The Sfincione recipe is one of the most popular and traditional Sicilian pizzas. This thick flatbread seasoned with a tasty tomato sauce, preserved anchovies, and Sicilian cheese is a street food delicacy easy to find in the Palermitan markets: a must-to-try with a very ancient history. Here the traditional recipe!
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ORIGIN OF SFINCIONE
The Sfincione is one of the most traditional Sicilian pizza originating in the Palermo area. This pizza is one of the must-to-try Sicilian street foods.
This recipe was initially prepared during the Christmas festivities, but nowadays is baked and served all year long.
The origin of the name gives us a clue of the antiquity of this recipe: it seems to result from the Latin Spongia and Greek Spongos, that means both of them “Sponge”.
The Sfincione is also named Origanata, thanks to the plenty of oregano used to make the sauce.
Even if the Sfincione is easy to find in all the Palermitan area, the most traditional area where to find this delicious pizza is the Alberghiera district in Palermo, and particularly, Porta Sant’anna. The Sfincione‘s vendors are called Sfinciunari in the Palermitan dialect: they drive around the open air markets and stops on the crossing streets selling Sfincione on board of particular three-wheels motorcycles called Ape Piaggio. If you are visiting Palermo and are not able to find any Sfinciunaro, don’t worry: you can easily listen to them yelling Sfinciune, Sfinciune through their megaphones!
CHOOSING THE CHEESE
Along with the tomato sauce, the cheese is the protagonist of the Sfincione recipe. Basically, the cheeses used to prepare the Sfincione are two.
The first one is a semi-soft cheese, traditionally Primo Sale or young Caciocavallo. This cheese is diced and placed on the flatten dough before to spread the tomato sauce. In case these cheeses are not available, a decent option is a semi-soft goat cheddar.
The second cheese is the Ragusano (alternatively replaced with Pecorino), grated over the other toppings. The amount of Ragusano is personal: some chefs use an abundant quantity, some other a tiny portion.
To prepare a perfect Sfincione, it’s critical make a good tomato sauce. The onions can be either white or red depending on your preferences. Traditionally, whole canned Italian (Original San Marzano are my choice) are the best tomatoes to use. Sautè the sauce until thick, but still creamy.
Preserved anchovies fillets are another traditional ingredients, and can be either preserved in oil or salt.
WHITE SFINCIONE VARIATION
In Bagheria, a little town near to Palermo, it is traditional to make white Sfincione with ricotta cheese instead of tomato sauce.
TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
Here some tips to prepare Sfincione to perfection:
THE DOUGH – the amount of flour is slightly different from time to time, depending on the environmental conditions. The season also condition the rising: the essential thing is double the volume of the dough.
TOMATO SAUCE – choosing the right tomatoes is critical, my choice are canned San Marzano tomatoes. The sauce has to be dense and thick, but still creamy and easily spreadable.
HERBS – Dried oregano is the most traditional herb. Some chefs love to add minced fresh oregano at the very end.
- 4 cups + 3 tbsp (500 g)bread flour
- 3 cups (500 g) semolina flour
- 21 oz (600 ml) lukewarm water
- 1.5 (10 g) dry active yeast
- 42 oz (1.2 kg) canned whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 (500 g) big onions, red or white
- 7 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 tbsp bread crumbs
- 3 tbsp dried oregano
- 3 oz (85 g) Sicilian Primo Sale cheese (alternatively, Caciocavallo or soft goat cheese Cheddar)
- 2 oz (55 g) Ragusano cheese (alternatively, Pecorino cheese)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 dash black pepper
- as needed table salt
- SFINCIONE DOUGH
First of all, pour 21 oz (600ml) of lukewarm water into a bowl, then add the active dry yeast and 1 tbsp of sugar. At this point, melt the yeast with your hands, then combine the two flours and add them a spoon at a time, kneading constantly. On the halfway, add 4 tbsp of olive oil, and 1 tsp of table salt. The exact amount of flour to reach the perfect result depends on the season and the humidity, so add flour and knead until the mixture results in a soft, elastic, and smooth on the surface ball.
- Now, wrap the bowl and let the dough rise into the turned off oven at room temperature until double its volume (about 3 hours).
- TOMATO SAUCE[br]Waiting for the dough rising, prepare the tomato sauce. First, peel and reduce the onion into thin slices, then sautè them along with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt until soft and translucent. After that, mince the canned San Marzano tomatoes and add them into the saucepan along with their tomato puree, and a generous amount of dried oregano. Cook over medium/low flame until the sauce becomes thick, but still creamy, stirring as needed. Finally, turn off the heat and let the sauce cool down until lukewarm.
- LAYING THE DOUGH
When the dough is ready, grease a baking tray with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and spread it with a paper towel. Now lay the dough delicately: you want not flatten it too much. After that, distribute the diced soft cheese (Primo Sale, or Caciocavallo, or goat cheddar), and the anchovies fillets. Finally, cover the tray with a damp cloth and wait 1 hour more.
- TOMATO SAUCE; BREAD CRUMBS; AND RAGUSANO
Now, add a thick layer of tomato sauce, then spread the bread crumbs, and cover eventually with grated Ragusano cheese (alternatively, Pecorino). Let the Sfincione rise 30 minutes more.
- BAKING AND SERVING
Preheat the oven to 465° F (240° C), then bake the Sicilian Pizza. After 5 minutes, low the oven temperature to 430 °F (220° C) and bake about 25 minutes more, until perfectly cooked.
Serve lukewarm, or at room temperature.
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