Wait! Don’t go. I know this Scaccia is not very pretty, but it sure is delicious and it would be a shame not to share it. In fact, it might be said, that the uglier the Scaccia, the better it is :) This Scaccia recipe uses all semolina flour, for wonderful flavour and texture.
This is not the first time I’ve made Scaccia. I made a Scaccia Ragusana just about 5 years ago. I’ve made it a several times since then, but it was a feature and a new recipe in the most recent Saveur magazine that renewed my interest.
Unlike my earlier version, this one is made with all semolina flour. It’s also baked up in a loaf pan, as opposed to the free-form earlier version. Both were delicious and well worth trying.
If I were to describe Scaccia to someone who hasn’t tried it, I’d say it’s like a cross between pasta and pizza. The outside, as you can easily see, bakes up crisp and charred, like a pizza, while the inside has soft pasta-like layers with tomato sauce and cheese.
Making Scaccia is a wonderful adventure and a great weekend undertaking. The process isn’t lengthy or difficult, just perhaps more than many might like on a weeknight. Scaccia is also endlessly customizable. Layer in some Italian cured meats or some browned sausage, for a meatier version. As for cheese, the original recipe from Saveur uses caciocavallo cheese, which would be great. Unfortunately, it’s not available in my local area, so I substituted Provolone. I’ve used Buffalo Mozzarella in the past, as well.
- 1/4 tsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. lukewarm water
- 2 cups semolina flour
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- All-purpose flour, for dusting counter
- Tomato Sauce:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups whole peeled canned tomatoes, with juice
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt, to taste
- To assemble:
- 8 oz. caciocavallo cheese, thinly sliced (I used Provolone)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, yeast and lukewarm water and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the semolina flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the 1⁄2 teaspoon salt until the dough comes together. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. (Dough will start out very dry and crumbly, but keep working it and it will come together as a smooth, moist dough). Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours. (Dough is very slow rising, as there is very little yeast in it, so be patient).
- Meanwhile, pour the tomatoes and their juice into a blender and purée until smooth. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Pour the tomatoes into the saucepan along with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the basil, and season liberally with salt and pepper. (When seasoning, bear in mind that the dough has little salt, so be sure that the sauce is well seasoned, so the finished dish is).
- Heat the oven to 450° F. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a 1/16-inch-thick, 25-by-18-inch rectangle, and position the rectangle so that a long side is nearest to you. This process will take quite a bit of rolling. If dough seems to be shrinking back after rolling, allow to rest a few minutes, then start rolling again. You will eventually get there (or close). If dough seems so thin it is ripping, stop rolling and proceed.
- (I found it handy to lightly mark my dough in 5-inch increments, so I had a visual reminder of where the fifths of the dough was, when spreading the sauce).
- Spread half of the tomato sauce over the middle three-fifths of the rectangle (ie: leaving the left and right 5-inches bare), then sprinkle the sauce with half of the caciocavallo cheese slices. Fold the two plain sides of the dough over the sauced center, so their edges overlap slightly in the middle of the rectangle. (Your dough piece is now roughly 15-inches wide by 18-inches long.)
- Spread the remaining sauce over the left two-thirds of the dough and sprinkle the sauce with the remaining slices of caciocavallo. Fold the righthand, plain (un-sauced) third over the sauce, then fold the lefthand side of dough over, like completing the tri-fold of a letter. (Your dough piece is now roughly 5-inches wide and 18-inches long). Take the far open end of the dough and fold it back towards you to meet the open end closest to you. (Your dough piece is now roughly 5-inches wide by 9-inches long.)
- Carefully transfer the pie to the prepared loaf pan (I find two spatulas under each end of the dough handy to lift and move it as quickly as you can). Pierce the top with the tines of a fork (to allow steam to escape) and bake until dark brown on the top and lightly charred at the edges, about 1 hour. Immediately invert the pie onto a rack, remove the loaf pan and parchment paper, and let the pie cool in this position for 10 minutes. Invert the pie right-side-up before serving.
Look for semolina flour in Italian grocers. It’s usually sold in small bags and it’s more powdery than the fine-cornmeal type of semolina. If you can’t find it, you can use regular semolina or a mixture of semolina and all purpose flour instead. I would hold back a bit of the flour and add as needed, to get a smooth dough, to avoid an overly dry dough.
As noted above, Scaccia are endlessly customizable. Much like pizza or lasagna, you can use a variety of cheese, meat or vegetables/greens, if you like. One thing to bear in mind though is the folding process that you are going to have to pull off. Obviously, you won’t really want anything too chunky or heavy, or that might becomes quite cumbersome.
As noted in the recipe, be sure your tomato sauce is very well seasoned with salt and pepper, so your finished dish is, as the dough has very little salt and makes up a large part of the dish.
I think most of the folding process is fairly easy to follow, except the very last fold. To clarify, just before the last fold, you will have an oblong rectangle that is 4 or 5 inches wide and 18-inches-ish long. So in order for it to fit in your pan, you need to take the far end and fold it back and over so it meets the closest edge to you, making a 4-inch wide x 9-inch long piece.
Finally, once you get to that point, the process of transferring to your prepared loaf pan is a little tricky as you have a lot of sauce in there. I find two spatulas underneath at either end and a really quick more works best. Don’t worry if it looks like a hot mess in the pan. Remember, the uglier it is, the better it is :)
This recipe was adapted from Adapted from Saveur April 2016
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