How to Make Sfincione Palermitano | Authentic Sicilian Pizza Recipe
While someone from Palermo would never call this dish anything other than “sfincione,” this incredible recipe can be thought of as a sort of Sicilian pizza. With a thick and spongy dough, a hearty onion and tomato-based sauce, and a punchy and umami-rich flavor, this is the antithesis of Neapolitan pizza.
One very convenient advantage sfincione has over Neapolitan pizza is that, unlike the latter, it can be made from start to finish in one day! Next time you’re craving a pizza but don’t want to wait for the next day, give this thick-crust Sicilian “pizza” a shot.
Sicilian vs. Neapolitan Pizza
What makes sfincione different from traditional pizza? For starters, the dough is completely different. While normal pizza dough is made with 00 (or all-purpose) flour, yeast, water and salt, sfincione dough also mixes in some semolina flour, olive oil and a tiny bit of sugar. The oil makes the dough spongy and, in the end, slightly crispy; the sugar adds a hint of sweetness that pairs very well with the onion sauce which brings a lot of natural sweetness to the “pizza.” These might seem like minor tweaks but the final results are utterly divergent!
A normal tomato pizza sauce is never cooked, as it’s meant to retain a light and fresh taste (which is why delicate basil works so well with it). Sfincione sauce is thick and cooked down to achieve a powerful, savory flavor, which is then further accented with the bold flavors of anchovies and oregano.
Finally, of course, there’s the form factor. Sfincione isn’t round, it’s a pan pizza that’s cut square. The big, thick slices are a far cry from thin-crust pizza, but they beautifully soak up the heavier sauce.
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make Sciavata here:
SFINCIONE PALERMITANO RECIPE
Makes: One large pan pizza which serves 6-8 people
Cook Time: Up to 7 hours, largely unattended
For the dough, you will need:
1 tsp (5g) active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups (300g) water
2 1/2 cups (300g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 2/3 cups (200g) semolina flour
2 tbsp (30g) extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tsp (12g) salt
3 1/2 tsp (15g) white granulated sugar
For the sauce and toppings, you will need:
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling and brushing
2 large onions, thinly sliced
28 oz. (800g) canned whole peeled tomatoes
Fresh black pepper
~10 anchovies under oil, chopped
4 oz. (115g) chopped Sicilian caciocavallo cheese (or substitute with a sharp provolone)
1/2 cup (45g) bread crumbs, or to taste
Grated cheese to taste (if you can find it, use a Sicilian caciocavallo; otherwise substitute with pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Dried oregano to taste
You will also need
Kitchen shears (optional)
Medium non-stick baking tray
Stir the dry yeast into the water until it has dissolved. In large mixing bowl, combine the flours, olive oil, salt and sugar. Mix them together well, then begin gradually adding the water while continuing to mix by hand.
When all of the water is incorporated and a rough dough has formed, transfer it to a clean work surface and knead until it is very even and fairly smooth—about 10-15 minutes. If the dough is sticky, dust it with a little flour. It should be soft and pliable; if it’s too dry you can work a little more water in.
Place the finished dough back into the mixing bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 3-4 hours or until it doubles in size. Liberally brush a medium non-stick baking tray with olive oil and transfer the dough into the center. Rub a little oil on your fingers to prevent sticking and use your hands to press the dough out until it evenly fills the tray into every corner. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1-2 hours or until it is about an inch thick.
While the dough rises in the pan, you can prepare the sauce. Combine the olive oil and sliced onions in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are slightly tender. Meanwhile, prepare the whole peeled tomatoes by cutting them into a pulp with kitchen shears (you can also break them up by hand).
Pour the tomatoes (plus all the purée from the can) into the onions. Stir all together, season with a generous pinch of salt, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook the sauce, partially covered for about 1 hour, or until the onions become very tender and sweet and the sauce thickens. Season again with salt as the sauce nears completion, then set it aside for later.
When the dough has risen, preheat an oven to 410 degrees F (210 C). Spread chopped anchovies and chopped cheese evenly over the dough. Next, spread the tomato/onion sauce in a thick layer over all.
Bake the sfincione for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 400 F (205 C). Top the pizza with sprinkled bread crumbs, a generous grating of cheese, and dried oregano. Bake a further 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to get crispy.
Serve warm and fresh for best results, but sfincione is also delicious when cold!
Want to compare this to a traditional, Neapolitan pizza? You can find our recipe here! If pan pizza is more your style, don't miss out on trying a "Pizza al Padellino" from Turin!