Tomatoes, pesto and mozzarella cheese are a magic trio of ingredients you can use to flavor pasta dishes, stuff paninis, or top grilled chicken or steak. They’re also a perfect topping combo for this quick tomato tart made with two of my other favorite ingredients – frozen puff pastry dough and balsamic glaze. This tart can be pulled together in under an hour, not counting the time it takes for the dough to thaw. You can serve this tart as an easy weeknight dinner, or for lunch or brunch.
Puff pastry can be topped in endless ways for sweet and savory appetizers, main dishes and desserts. Its flaky goodness knows no bounds. If you haven’t worked with puff pastry dough before, I have a few tips:
Some cooks feel strongly about using butter-only puff pastry. A popular all-butter brand is Dufour, which is sold at Whole Foods and other specialty grocery stores. The most common supermarket brand, Pepperidge Farm, is made using vegetable oil. I’ve used both, and I think each has pros and cons.
All-butter pastry tastes better, but it’s not commonly sold in supermarkets. It also costs more than twice as much as puff pastry made with vegetable oil. Puff pastry made with vegetable oil is easier to find, less expensive, puffs up higher and is more crisp, but its flavor is comparatively bland. Although it contains some hydrogenated oil, it has zero grams of trans fat according to the label.
Use whatever kind of puff pastry you like best, and if you want a “scientific” second opinion, the folks at Serious Eats tested Pepperidge Farm and Dufour, and they recommend both of them.
Let the puff pastry thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or on the countertop for about 45 minutes. It should be cold but no longer frozen. While the dough is thawing, you can prepare the balsamic glaze. I made this tart a few times without the glaze, and it was okay but not great. It was adding the balsamic glaze that made the difference for me with this recipe.
If you want to make a larger batch of balsamic glaze so you can have leftovers for salads, grilled veggies, grilled chicken or other dishes, use my Clean Eating Balsamic Glaze recipe.
To make the glaze just for this tart, simmer 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon honey over medium heat until thickened and syrupy, about 4-5 minutes. Aim for the consistency of maple syrup, because the glaze will become thicker when it cools. Don’t use too much heat, because honey is easy to burn.
After preparing the glaze, flour a clean surface for rolling out the puff pastry dough. Flatten the dough gently and shape it to fit a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet. You can line the baking sheet with parchment or spray it with nonstick spray if you want, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you have a nonstick baking sheet.
Place the dough in the baking sheet, and poke holes in it at 2-inch intervals with a fork. Poking holes will prevent the pastry from puffing up too high. Leave the outer 1 1/2 inches intact, so the edges will puff up higher to form a rim. Brush the dough with beaten egg. This step is optional, but it helps the crust brown beautifully.
Spread prepared basil pesto over the pastry dough, then scatter halved grape tomatoes over the pesto. Top with freshly ground black pepper. Cover the tart with shredded mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan cheese.
The tart bakes for 15-18 minutes at 425 degrees. After baking, drizzle on the balsamic glaze with a spoon. The tart is best served within a few hours, because the pastry will lose its crispness over time.
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 sheet puff pastry dough
- 1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
- ½ cup basil pesto
- 15 grape tomatoes, cut in half
- ¼-½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator or for 45 minutes on the countertop.
- While the dough is thawing, prepare the balsamic glaze. Stir together the balsamic vinegar and honey and bring to a to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Simmer until thickened to a syrup consistency, about 5 minutes.
- Line a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet with parchment or spray with cooking spray (optional for nonstick baking sheet). Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Lightly flour a clean surface for rolling out the dough. Unfold the dough carefully, pressing together any cracks with your fingers and sealing with a little water if needed. Gently flatten with a rolling pin to fit the baking sheet. Prick the dough at 2-inch intervals with a fork, leaving the outer 1 ½ inches intact so it will puff up to form a rim. Brush the dough with beaten egg using a pastry brush (optional).
- Spread the basil pesto evenly over the tart, leaving the outer edge bare. Scatter the tomatoes evenly over the pesto. Sprinkle with black pepper. Add the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, spreading evenly.
- Bake on lower middle rack of oven for 15-18 minutes or until browned. If a large bubble forms while the tart is cooking, quickly prick it with a fork or knife. Allow tart to cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle lightly with balsamic-honey mixture using a spoon. Slice and serve within a few hours.