Servings
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes


  • 8 -10 medium (about 1½ -2 lb) Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dry red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • 1 4-oz can green chiles, diced
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.33 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Vegetable stock or water as needed
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a colander over the sink or a large bowl, toss the fresh diced tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of salt. Let the tomatoes drain for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion, spices, and remaining salt. Sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 6–8 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the mixture, stir in, and continue to sauté for an additional minute.
  3. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, wine, chiles, sun-dried tomatoes, and canned tomatoes. Allow this mixture to stew for 10 minutes. Transfer into a baking dish, smooth with a spoon, and top with the drained fresh tomatoes and let it cool for 15 minutes while you make the topping batter.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix together cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and olive oil. Slowly add stock or water until a loose dough is formed. You’re looking for the texture of creamy mashed potatoes.
  5. Carefully spread the dough on top of mixture in the baking dish. Be careful that the dough sits on top of the fresh tomatoes and goes all the way to edges of the baking dish. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the cornbread topping begins to crack slightly.
  6. Remove the tamale pie from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving in bowls.

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