Lo Sfincione, The Original Sicilian-Style Pizza

Sfincione - Sicilian Pizza
Creative Commons
  • Total: 65 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Rise: 3 hrs
  • Servings: 6 to 8 servings
  • Yield: 1 pizza

In the U.S., the difference between a standard pizza and "Sicilian" pizza often comes mostly down to the shape: It's rectangular, rather than round, and usually has a thicker crust. But it's still covered in tomato sauce and lots of gooey, melty mozzarella cheese.

Its original Sicilian ancestor from the province surrounding the capital city of Palermo is called sfincione (or sfinciuni in dialect) and, while enjoyed year-round, is often served at New Year's and for the Feast of San Giovanni. The crust is light, fluffy, and slightly spongy, rather than dense and chewy, with a crisp bottom layer. It's traditionally topped with onions, tomatoes, anchovies, oregano, and a hard Sicilian sheep's milk cheese. The final touch is a crisp top layer of breadcrumbs. In the area around Palermo, it's often sold in bakeries rather than pizzerias (which mostly turn out the typical round, Naples-style pizzas), or from streetside stands or food trucks.

Though making the dough involves rising time, there is no rolling or tossing required, so it's somewhat easier to make than a classic round pizza. It's a great starter recipe for those who might be intimidated by the idea of homemade pizza.

Ingredients

  • For the Dough:
  • 3 1/2 cups/500 grams flour (all-purpose; approximately)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons/25 grams active dry yeast (dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8.5 fluid ounces/250 ml water (approximately)
  • For the Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for greasing the pan)
  • 3 medium onions (thinly sliced)
  • 6 plum tomatoes (ripe, peeled; or canned)
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • Optional: 6 anchovy fillets (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 pound caciocavallo (or Pecorino Romano; coarsely grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 tablespoon oregano (chopped fresh; or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this pizza is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Prepare the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Form the flour into a volcano-like shape with a center well on a large wooden cutting board or clean kitchen counter.

  3. Add the yeast (dissolved in water) to the center with the salt followed by the water.

  4. Pull flour into the center and mix. Once a dough starts to form, start to knead.

  5. Knead until the dough is homogenous and smooth and form into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for at least 3 hours. 

Prepare the Topping

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large skillet. Add the sliced onions and saute until softened and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. 

  3. Add the tomatoes and garlic, using a wooden spoon or spatula to help the tomatoes break down as they cook.

  4. Continue cooking until sauce is slightly thickened, another 15 to 20 minutes. 

Prepare the Pizza

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil.

  2. Spread the rested dough in a layer in the bottom of the pan (about 1 inch high), gently pushing it to keep from expelling too much air.

  3. Spread the anchovy pieces evenly over the dough and press in gently.

  4. Sprinkle about a quarter of the grated cheese over the crust, then cover evenly with a thin layer of the tomato sauce.

  5. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, breadcrumbs, and the oregano. Drizzle the top generously with more olive oil.

  6. Bake until the cheese is melted and the cheese and breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

  7. Slice into squares and serve hot or at room temperature. 

Tip

  • If you can't find caciocavallo, you may substitute it with Pecorino Romano or an aged ("piccante") provolone, coarsely grated.