You can order sfincione by the square in takeout establishments all over Palermo, to be eaten right away or later, but Sicilian cooks make it at home, too.
The crust is thicker than a typical pizza and a bit spongy, but at the same time crisp because the dough contains a generous amount of olive oil. Sfincione (sfinciuni in dialect) is related to focaccia, I suppose, but to me it belongs in a category by itself.
After patting the dough into a half-sheet pan, you add layers of cheese, as many anchovies as you fancy, a tomato-and-onion topping and, finally, a scattering of bread crumbs. I love the fact that the cheeses and anchovies are hidden, ready to surprise with their unique flavors.
Once when I cut sficione in cocktail-sized squares to serve guests–pre-pandemic when we did that sort of thing–a French guest kept coming back for more. It reminded him of pissaladiere, also made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies, typical of his native Provence. The French version usually includes olives and omits cheese, however.
This is a good pizza to share and to reheat by the square in a toaster oven. To me it tastes just as good a couple of days later.
Adapted from my recipe in Seafood alla Siciliana, this pizza reheats well the next day. Just toast however many squares you want in a toaster oven for three or four minutes.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2-1/2 teaspoons dry yeast 1 envelope
- Up to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour*
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes with puree, or equivalent quantity of marinara sauce
- 2 large yellow onions thinly sliced (4 to 5 cups)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 8 to 10 ounces mozzarella, caciocavallo or provolone cheese, or a blend thickly shredded
- 8 to 10 anchovy fillets cut in small pieces
- Dried oregano to taste
- 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs moistened with olive oil
Lightly coat bottom and sides of a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
Combine yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar with 1 cup warm water in a liquid measuring cup. Let stand for a few minutes, until a beige scum forms on top of the water.
Combine 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil with yeast mixture and add to flour. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix liquid into flour.
Turn dough onto a granite countertop or other smooth surface; knead, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if necessary, until dough is glossy and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes; shape into a ball. Clean the bowl and drizzle a little oil into it; turn the dough to coat lightly. Cover and let rise in a warm place for a couple of hours until it more or less doubles in size.
Meanwhile, prepare tomato-onion sauce: Place tomatoes with puree in a blender or food processor. Pulse to a chunky consistency.
Stir onions and 1/4 cup olive oil together in a large skillet. Over medium heat, cook until onions soften, adjusting heat as necessary so they do not brown.
Add pureed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste (omit seasonings if using prepared marinara sauce). Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
Gently deflate dough with a fist and press it over the bottom and sides of the prepared pan. Spread mozzarella evenly over dough. Dot with anchovy pieces. Cover with tomato-onion sauce, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with oregano. Sprinkle breadcrumbs moistened olive oil on top. Let rise for 30 minutes to an hour.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake sfincione on a rack in lower third of oven until crust edges turn golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into squares.
* Semolina flour can be substituted for up to 1 cup of all-purpose flour.