Make Your Own Pizza For many of us, the word “pizza” means a disk of floured crust, slathered with sauce, cheese, and a variety of different toppings, baked until warm and bubbly. Those who love traditional Italian pizza, however, are quick to point out that Sicilian pizza is altogether different.
Known as Sfincione, Sicilian pizza is distinct in many ways. The pizza itself is generally made into a large square and can be nestled snugly into a standard-sized pizza box. The dough of Sicilian pizza has 3 times the yeast as a typical American thin-crust pizza, half the flour and water, and requires two rises. The dough turns out to generally be about an inch thick, and is baked on top of a pizza pan rather than in a deep dish.
The crust of Sicilian pizza provides a foundation for pizza lovers to develop their own way to enjoy a Gourmet Sicilian pizza, both traditionally and stylistically.
“There’s a big difference between traditional Sicilian pizza and Sicilian-Style pizza,” said Brian Johnson, owner and proprietor of B.J. Willy’s Woodfired Pizza and Café, located in West Linn, Oregon.
First, there’s the crust. Traditional Sicilian pizza resembles focaccia, a thick Italian bread baked on a sheet in the shape of a rectangle.
“The herbs and what we know as toppings on American-style pizza are baked into the crust itself after being sautéed,” Brian added. Some of the toppings include onions, anchovies, and olives or tapenade. “If cheese is used at all, it should be caciocavallo or pecorino rather than mozzarella for a more robust flavor.”
After the crust has been coated in olive oil and rolled out, the sautéed onions should be pressed into the dough, along with pieces of anchovy and olive. Spread the cheese evenly across the top, and the pizza is ready to bake.
Over time, Traditional Sicilian has evolved into what is known as Sicilian-Style pizza, especially popular on the East Coast. The crust is the same, but the toppings are vastly different in choice and presentation.
“Once the crust is pressed out and oiled,” Brian said, “herbs and toppings are still pressed into it like the Traditional Sicilian pizza. But instead of pecorino or caciocavallo, slices of mozzarella are laid on top of the square crust, then sauce is added on top of that.”
Top it off with breadcrumbs and romano or parmesan cheese, and serve warm and bubbly.
This is the most important part of the pizza, it is ultimately the foundation of your pizza It must have enough gluten so that you don’t end up with a flat, soggy mess when baking. You want to use high quality ingredients such as organic whole wheat flour, unbleached white flour, semolina flour, or even cornmeal if necessary. If using any type of grain product, add some extra liquid to help hydrate the grains.
You will also need salt, sugar, and yeast. Yeast is available from specialty food stores, health food stores, and online retailers. Salt and sugar are easy to find anywhere grocery store shelves are stocked.
Mixing the Ingredients
To mix the ingredients together, start by adding 1 cup of water to 2 cups of flour. Mix well with a fork or whisk until smooth. Add additional water if needed to achieve a soft ball consistency. Knead the mixture for 5 minutes. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise overnight. This step allows the dough to double in size.
Rolling Out the Dough
When rolling out the dough, keep in mind that this is not a normal pie crust recipe. Instead of rolling pin pressure, you will roll the dough out with your hands. Start with about half of the dough and place it onto a lightly floured surface. Using both hands, stretch the dough outward while rotating it 90 degrees each pass. Continue stretching and turning until the entire piece of dough is stretched thin.
Baking Your Pizzas
When preheating the oven, set the temperature to 500°F. Once the oven reaches its desired temperature, remove the pizzas from the refrigerator. Place them directly on the stone or steel pan and cook for 3–5 minutes per side. Remove from heat once they begin to brown slightly around the edges.
The best way to prepare tomato sauces is to simmer tomatoes slowly over low heat. To do this, cut an X at the bottom of each can of crushed tomatoes. Pour boiling water through the opening created by the X mark. Let sit for 10 minutes before removing the cans from the pot. Discard the water and rinse the cans thoroughly under cold running water. Drain all excess moisture from the canned tomatoes.
