~ My Guys Italian-American Sicilian-Style Pizza Pie~
Americans eat over three billion pizzas a year and that doesn't include store-bought frozen pies or those made at home. That is quite a statistic, and, a testament to the love affair we Americans have with pizza. From sea-to-shining-sea, every region of our country has developed their own "style of pie", and, pizza shops and home cooks all proudly prepare their own version of it. I make several types of pizza. That said, my guys (my husband and three sons) hands-down favorite is my Sicilian-style pizza, made and baked in the manner my husband grew up eating it -- in the small town, mom-and-pop pizza shops located in the areas surrounding Scranton, PA.
Sicilian pizza vs. Italian-American Sicilian-style pizza.
Let's start with the crust. The best way I can describe the crust of a Sicilian pizza is: It is thicker and the texture is breadier, similar to that of focaccia. The dough, which is proofed twice, the second time in the pan, gets a crispy, almost "fried" bottom due to an ample amount of oil in the pan -- yes, this is a pizza that gets baked in the pan. In Sicily, it's called sfincione, which means "thick sponge", as the dough absorbs a bit of the oil on its bottom and a bit of sauce on its top.
Moving on to the sauce. Tomatoes didn't arrive in Sicily until the 16th Century, so originally, Sicilian pie was basically a focaccia topped with a sprinkling of "leftovers". That said, Sicily produces some of the world's best tomatoes, and, nowadays, sauce for sfincione (similar to marinara), contains tomatoes along with: garlic, onion, anchovy and herbs. But -- not a generous slathering, just a thin coating. You can find my recipe for the sauce by clicking on the Related Article link below.
Let's talk toppings. Sicilian pizza is not layered with copious amounts of grated cheese or heavy toppings. Since sheep and goats produced almost all of the milk in Sicily, bolder-flavored, soft and hard, sheep and goats milk cheeses were chosen, while mild-flavored cows milk cheeses were rarely used. As for cooked or cured meats, fresh or marinated vegetables, herbs, etc., they are traditionally thinly-sliced, diced or minced and lightly and lovingly sprinkled over the top.
When you think "Sicilian", think "thick crust" & "moderation" -- thin layers of sauce & cheese w/light sprinklings of toppings.
I'm not going to lie, I always make four of my Sicilian-style pies -- even when it's just Joe and I. Why? Because after they are baked and cooled, left uncut, I freeze them. They thaw and reheat beautifully -- placed directly on a hot pizza stone that has been heated in a 350° oven (as pictured here). There's more. I mix the dough for all four, all-at-once, in my 22-cup large-capacity Cuisinart DLC-X Plus food processor in less than 5 minutes. If you don't have one, do the math and cut the recipe in half, or, mix the dough the traditional way -- with your hands.
6 packets granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend or Mediterranean oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3-3 1/2 cups hot tap water
6-8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for preparing pans, plus additional oil for brushing on tops of crusts
4-8 tablespoons additional extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing crusts
olive-oil no-stick cooking spray
~ Step 1. In the work bowl of a large-capacity food processor fitted with the steel blade, place all of the flour, the yeast, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend, optional cracked black pepper, sugar and salt.
~ Step 2. Place the top/lid on the food processor and, using a series of 10-15 rapid on-off pulses combine the dry ingredients thoroughly, about 10-15 seconds.
With processor motor running, add the water, in a thin stream, through feed tube. Continue to add water until a ball of dough forms. This will take 3-3 1/2 cups of hot water. Stop adding water the moment the ball of dough forms. Continue to knead dough in processor, with the motor running, for 30-45 more seconds. This means, the dough will spin around in the processor for 30-45 revolutions/30-45 seconds.
~ Step 5. Transfer dough to bag, seal or zip it closed and rise until doubled in bulk, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from bag. Using a kitchen scale, divide into 4 equal parts. Yield = about 4 pounds, 4 ounces total pizza dough.
Note: Allowing the dough to relax a bit is going to make it easy to pat and press into the pans, so, don't skip or shorten this rest period.
Using a pastry brush, drizzle and paint a light coating of additional olive oil over their surfaces.
For the sauce and toppings: This is why I call my pizza Italian-American Sicilian-style pizza. My homemade pizza sauce is full of crushed garden tomatoes, onions, garlic and fresh basil. I skip the anchovies. My family's favorite combination of cheeses are mozzarella, provolone and Locatelli, with a layer of sliced cheese on the bottom and some sauce sandwiched in between grated cheese on the top. Don't knock it 'till you've tried it.
2 pounds thinly-sliced mozzarella or provolone cheese
4 - 6 cups pizza sauce (1 - 1 1/2 cups sauce per pizza)
2 pounds grated mozzarella or provolone cheese (Note: I use a combination of both.)
Italian seasoning blend or Mediterranean oregano, for sprinkling over tops of pizzas
~ Step 8. Layer the pizzas as pictured in the photos and set aside, to allow the crust to rise up the sides of the pans, about 1 hour (and up to three hours if you want to make them slightly in advance). Bake one-at-a-time, as follows:
Place each pan on center rack of preheated 360° - 375º oven, 18-21 minutes, remove from oven, slide onto a wire cooling rack & allow to cool 6-8 minutes:
Special Equipment List: large-capacity food processor; 4-cup measuring container; 2-gallon food storage bag; kitchen scale (optional); paper towels; 4, 13" x 9" baking pans; pastry brush; wire cooling racks
Cook's Note: When it comes to pizza in America, everyone has a favorite, and, even the pros gave up criticizing other peoples preferences. The last I heard, creativity is still alive and well in every kitchen in this great country, and I for one enjoy exercising my right to it. You can find my recipe for individual-sized ~ Pizz' alads: Salad Pizza (Pizza w/a Salad on Top) ~ in Category 2.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)