Sfincione (Sicilian Christmas Pizza)
Pizza for Christmas might be my new favorite tradition!
(Many thanks to Ragu for sponsoring today’s post and making my holidays extra saucy!)
Here I am again with another Italian Christmas recipe. I hope you’re not tired of them, because there are so many more to come!
I don’t know why, but the holiday season really inspires me to bring my Italian heritage forward, at least in the kitchen. For me, nothing says “holidays” like a table full of Italian food!
So imagine my happiness when I found out about this Sicilian Christmas Pizza, called Sfincione. It is a deep dish pizza topped with caramelized onions, tomato sauce (I’m using delicious Ragu traditional sauce here), lots of cheese (obviously!) and breadcrumbs for a crunchy touch. You can also add anchovies, but I’m not a fan!
The 2012 me would have never gone for pizza as a choice for our Christmas feast. The 2015 me? I say: “Bring it on!”.
You see, I’m a traditional girl. I’m sure if you’ve been accompanying my blog, you’ve noticed I’m all for little traditions: turkey for Thanksgiving, chocolate eggs for Easter, red white and blue for 4th of July, and so on. However, my older self is learning to embrace new things, as life won’t always behave like how we planned and if we don’t learn to adapt, we will be miserable all the time.
Making the most of every situation is definitely a trait I’ve picked up on after I packed my bags and moved, alone, to the United States. I guess being on your own teaches you a few life things… Like, you might not be able to cook a whole Christmas feast because you’re suffering from really bad sciatica – like me, last year! So what do you do? Cry and order chinese food? NO! You make something easier but just as special. You make PIZZA!!! ???
And not just any pizza: Sicilian Christmas Pizza, or Sfincione in Italian!
The name Sfincione comes from “Sfincione di San Giovanni” and it loosely translates to “thick sponge”.
It is a very traditional Sicilian dish, not only served for special festivities, like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but also all over the streets of Palermo all year round. If you’re lucky to have an Italian trip coming up, make sure to keep an eye for the street vendors and/or bakeries that sell sfincione. This soft and tender pizza looks more like a focaccia and is one of the most delicious street foods you can find there.
The original recipe asks for casciocavallo cheese but my local stores don’t carry it, so I’ve substituted it for fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano. If you’re into authenticity and you can find casciocavallo, just use that instead!
In my opinion, what makes this pizza great are the caramelized onions, which add lots of flavor and sweetness. Also, the breadcrumbs make is crunchy and unlike any other pizza you’ve tasted!
While I am including a no-knead pizza dough recipe that will take up to 20 hours to be ready, you can absolutely buy pizza dough from the grocery store if you’re in a pinch.
Using Ragu sauce also saves you lots of time. It is not only convenient but also affordable and delicious, with no artificial flavors and no high fructose corn syrup. Oh and they use only farm grown ingredients! Because there is no faking fresh taste.
One of the reasons I love Ragu so much is cause I am obsessed with the story of Assunta Cantisano, Ragu’s founder. Like me, she was an immigrant and an entrepreneur. A single mother who moved from Italy to Upstate New York, planted her own backyard garden and started selling pasta sauce to her neighbors, right from her own front porch. Seriously, it gives me chills! She is such an inspiration to me. ❤️
If you wanna learn more about Assunta’s fantastic story, just visit Ragu’s website and click on “Our Story”. I guarantee you will feel inspired!
For the no knead dough:
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (500 grams or 17 1/2 ounces), plus more for dusting the counter
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (350 grams)
For the pizza:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 1 24oz Ragu traditional sauce
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound mozzarella, sliced
- 2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 8 anchovies fillets, finely chopped (optional)
Making the dough:
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water and let it sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil and mix with the paddle attachment just until combined. The dough will be quite wet. Do not worry!
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temperature for 18 hours or until tripled in size.
- While the dough rises, you can also make the sauce and breadcrumbs in advance.
Making the sauce:
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter, over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes total.
- Add the pasta sauce, the oregano and the anchovies, if using. Stir constantly until fragrant, about one minute. Then, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes or until thick and rich. Season with salt and pepper to taste and reserve,
Making the breadcrumbs:
- In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Reserve.
Assembling the pizza:
- Place a pizza stone directly on the bottom of your oven.
- Preheat oven to 450F degrees.
- Prepare a large baking sheet by spraying with cooking spray. Reserve.
- Sprinkle flour on your counter and transfer the dough to counter. Shape the dough into a ball. Let it rest for 1 hour. If the dough is too sticky, dust with more flour. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Gently stretch the dough to fit the pan. If it keeps shrinking, just let the dough rest longer, until it is manageable. Once the dough has spread to fill the pan, let it rise for 30 minutes.
- Carefully spread the sauce on the dough. Then, add the slices of mozzarella cheese and top the surface with the prepared breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes, rotating once.
- Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.