I look forward to tomato season every year, when ripe tomatoes in brilliant shades of red, green, orange, and yellow are seemingly everywhere. This tart, a play on Kenji’s tomato, mayo, and toast, is just a way to showcase the quality of in-season tomatoes: a crisp puff pastry spread with herbed whipped ricotta and juicy, sweet tomatoes layered on top.
It’s also very quick to put together because of the frozen puff pastry, which arguably does its job just as well as homemade puff pastry. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that it’s important to thaw frozen puff pastry until it’s cool and pliable first, either by letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight or on the countertop at room temperature for a couple hours.
Because the toppings are uncooked, the pastry must be baked beforehand, and I use Sohla’s tips for blind-baking to produce an ultra-crispy crust: dock the pastry with a fork and weigh it down with a sheet pan to keep massive air pockets at bay as it bakes.
As for the tomatoes, any variety of tomato or mix of varieties will work; you just want to be sure the tomatoes are firm and ripe. I salt and drain the tomatoes in advance to extract excess moisture, in order to prevent the tart from getting soggy, but it also helps if you’re planning to transport this tart or want it to last on the appetizer platter for longer than an hour or so.
Whipping the ricotta in a food processor smooths out any lumps and incorporates air, creating a light and fluffy texture. Once the components are ready and the puff pastry is completely cooled, assembly is a breeze. Simply slather the ricotta over the cool pastry (doing it while the pastry is warm will make a mess), layer the sliced tomatoes on top, and sprinkle them with sea salt, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and basil leaves. The tart is best served at room temperature and complements almost everything, making it a wonderful appetizer or side dish for any gathering.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, place one sheet of puff pastry directly on top of the other. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry into a 11- by 15-inch rectangle. Transfer pastry to prepared baking sheet. Poke pastry all over with a fork. Cover the pastry with a sheet of parchment and place another rimmed baking sheet on top. Bake until pastry is light golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Remove from oven, and remove the top baking sheet and parchment. Increase oven temperature to 500°F (260°C). Return pastry to oven and continue to bake until crisp and deeply browned, about 10 minutes. Allow pastry to cool completely on baking sheet, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, line a second rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Once pastry is nearly cool, arrange tomato slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet, and sprinkle with the 3/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside for 15 minutes, then use additional paper towels or a second clean kitchen towel to blot excess liquid.
Combine ricotta and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add parsley and pulse to combine. Using an offset spatula, spread ricotta mixture evenly over puff pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Arrange tomato slices evenly over ricotta mixture. Season with pepper and sea salt, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with basil. Cut into portions and serve.
Use the ripest tomatoes you can find. When tomatoes aren’t in season, use smaller plum, grape, or cherry tomatoes.
Make-ahead and Storage
The tart is best eaten the same day.
The whipped ricotta can be made ahead of time. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.