This past Friday, my childhood friend Andrea posted a challenge:
“Only people that I grew up with will understand this, but somebody needs to post a decent recipe for two Sicilian foods that I love (and crave) (1) Sciaccata (2) Marinos Pizza with meat sauce. Katty’s Kitchen If anybody can do this…you can!!!”
Andrea had suggested it when I started making pizza, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure how to pull it off. I mean, pizza is pretty straightforward, but it’s a little more complicated to make something with a top and a bottom. At least, I thought would be. Most of all, since scacciata is a specialty of my hometown, I needed to make the most excellent one I could. Right, no pressure there! ;)
Wait a minute. If you didn’t grow up in Middletown, Connecticut, you may not even know what I’m talking about. I never realized the double-crusted, stuffed pizza-like creation I grew up with was unique to my town. You see, my hometown is the sister city of Melilli, Sicily. While others might not be familiar with scacciata, we natives took it on faith it would always be available here. Growing up, that meant a trip downtown to Marino’s Bakery on Ferry Street in the North End. And, as years went by, it also meant D&S over in the plaza off of South Main Street, where Taino Smokehouse is now.
If memory serves, we lost Marino’s sometime in the 90s. Then about 10 years ago, when I moved to the D&S side of town, D&S closed, too. Are you kidding? Where would we get the scacciata now? It served so many delicious purposes. Night before a holiday? Just plain hungry for something good? Gotta get scacciata. Broccoli was always a favorite; spinach a close second. Of course, there’s potato, too. You could even combine the three, depending where you went. And, if you had Sicilian grandparents or parents, they likely made their own variation right at home.
For the longest time, I’ve wanted to learn to make scacciata. I had even found an adopted nonna to teach me–our friend Mary Ann’s mom, Cora. But sadly, it never came to be. Until now!
Let’s break it down in three steps.
First, the dough.
Same recipe as for pizza, just times two. So here, I’ll double the dough for you:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water (not hot)
3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour – I use King Arthur
4 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the brown sugar in the warm water. While the water is still warm, add the yeast. Wait about 15 minutes to see the yeast start to activate.
Using the dough hook, add the olive oil and remaining dry ingredients and slowly start to mix. After the dry ingredients are wet, raise the speed and mix until a nice, smooth ball forms, about 15 -20 minutes with a Kitchen Aid mixer. Keeping the speed just below medium should prevent your mixer from taking a little walk across the counter! Now you should have a dough ball–coat it with olive oil, place in a large enough bowl to allow the dough to rise and refrigerate at least three hours. Overnight is better, or you can even let it age for a few days. I made my dough Friday night for scacciata on Sunday.
The dough looked like this when I took it off the hook on Friday. I almost thought I had kinda gone overboard with the size of the bowl I chose.
But look how it grew overnight!
Second, the broccoli and sausage filling.
Just under 2 pounds of broccoli, chopped–to yield 6 heaping cups of trees (yes, broccoli)
1 sweet onion, shredded
4-5 cloves of garlic, pressed
Olive oil to coat the bottom of a large saute pan
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage (Longhini in New Haven makes my favorite)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
First, coat the bottom of a large saute pan with olive oil, then saute the shredded sweet onion over medium heat. By the time 15 minutes have passed, the onions should begin to brown a bit and stick to the bottom of the pan a little. No worries, just add the hot sausage and it will all come together. This is a good time to turn on the broccoli, but more about that in a bit. Break the sausage into small pieces as you go. Just when the sausage is cooked about all the way through, set a timer for one minute, throw in the pressed garlic, stir, then remove from heat.
I used my double-decker bamboo steamer baskets to steam the broccoli.
Once the water begins to boil, let the broccoli steam about 5-7 minutes. It should be bright green and fork-tender when it’s done. Stir broccoli into sausage/onion/garlic mixture, add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and salt. You just made 8 cups of filling! Holy smokes!
Cover and store in the fridge till you’re ready to make your scacciata. We’re almost there, amici!
Third, let’s put it all together!
Ready? If you have a pizza stone–and, yes, you want one if you don’t have one already–set it on the lowest rack of your oven and let your oven preheat to 425 degrees F for one hour. Let your dough come up to room temperature as the oven preheats.
Don’t forget the cheese, please!
1/2 pound (or a bit more) shredded whole milk mozzarella
3 tablespoons Pecorino Romano
Oil a large rectangular baking sheet. I can’t promise you anything scientific here. Divide the dough in the bowl into two halves. Put one half of the dough on the sheet and begin to flatten it and stretch it as best you can. Flatten and stretch and move and shape and hope for the best. You’re trying to make a rectangle, but guess what? If it’s sort of oblong and rounded, who cares? You just want a flat, even base shape on which to mound all the tasty toppings you made.
Having the broccoli topping to press down into the dough actually helps spread the dough out a bit. You’ll see.
Next, we add the cheese.
Looking good, right? Now the part that stressed me most. How to stretch out the other half of the dough in roughly the same shape, then move it to cover what you see above? AYEEEE!
Grab another rectangular pan and coat it with olive oil. Repeat as above: stretch and move and hope and pray and do your best to flatten into a piece of dough you can lift and stretch to form the top half of the scacciata. You can do it!
WHEW! We got it! Fold up the bottom layer over the top to seal the filling in. See there are a couple of holes on the top? No problem at all.
Now, place your baking sheet directly on top of the pizza stone and bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes. Let your masterpiece rest 5 or 10 minutes once you take it out of the oven.
Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut. Look how nice the bottom crust is, too!
I’m the happiest girl in M’town now that I can make my own scacciata. In fact, I’m so happy, I could go dance on the railroad bridge as Billy Joel did in this song featuring my hometown. Except it’s dark. And cold. Maybe another day. I can only tell you I made one of my own dreams come true today, and that’s enough for this kat.
As for you? You’ve gotta make this scacciata! Subito! Subito!
P.S. to Mary Ann: Tell Cora I did it! Love you both! ♥