Jim Mirabelli's Grinch Philly Tomato Pie

Jim Mirabelli / NEPA Pizza Review
Food & Ingredients

Jim Mirabelli: How to Make the Grinch Philly Tomato Pie

The influencer behind NEPA Pizza Review walks you through every step for making this one-of-a-kind holiday-themed pizza.

Jim Mirabelli, the highly respected influencer behind NEPA Pizza Review, worked in pizzerias for years before pursuing a full-time career in accounting and business. But he never lost his love for the pizza-making craft—and for the people who make it such a special business. Mirabelli’s wildly original Grinch Philly Tomato Pie, which he created for Christmas 2022, is enough to make even the “mean one” himself smile in a slightly less evil way. Mirabelli appeared on PMQ’s September 2023 cover and, at the time, we asked him if we could share his recipe—originally published here on his popular website—with our readers for the next holiday season. Being a true pizza industry booster, he generously agreed. Below, read the original article and the full recipe, and try your own version as a specialty yuletide pie. Kids will love it, and so will Mom and Dad!

By Jim Mirabelli, NEPA Pizza Review

The Grinch Philly Tomato Pie recipe is a fun and festive take on the popular Philadelphia bakery-style pizza. Philly tomato pie is traditionally a “sheet” pizza about 1/2″ thick and smothered with a thick, sweet, pasty tomato sauce. The pizza is traditional sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Bakeries like Conshohocken Bakery and Corropolese Bakery have been using stencils to create Parmesan cheese patterns to make images of Philly sports team logos and just about anything you can imagine!

Seeing these tomato pies on social media and enjoying The Grinch on TV as the holidays approach inspired me to create this pizza. At first, I thought it would be a simple task to simply add green food coloring to my regular dough and bake it. After the first trial pizza turned out to look like an ugly, blotchy green and brown pile of grossness with tomatoes on it, I had to make some adjustments.

Related: How Jim Mirabelli became pizza royalty in Northeast Pennsylvania

Grinch Tomato Pie Experiment
The first thing I noticed was that the primary-color green liquid food color I was using didn’t get that Grinch-y color I was seeking. It also seemed to lose its luster while it baked in the oven. A friend recommended neon gel food coloring, which worked perfectly!

Even with the new food color, the pizza kept turning brown while baking. With most pizzas, browning is highly desirable, but not when it’s robbing the Grinch Philly Tomato Pie of its proper color! I hypothesized that either the direct heat was too much, or that the air hitting the dough was turning it brown. In my next experiment, I moved from a pizza baked on the stone to one baked in a pan. The results were vastly improved, but the pie was still browning too much.

Finally, I decided to put a lid on my Philly Tomato Pie while it baked. BOOM! I had the exact color and texture I sought! Now that you know the process I went through, let’s get to the recipe!

Grinch Philly Tomato Pie Recipe

This photo shows the neon-green dough for the Grinch Philly Tomato Pie
Photo by Jim Mirabelli / NEPA Pizza Review

Dough Ingredients:

  • 500g King Arthur All Purpose Flour
  • 310g cold water
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 5g Pure Cane White Sugar
  • 10g extra virgin olive oil
  • 5g instant dry yeast
  •  7g neon-green Liqua-Gel Food Coloring

This recipe will make more than enough dough for an average 11″x17″ cookie sheet. I also baked test Grinch Pies in a 10″x14″ Detroit Lloydpan and a 14″ Round Chicago Metallic Deep Dish Pan. Use these weights for each of the pans:

  • 11×17 cookie sheet – 24 oz. dough ball
  • 10×14 Detroit pan – 13 oz. dough ball
  • 14″ round pan – 16 oz. dough ball

Dough Instructions:
Whisk water, yeast and sugar in mixing bowl until dissolved and yeast froths. Add the flour and mix until it creates a wet, shaggy dough (approximately 2 minutes in a stand mixer).

Pour in the salt and olive oil and mix until dough starts to become smooth (about 3 minutes).

Add the food coloring and mix until color is evenly distributed and uniform throughout the dough.

When dough is finished mixing, allow to rest at room temperature in a covered bowl for 20 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and knead by hand. Place back in covered bowl for 5 minutes. Repeat the hand kneading 2 more times at 5-minute intervals. When you are finished kneading for the final time, cover dough tightly with a lid or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until the dough increases about 50% in size. Then place covered dough in the refrigerator for 4-12 hours.

When you’re ready to put your dough into the pan, be sure to pull it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to working with it. Wipe Crisco, lard or butter across the entire base of the pan. Gently lift dough into pan and press gently with your fingertips from the center out to the corners of the pan. Don’t force the dough. If it won’t stretch, cover the pan and come back in 10 minutes to press it the rest of the way.

Once you’re done pressing the dough out to the edges, ensure the dough is even throughout and cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1-3 hours.

Related: Compare and contrast: Old Forge pizza vs. Sicilian pan-fried pizza

Tomato Pie Sauce Recipe

This photo shows the green crust piled with red tomato sauce
Photo by Jim Mirabelli / NEPA Pizza Review

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 28 oz can of Bianco DiNapoli Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 6 oz can of Cento Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano

Sauce Instructions:
Combine all ingredients into a bowl. Mix with immersion blender, food mil or food processor until sauce is smooth and pasty.

Baking Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 450°F
  • Remove wrap from dough in pan and cover pan with a lid or another pan to shield the dough from direct heat.
  • Bake covered for 8 minutes or until crust starts to brown on the bottom and you can press a finger gently into the crust and it rebounds slowly.
  • Remove from the oven and apply sauce liberally, leaving a 1/2″ perimeter of bare green crust. Replace the lid and place pizza back into the oven for 2 minutes. Remove lid and finish baking for an additional 2 minutes.

Adding the Grinch to the Tomato Pie
I am fortunate enough to have an awesome cousin who was able to make me a Grinch stencil on a Cricut machine made from thin, food-grade plastic. You can also make your own using an exacto knife and some tracing paper. I have also seen stencils available for sale on sites like etsy.

Once you have your stencil, the rest is easy. Simply place your stencil onto the tomato sauce. It’s important to press it gently into the sauce so that it is evenly applied across the surface of the pizza.

Then you’ll simply take your Parmesan cheese, sprinkle it all over the stencil, specifically the spots where the red sauce is showing. After you’re done applying, it’s important to brush the excess cheese off of the stencil before lifting. Then lift the stencil off and you have yourself a Grinch Philly Tomato Pie!

Additional Thoughts
This dough recipe can be used for a traditional Philly Tomato pie—just leave out the food coloring and don’t worry about baking with a lid on the crust and you’ll be fine. This dough is also awesome for Old Forge-style pizza!