Citizens, we are coming up onto the new year (but not the new decade, that doesn’t start until 2021!) and I wanted to showcase a suitably celebratory dish associated with the holiday. My brain was taxed like a struggling middle-class family until – after deep meditation and suitable practices – pelucid clarity ensued, striking like a thunderbolt of Zen satori enlightenment from a kōan! I MUST share my recipe for sfincione, Sicilian New Year’s pizza with you!
Now, when is a pizza NOT a pizza? Yes, my Zen kōan metaphor continues to hold, and in fact it’s a trick question, because technically it’s not!
Sicilian pizza is pizza prepared in a manner that originated in Sicily, Italy. Sicilian pizza is also known as sfincione or focaccia with toppings. In the United States, the phrase Sicilian pizza is often synonymous with thick-crust pizza derived from the Sicilian sfincione.
This type of pizza became a popular dish in western Sicily by the mid-19th century and was the type of pizza usually consumed in Sicily until the 1860s. The version with tomatoes was not available prior to the 17th century.
The sfincione (or sfinciuni in Sicilian language) is a very common variety of pizza that originated in the province of Palermo. Unlike the more familiar Neapolitan pizza, it is typically rectangular, with more dough, sauce and cheese.
An authentic recipe often calls for herbs, tons of onion, tomato sauce, strong cheese(s) and anchovies and is usually covered with breadcrumbs (metaphorically likened to dust). The sauce is sometimes placed on top of the toppings to prevent it from soaking into the thick dough.
As you can see, this is wildly different from the Sicilian pizza served in the U.S. – same shape, same dough, but totally different toppings and methodology. I’ll post my recipe for Sicilian-American pizza another time, today we are sticking solely with the true scion of Sicily!
As noted on polentaebaccala.com:
This is one the most famous street foods of the city of Palermo, Sicily.
At a first sight it might look like a pizza, but it’s more like a focaccia. It has a very soft dough, thanks also to the little fat used, it’s spongy, it’s usually thick, and its topping is very tasty 🙂while the breadcrumbs on the top give a very interesting crunchiness to this recipe.
You can find street sellers through all the city, selling it on their Ape car and calling the people through a loudspeaker, repeating slogans that became famous and immediately recognizable by the locals. One of these slogans says “Va tastalu, è scarsu r’uogghiu e chinu i pruvulazzu” that translated means “run to taste it, it lacks in terms of oil but is full of dust” 😀
But it’s also a recipe that people in Palermo use to prepare during Christmas time and (TFD note – plus New Year’s Eve!), so it’s also a festive food.
Citizens, my version of this classic and simple pizza is ruthlessly authentic, as always – why should 2020 be any different than the last 5 years? 😉 Like all Sicilian dishes, my version of sfincione has seriously punchy flavors in it – onion, anchovy, a bit of hot pepper, oregano and rosemary and not one but two pungent cheeses! If any of these present an issue – please, just don’t make this recipe.
My very strong first suggestion is that before you attempt this, you read my post on how to make proper pizza here – it will put you on the true Shining Path of culinary glory!
To make sfincione properly, you’ll need proper Italian flour and Italian semolina flour, you can grab both at the links. For the tomato sauce, using anything except true San Marzano tomatoes is an affront to both God and man, so please, use the real deal, you can grab them here.
Genuine Sicilian oregano may be bought here and you are truly dead to me if you use any anchovies except the best, which are these. The two cheeses I specify are the only correct and proper ones for this recipe – you can buy genuine Ragusano here and proper Caciocavallo here.
Oddly, this recipe is supposed to contain rosemary in addition to oregano, but for the life of me I couldn’t find any recipes in English that called for it – so, I call for rosemary-flavored olive oil to be used in the bread crumb topping. My version of this recipe is a Frankenstein’s Monster, stitched together from several sources including Serious Eats and polentaebaccala.com, plus my own preferred techniques and tweaks (as always, noted in the recipe).
Citizens, this is a festive dish of the season in Sicily and deserves a place of grace at your kitchen table – please consider trying it without delay and Happy New Year to TFD Nation! 😀
Battle on – the Generalissimo
The Hirshon Sicilian New Year’s Pizza – Sfincione
- Total Time: 0 hours
- For the dough:
- 300 g Manitoba flour
- 150 g durum flour, “semola rimacinata di grano duro”
- 300 ml water
- 7 g fresh bakers yeast
- 20 g lard
- 10 g salt
- For the Breadcrumbs:
- 1 loaf Italian-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/4 cup Rosemary-flavored extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 oz. Caciocavallo cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- For the Sauce:
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, finely diced (about 2 1/2 cups total)
- 1 Tbsp. dried wild Sicilian oregano
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste
- 2 anchovies, finely-minced or crushed, Ortiz brand strongly preferred
- 1 (28-oz.) can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed by hand or in a food mill (make sure they are actually grown in San Marzano!)
- Kosher salt
- To Assemble:
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 oz. Caciocavallo cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 2 oz. aged Ragusano cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 10 anchovy filets, finely chopped, Ortiz brand strongly preferred
- Make the dough the day before. Sift the flours, add the yeast and ⅔ of the water and start to work it. While it’s working add the remaining water, then when it’s almost shaped into a mass add the salt and then the melted lard. Work it some minutes and then place it in a bowl greased with some olive oil, cover it and place it in the fridge for 20 hours.
- Make the Sauce: Heat olive oil and onions in a large straight-sided sauté pan over medium high heat until sizzling. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes total.
- Add oregano and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer then reduce to lowest possible heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep red, rich, and thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and set aside. Sauce can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.
- When ready to assemble, place a pizza stone (or do as TFD prefers and use a pizza steel!) directly on the bottom of your oven and preheat the oven to 450°F. Pour half of the oil in the bottom of a rimmed aluminum baking sheet.
- Carefully remove the refrigerated dough from the bowl and form it into a ball. Pour remaining oil over the top and coat with your hands. Let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough should spread to mostly fill the pan. Gently stretch and shape it to fill out to the edges. Let rise another 30 minutes.
- Then prepare the ‘muddica’, the breadcrumbs: discard the crust from the bread and then reduce it into small pieces with a food processor. Then remove them to a pan and toast, adding rosemary-flavored extra virgin olive oil. Toast until it gets a nice color and becomes crunchy. Then let it cool down and mix it in a bowl with the grated cheese. Breadcrumbs can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- After the 2 hours, flatten the dough with your hands, carefully, at about 1-1.5 cm thick and place it in the oven tray, previously greased with extra virgin olive oil.
- Add the shredded cheeses over the dough. Add the anchovies and then cover with the onion sauce and lastly with the breadcrumbs and cheese mix. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Bake directly on the pizza stone (or pizza steel, as TFD prefers) until top is golden brown and the bottom is crisp and bubbly when you peek with a metal spatula, about 25 minutes total, rotating once half way through cooking.
- Remove from the pan using a thin metal spatula and transfer to a cutting board. Serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
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