Add garlic cloves, basil leaves, oregano, red pepper flakes, and black olives to the drained tomatoes adding variety of content in pizza sauce will really make a difference in the taste. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally during cooking. When finished, strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer lined with dampened paper towels. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
There are many types of cheeses used in traditional Italian cuisine. Some common ones include: Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, Provolone, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss Cheese, Feta, Goat Cheese, Blue Cheese, Ricotta, Fontina, Taleggio, Brie, Camembert, Edamame, and more!
Arabian pizzas almost always come without any pork content and are made from halal ingredients only. They usually contain no cheese but may be topped with feta instead. The base is often cooked in olive oil rather than butter. In addition to being delicious, these pies are very healthy because there are few animal products involved.
A true Sicilian pizza has nothing to do with American-style deep dish pizza. A true Sicilian pizza is thinner and rounder than other styles of pizza. There are two main varieties of Sicilian pizza; one uses fresh mozzarella and another uses provola cheese. Both versions should be baked on top of a hot cast iron skillet or griddle.
Italian Sausage & Peppers
In Italy sausage is called “salumi” which means cured meat. Most sausages sold in America are actually salami, which is just a different name for the same thing. Italians like their sausages spicy, sweet, mild, or peppery depending on what region they live in.
This style of pizza originated in Greece where it was originally known as pita bread. It is similar to Roman pizza except that Greek pizza does not have a thick layer of toppings. Greeks prefer lighter toppings such as onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, artichokes, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, etc. Often the cheese goes over all the other toppings.
Mexico is home to some great Mexican food including tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, chiles rellenos, nachos, quesadillas, guacamole, salsa verde, salsas, chips, tortilla soup, and much more. One popular type of Mexican pizza is the taco pizza. This pizza consists of corn tortillas rolled up into circles and then stuffed with various fillings. These fillings could consist of chicken, beef, beans, rice, refried beans, lettuce, cilantro, avocado, jalapeño peppers, sour cream, cheese, etc.
The Japanese taste pallet contrasts greatly compared to Western tastes, this includes pizza. They make it their own way, often without cheese, as Japanese are largely lactose intolerant. Japan is famous for its sushi rolls, tempura, ramen noodles, karaoke bars, and Japanese desserts. However, Japan also makes an excellent version of pizza called yakitori. Yakitori is basically grilled skewers of vegetables dipped in soy sauce and served with a side of dipping sauces.
The Basic Recipe
Even if you don’t have a woodfired grill at your local pub, you can still enjoy the taste of Gourmet Sicilian pizza.
Sicilian Pizza Dough
- 1 envelope active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 – 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil (you’ll need more for coating the dough)
Stir the yeast, sugar, and water in a bowl. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
Mix the flour and salt in a separate bowl, making a well in the center. Add the ¼ cup olive oil to the yeast mixture and pour into the well, working the mixture into dough with a wooden spoon.
On a lightly floured board, knead the dough, adding a little flour as needed until it’s no longer sticky. Shape the dough into a ball. Put the dough into a bowl and coat lightly with olive oil. Cover dough with a dish towel and let stand in a warm place until doubles in size (about 1 hour).
Sicilian-Style Pizza Ingredients
For your sicilian pizza you’re going to need these basic ingredients, however personally I would recommend choosing the finest ingredients available to you.
- 1 recipe basic pizza dough
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 8 peeled canned tomatoes, finely chopped
- Salt and black pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 pound caciocavallo or mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
- 3 anchovies, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- plain bread crumbs
- Cooked onions or onion puree
Sicilian-Style Pizza Directions
Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft.
- Add the tomatoes and sugar. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Press the anchovies into the top of the dough, evenly along the surface. Layer the slices of cheese on top of the dough, one layer thick.
- Cover evenly with the cooled tomato sauce. Sprinkle with oregano, Romano cheese and a light layer of bread crumbs.
- Let your Sicilian pizza rise for 30 minutes while preheating your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. When the oven’s ready, bake your sfincione for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges of the dough are golden brown and the top sizzles!
- Let it rest for 10 minutes and enjoy!
Now all the basics are covered, it would really pay off to see pizza being made in action. Take a trip down to your local Papa John’s or other local pizza bakeries. Or you could check out this video.