Sfincione: Sicilian Style Pizza

Aunt Antionette, primo pizza maker.

There is nothing better than a thick slice of authentic Sicilian pizza—just ask my kids.  Sicilian style pizza, or sfincione as we call it, has a thick crust and is similar to focaccia.  The crust is crispy on the outside but light, spongy, and soft inside, with a layer of tomato sauce and cheese on top.  The thin, flat pizza that we are more familiar with is from Naples, Italy.  You can put just about anything you like as a topping, but if it is sprinkled with oregano, you now have “rianata.”  Rianata is derived from the word for oregano, “oreganata.”  In addition to the more traditional rinanata or sfincione—which are topped with tomato sauce—Sicilians also make pizza bianco (white).

This recipe was inspired by my Aunt Antionette, who makes the best sfincione around.  It was a major hit at her Italian bakery.

For traditional pizza, the risen dough is studded with pieces of anchovy, then a layer of tomato sauce is placed on top and sprinkled with oregano, grated cheese, and mozzarella.  You don’t have to add anchovies if you’re not fond of them.  The addition of mozzarella cheese on top is not customary but a new tradition our family loves.  I don’t put the mozzarella on top until the last 5 minutes of cooking because it tends to brown otherwise.

When making pizza bianca, after the anchovies are placed on top of the dough, it is then topped with sauted onions, oregano, grated cheese, and toasted breadcrumbs. You can also add fresh tomato slices, sundried tomatoes, olives, browned Italian sausage, thin slices of Caciocavallo cheese, or even thin slices of fried potatoes.  I sometimes substitute fresh rosemary or thyme for the oregano in pizza Bianca.

A treat for leftover pizza dough is to make “pasta fritta” or fried dough.  A small amount of the bread dough is stretched thin, fried on both sides, and rolled in sugar like a doughnut.  When my children were younger, this was their favorite dessert when visiting grandma Maria’s house.

The durum flour the recipe calls for is hard to find in grocery stores but is available by ordering online at Nuts.com.  I have also included the recipe for pizza bianca in the event that you would like to try making one of each.

To make this recipe you will need a 12” x 17” sheet pan.


Difficulty Rating: Medium
Makes two pizzas.

2 3/4 cups bread flour or high gluten flour
1 cup durum flour, bread flour, or high gluten flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar + 1 teaspoon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water at room temperature, divided (1 3/4 cups if not using durum flour)

Makes enough for 2 pizzas.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 28 ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 clove garlic, finely minced
6 basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
Salt and pepper

(For 2 pizzas)

8-10 anchovy fillets (optional)
2-3 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
Extra-virgin olive oil

1.  MAKE THE PIZZA DOUGH:  Mix 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl; stir in yeast and let sit until yeast is dissolved and becomes foamy, about 8 minutes.  Using an electric mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook, stir the flours, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt on low speed for 1 minute to mix.  Add remaining water, olive oil, and yeast mixture.

Mix dough on medium speed for 8 minutes, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough into a large bowl lightly coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  For a more flavorful pizza dough, place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours, punching the dough down once after it has risen several hours

2.  MAKE THE PIZZA SAUCE:  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, add onion and saute until soft and translucent.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

3.  ASSEMBLE THE PIZZA:  Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Place dough in the middle, put a small amount of oil on your hands and begin stretching and spreading the dough to the edges of the pan as evenly possible.  This process takes approximately 5 minutes, the dough will have a tendency to come away from the corners. Allow the dough to rest 10 minutes and continue to spread dough to edges and corners again.  Spoon the sauce on top, using the back of the spoon to spread a thin even layer leaving 1/2-inch space along the edges.  Stick small pieces of anchovy into the dough, if using.  Sprinkle with oregano and grated cheese.  Let rise until double 30 to 45 minutes.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes.  Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Makes enough for 1 pizza.

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup plain, dry breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 medium onions, thinly sliced
5 anchovy fillets (optional)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1.  MAKE THE PIZZA BIANCA TOPPING (OPTIONAL):  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-low heat in a small skillet.  Add breadcrumbs and salt, stir continuously until lightly toasted.  Transfer to a small bowl, set aside.  Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, add onions and cook until they start to get translucent.  Let cool for several minutes.

2.  ASSEMBLE THE PIZZA BIANCA:  Prepare and stretch the dough as directed above.  Place anchovies on the dough if using, add the onions in an even layer, and sprinkle with oregano, grated cheese, and toasted breadcrumbs.  Let rise and bake as directed above.

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